Gonski:Review to achieve educational excellence in Australian schools

IEU was invited in recent times to participate in a consultation process in relation to the deployment of school funding over the next decade. IEUA Federal Secretary Chris Watt lead the delegation. The review's brief was to improve student outcomes (as measured by national and international testing) across all cohorts and improve school leavers in gaining employment or further training. A tall order by any measure.

The teaching profession is central to the review but is not readily embraced by the agenda.

Recommendations for the review will flow to the Federal Government for consideration. IEU adopted a view that time for teachers (during the course of the standard working day) to work in teams was the overarching need.

It is unsurprising to IEU members that their face to face teaching requirements are beyond the vast majority of OECD countries. A reduction in teaching load would provide a capacity to meet significant demands made of teachers. These range from compliance accountabilities to accreditation matters and importantly differentiated learning. The imposition of multiple expectations upon teachers must be managed.

The Union went on to relate experiences about data collection and data walls and the teacher time lost to such practices. The unnecessary and intrusive nature of having to visualise what teachers already know and have records of is of particular interest to the Union.

Union President Christine Wilkinson covered VET education and transition to employment. The impact of dual credentialing and two layers of expectations (both ASQA and NESA) were outlined.

Whilst technically outside the remit of the review, the IEU spoke of the significant salary differentials for early childhood teachers and the impact of this on the profession

The Union reiterated its long held view that while bodies like AITSL make recommendations regarding best practice in mentoring and induction, they do not translate readily into industrial agreements to ensure those best practices become part of the educational landscape.

The role and need for additional para professionals was outlined. The complexity of a teacher's role “to be counsellors, researchers or data analysts” as well as to teach, was reported on recently by the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. The UNESCO report provides an imperative for change and additional staffing for schools would promote a focus on learning.

Standardised testing and its well known limitations on teaching and learning was discussed at length. NAPLAN, the Union indicated, should have its intent and purpose revisited. Enhancing and valuing teacher judgement at school level must be given primacy.

While the UNESCO report was issued post the panel meeting, it substantiates the Union view that standardised testing does not necessarily correlate to improved student outcomes.

Mark Northam
Assistant Secretary