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Teachers left out of proposed school curriculum change consultations

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The government’s planned changes to the curriculum have failed to involve teachers in their formulation and the worry is that implementing the changes will leave teaching staff short-handed and overwhelmed.

A leaked report proposes introduction of learning progressions and online formative assessment across 15 areas of the curriculum which will be very hard to implement and perhaps of little use.

The planned reforms are contained in the National School Reform Agreement (NSRA), which was discussed by Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham and state and territory education ministers at the Education Council meeting in Adelaide on 22 June.

The changes were to be set in place in the next two to three years and without any additional funding or resourcing for schools to implement them. The report also includes a phonics test as part of a formative assessment tool.

Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the NSW experience with the Assessing Literacy and Numeracy (ALAN) program had shown these curriculum reforms would leave teachers overwhelmed.

“This report is a blueprint for the biggest school reform in decades, all in the next two to three years, without any additional funding or resourcing and without any consultation whatsoever with the teaching profession.”

“If teachers and principals are not involved in education reform, then history will show that the Turnbull government’s efforts in the education sector will be a dismal failure,” Haythorpe said.

“We’ve seen in New South Wales the rollout of learning progressions in just two curriculum areas has been catastrophic,” she said. "This is a strong warning call to ministers considering rolling these out across all 15 areas of the curriculum.”

She said there was no evidence that the learning progressions system had produced any positive outcomes.

“At this stage Minister Birmingham hasn’t established any evidence on which to justify his reform agenda,”  Haythorpe said. “He is asking teachers to implement a program which has not been successfully tested. We are basically entering into uncharted waters here.

“Where is the evidence that learning progressions works? The NSW trial has been a disaster.

“Teachers were overwhelmed and their stress levels skyrocketed. Data about student outcomes is useful, but it should be kept in the classroom. It should not be about clicking thousands of boxes. Data needs to help us inform teaching decisions, not determine them.”

“Now Minister Birmingham wants to rush out learning progressions across 15 curriculum areas in only three years, with no extra funding.

“The Turnbull government is determined to roll out this one-size-fits-all reform in a deeply inequitable funding environment, where 87% of public schools will be below the Schooling Resource Standard in 2023 while 65% of private schools will be above it.

“The Turnbull government has already betrayed public schools by ripping $1.9 billion from public education funding over the next two years. Expecting these curriculum reforms to be successfully implemented in this funding climate is just a pipe dream.”

The AEU Federal Executive has called on the federal government to put on hold any decisions on the NSRA and to commit to consultation with the teaching profession about what the agreement should contain, and how any introduced changes should be funded.

The AEU is also seeking urgent meetings with state and territory education ministers to discuss the teaching profession’s concerns about the lack of consultation around the NSRA and to raise awareness of the issues in the proposal.

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