Education is a lifelong process that should foster initiative, creativity in individuals. Education should allow students to maximise their participation in the Australian and global communities. Education is core to employment and socialisation. Quality teachers are essential to a cohesive civilised society and deserve our respect and support. 

However, Australia dropped down OECD ranks based on the last Programme for International Student Assessment of 15-year-olds, and on other measures of performance have stagnated or gone backwards. Roughly one in five young people in Australia do not complete year 12, gaps in outcomes persist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, and the race for high ATARs (and entry to elite universities) is dominated by young people from the wealthiest backgrounds. 17% of Australian young people leave secondary school without achieving basic educational skill levels. (2018)

The National School Reform Agreement commenced in July 2019 but the Government performance reporting showed mixed results and a decrease in the proportion of students attending school. The annual NAPLAN reports show that high SES students, whether measured by parental occupation or parental education, do significantly better across all the literacy and numeracy tests.

It is in the nation’s interests for all children to have the opportunity to be well-educated, regardless of their parents’ means.

Our schools plan

Deliver on the remainder of needs-based funding for government schools based on the Schooling Resource Standard of the 2011 Gonski report
Raise the status of teachers and attract high achievers to the profession
– Improve pay for teachers, provide incentives for high achievers to study teaching, overhaul teacher career paths
– Fund master teacher positions and instructional specialists to support teachers
– Develop a scholarship program for high achieving students who choose to go on to teaching
– Fund the Australian Education Research Organisation to develop a clear understanding of which teaching practices and programs work and which do not
Give teachers enough time to be great teachers
– Fund more preparation time for high-quality lesson planning
– Reduce non-essential tasks that can be done by non-teaching staff
– Introduce more flexibility for structured preparation
– Reduce the proportion of out-of-field maths and science teachers taking those classes in secondary schools and reduce the maths gender gap
Reverse the decades-long trend of segregating children on the basis of ability to pay fees
– Measure the success of schools on the basis of equity and inclusion as well as academic success
– Invest in schools with high concentrations of poverty and disadvantage
– Encourage more parental and community involvement in schools
Replace NAPLAN with assessments that better inform measures required to close the widening gap in performance of disadvantaged students
– Adopt sampling and teacher-led assessments of student performance and growth
– Recognise the need for flexibility and an understanding of the complex factors at play for young people and focus more on motivation and engagement
Be guided by the Alice Springs Mparntwe Education Declaration

Thirty-four percent of teachers are dissatisfied with their career (Monash, 2019) and more than 70% percent feel under-appreciated.  According to the Grattan Institute, …in Australia, far fewer high achievers choose teaching today than they did 30 years ago. 

The Grattan Institute surveyed 5,442 Australian teachers and school leaders across all states and territories, primary and secondary schools, and government and non-government schools. 86% of teachers reported they did not have time for high-quality lesson planning. 92% said there was not enough time for classroom teaching preparation.

Early career teachers are often on insecure contracts without holiday pay or casual loading, some of them for more than 5 years in one position. Data is not available for school teachers on casual contracts but in 2019 Australia ranked fourth highest in the OECD for casual work more broadly and 40% of higher education teachers are said to be employed on casual rates.

In the last Australian Census in 2016, Indigenous students accounted for 6.2% of all students but only 2% of Australian teachers identified as Indigenous. Indigenous teachers were considerably more likely to intend to leave the profession before they retired (36%), in comparison to the overall teacher workforce (25%).

In 2011-2015 the federal government spent A$7.5 million to increase Indigenous teachers in Australian schools which increased their numbers by 16%. The program then lapsed.

An evaluation of the program recommended program reform and a plan for increasing and retaining Indigenous teachers. It also recommended that Indigenous teachers’ voices be heard in understanding how to increase and retain Indigenous teachers. 

Research also shows Indigenous teachers and support workers in schools bring a wealth of additional knowledges and skills to Australian schools. These knowledges can include local knowledge of Country, kinship groups, Indigenous languages, community dynamics and politics and embodied knowledges acquired through lived experiences of being an Indigenous person.

Indigenous students and indeed all Australian students benefit from seeing strong Indigenous role models in schools.

According to Geoff Masters, not all students begin at the same starting point and nor will they learn at the same rate. The gap between the most advanced 10% of students and the least advanced 10% is equivalent to five to six years of schooling. It is important to recognise that every learner is capable of making progress if they are engaged, motivated to make the effort and provided with targeted learning opportunities and this can be difficult with testing that generally gives the least advanced students poor assessments rather than a measure of their progress.

We need to make our schools more socially integrated. A socially mixed or average student composition creates conditions that facilitate teaching and learning. Middle-class and/or socially mixed schools are also much less expensive to operate because they have fewer students with high needs. Less expensive running costs frees up funds that can be used for targeted and intensive support for students who need it.

The 2021 NAPLAN reported an overall achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students widening in some areas compared to 2019. The gap at year 9 level for the average disadvantaged student remains 3-1/2 and 4 years behind in literacy and numeracy respectively. 

NAPLAN has however been criticised as an ineffective diagnostic tool, adding to teacher workloads and demoralising students with poor outcomes. 

International evidence suggests that many leading education systems are shifting away from high-stakes census-based standardised tests, towards assessment systems that integrate sample-based and teacher-led assessments. These produce more reliable and accurate information about educational progress and issues that require improvement.

Professor Pasi Sahlberg (UNSW)

The is evidence that NAPLAN results in ‘school shopping’ which is further concentrating disadvantage.

It is difficult to access reliable data on schools funding but according to analysis by the Grattan Institute, real resources available to schools were increased by more than $2 billion in a decade but, when wage growth was taken into account, private schools got more than 80% of it. The 2018 deadline for reducing funds to over-funded schools was put off to 2029. 

Government funding for private schools in Australia is said to have increased at nearly five times the rate of funding for government schools over the past 10 years and predictions are of a $74bn shortfall in money for public schools this decade. The analysis, conducted by advocacy group, Save our Schools, compared combined commonwealth and state government funding for schools in 2009-10 to 2019-20, based on the Productivity Commission’s report on government services. 

School funding from all sources shows that income for independent schools was almost $10,000/student higher than that for government schools.

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