Individual teaching, collective approach

The recent Gonski report, Through Growth to Achievement, has put individualised approaches to teaching and learning in the spotlight – with recommendations suggesting a move away from a homogenous curriculum, to one that recognises the needs of each individual student, and caters to those needs.

While many teachers would agree that every student’s educational needs differ, and a structure that would allow teachers to address this would be beneficial, what has to be stressed is that teachers must be supported through this process, and, above all, our professional voice must underpin any educational reform.

Individual education plans are not new to our profession – teachers already develop these in cases where students require additional support. The changes to funding arrangements for students with additional needs are explored. What this highlights again is that recognition of individual needs is a step in the right direction, but serious consideration needs to be given to how teachers can practically perform these studies on a one on one basis with their current demands.

Support staff are, naturally, integral to teacher support in this regard. Without adequate employment of support staff, teachers are left with unmanageable and heavy workloads, yet the Gonski report’s recognition of the importance of skilled support staff is limited and short sighted.

Expert support staff, such as Sammy Leone, show what a difference such roles can make to a school community. Read more about his role in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Another year has passed and the Closing the Gap report makes it clear that again we as a nation have failed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We must acknowledge this, and we must do better.

Our members have the power to make meaningful change – Saeid Khayam’s fight against unfair dismissal, while setting a new legal precedent in the process, is a testament to this.

Using our professional voice to inform educational reform, to advocate for our support staff colleagues and to address injustices in our society and the workplace, is the key to achieving fairness.

Terry Burke