Too many initiatives, programs and 'good ideas'

Mark Northam
Assistant Secretary

Work drivers in many cases emanate from ‘the next good thing’ phenomenon. NSW schools are beset by a plethora of policies and strategies from employers and state and federal level governments which result in an unnecessary focus on compliance at the expense of teaching and learning.

Multiple layers of compliance lead to duplication and replication which intrude upon teaching. Schools accept the real need for accountability. The accountability should stem from NESA or TQI syllabuses.

NESA sets out its requirements should a five year cyclical inspection take place or a random inspection which has a clearly defined focus known in advance. The Registration Systems and Member Non-Government Schools (NSW) Manual provides the detail necessary to prepare for an inspection. The manual is a seminal document in terms of compliance.

Work drivers that require reconceptualisation are many but ‘dialling down’ the following matters would assist classroom practitioners:

  • Professional Development that teachers are required by employers to attend should not exceed the hours required by NESA or TQI
  • new additional system or school initiatives – if following consultation, it is determined to implement a particular program, there should be additional consultation with affected staff and the pace of change should be negotiated and manageable, and
  • data collection – before any data collection process is commenced, it should be firmly established as to who is requiring the data and why. This approach should be applied to data walls and current research should be reviewed to assess where they are effective.


Dioceses should provide complete mandated programs which comply with NESA (TQI in the ACT), with teachers being able to modify, adapt, extend and amplify as determined by professional judgement.

Reconceptualising compliance, winnowing new initiatives and clarifying the origin of a claim that a particular initiative is a ‘must do’ is critical.

Rethinking can reduce increased administrative tasks, increased data collections and increased demands on teacher out of class time.

At federal government level the notion of a National Evidence Institute may be of assistance. In the USA a similar body – What Works – is a clearing house that reviews the existing research on different programs, products, practices and policies.

Evidence based decisions would be welcomed rather than imposed practices and over interpreted NESA policies.

The Union will be seeking commitments from Catholic systemic employers, to not only review but commit to a changed approach.