Newsflash 1 May 2018  No. 06-18
[download as pdf]

Initial response to Gonski 2.0 report

Through Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Education Excellence in Australian Schools, or “Gonski 2.0” as it has become known, highlights the gap between recognising that every student counts and the policies of the Turnbull government.

The report holds that the review focused on “identifying impactful and practical” strategies to build on improvement efforts already underway in education systems across the nation. The recommendations appear to reflect a strong link to the views of the stakeholders that provided more than 300 submissions to the review.

While media reports sensationalised the review findings, suggesting that teachers had failed students, the review is more positive.

Central to the report’s findings and subsequent recommendations is an acknowledgement of several key considerations that have been known for some time:

  1. the need to change the 19th century “industrial” education model
  2. a refocusing on meaningful teacher-led assessment is required, rather than point-in-time tests such as NAPLAN
  3. there should be a place for students in designing and leading the learning process
  4. teachers’ and principals’ workloads are too heavy, largely through dealing with non-educational tasks
  5. there is a need for better career paths to attract and retain teachers and principals
  6. there should be a refocusing on teachers’ and principals’ professional expertise, including ongoing professional learning and professional autonomy allowing principals to be education leaders.

The report is mixed and further analysis is required. Some recommendations are supportable, but may not be depending on the method of implementation. Some are worthy but impractical. Many are unachievable within existing resources.

An underlying issue is the role of teachers and principals in the creation and implementation of changes. Any change must be supported by the profession, else it will fail.

The review focuses on three priority areas and contains 23 recommendations

The three priority areas are to:

A.     deliver at least one year’s growth in learning for every student, every year

B.     equip every child to be a creative, connected and engaged learner

C.     cultivate an adaptive, innovative and continuously improving education system.

To achieve these priorities, the report recommends that the following are necessary.

1.     Laying foundations for early learning by: promoting high-quality early learning and transition to schools; engaging parents and carers as partners in learning; and ensuring students can be partners in their own learning.

Initial commentary: The QTU supports the establishment of programs to provide students with solid foundations in learning, however it is important that these programs are not prescribed so that school leaders and teachers, along with parents and the school community, can identify the programs necessary to best support the learning needs of the students in their schools.

2.     Equipping every student to grow and succeed in a changing world by: introducing new reporting regimes; revising the Australian Curriculum; prioritising the acquisition of foundation skills in literacy and numeracy in the early years; enhancing the acquisition of critical and creative thinking and personal and social capability; strengthening community engagement; and reviewing senior secondary schooling.

Initial commentary: Any change to reporting guidelines must be the subject of consultation with the profession and be in line with the existing or re-negotiated agreements in Queensland, such as the Joint Statement on Planning Preparation, Differentiation (Including ICPs).

Schools should have the ability to identify what programs should be delivered to support the learning of students, and any change needs to be cognisant of workload implications for teachers and school leaders. The QTU supports the review of the Australian Curriculum and the implementation timeframes, as established by the Palaszczuk government following industrial action taken by members in response to their workload implications.

The QTU, along with other stakeholders, has been involved in the review of senior secondary curriculum and assessment and tertiary entrance, and believes a further review at this stage would result in significant upheaval to schools and additional workload.

3.     Creating, supporting and valuing a profession of expert educators through: providing more professional collaboration, observation, feedback and mentoring; developing an online and on-demand student learning tool for formative assessment and tailored teaching; providing high quality professional learning experiences; developing a national teacher workforce strategy; implementing effective induction programs; creating meaningful career pathways which keep excellent teachers teaching.

Initial commentary: To achieve these recommendations, more release time (i.e. time additional to current non-contact time and student free days) will be required for teachers. The working lives of teachers are already busy enough, adding additional expectations to an already overcrowded curriculum without additional time will result in increased workload and will act as a disincentive for the teaching profession.

The QTU supports quality induction and mentoring for beginning teacher programs, if they are resourced, beginning teachers and mentors are given time to work together, and new educators are provided with opportunities to reflect on feedback and implement their learning.

The QTU supports creating meaningful career pathways to encourage excellent teachers to remain in the classroom. The current pilot and subsequent establishment of highly accomplished and lead teacher classifications should enable the creation of such pathways.

4. Empowering and supporting school leaders through a range of mechanisms including: reviewing and revising the Australian Professional Standard for Principals to focus on leadership of learning and individual student learning growth; improving principal autonomy; creating a structured career pathway for school leaders; and providing high quality professional learning.

Initial commentary: School leaders should be able to focus on instructional leadership. The review of the Australian Professional Standard for Principals should look at the professional development of school leaders to support this.

The QTU supports the structured career pathway, provided that the value of the principal position is remunerated accordingly, and subsequently believes that the current Promotional Positions Classification Review should effectively support this.

Discussions about autonomy have to focus on professional autonomy rather than managerial autonomy. The impact of controlling accountability frameworks on teacher and principal autonomy has to be deconstructed.

All educational professionals should have access to high quality professional learning.

5.     Raising and achieving aspirations through innovation and continuous improvement by: enhancing school and system internal self-review and external quality assurance processes for the purposes of monitoring and reviewing student growth; accelerating the introduction of a unique student identifier; and establishing an independent institution of national research and evidence base that can be accessed and implemented to improve student outcomes.

Initial commentary: The QTU has been a key stakeholder with respect to both teaching and learning audits and school improvement reviews. The QTU supports the approach currently taken by the department with respect to school reviews, and will not support any move to use the reviews as either a performance management tool for principals or a process by which schools are ranked and compared.

More information is necessary about the national unique student identifier. This may have significant privacy implications and may also undermine some of the current work being undertaken to support students with IEPs etc.

To this end, enabling schools to access examples of best practice and evidenced based programs through a research institute needs further consideration. Any programs implemented from this institute should be determined at the local level in accordance with the needs of the students at the school.

The deciding factor, as always, will be preparedness of governments to provide the resources necessary to deliver on the potential.

The federal government controls the budget but runs no schools. Only state governments and teachers and principals can deliver on any change in education. The test will be what the federal government does with the review report through the federal budget, the negotiations for new education funding agreements with the states and territories, and in the lead up to the next federal election.

The devil is always in the detail. Analysis of the lengthy report is now underway and detailed reporting will be provided as soon as it is possible to do so.

 Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union