Education in Australia – where are we headed?

In the late 19th century, Mary MacKillop was revolutionising education. She was a woman who believed that education should be accessible to all and her school model was one that focused on giving students skills and knowledge that would improve their lives. While a lot has changed in the world of education it remains true that accessible and quality education continue to be key priorities for Catholic schools today. Your child’s educational achievement and more importantly their experience while at school are no doubt issues of major interest for you. So, knowing what the issues are and making the parent voice count is what CCSP is all about.

Key issues in the educational landscape at the moment are:

• school funding
• NAPLAN
• review of the NSW curriculum.

Following the Government’s recent leadership change, we not only welcomed a new Prime Minister in Scott Morrison, but due to a cabinet reshuffle, we also welcomed a new Federal Minister for Education in Dan Tehan.

You may be aware that recently a review of the socio-economic status (SES) score methodology was completed. This is the method used to calculate how much government funding non-government schools should receive.

The Catholic schools sector, as an important and necessary part of Australia’s educational landscape, has been steadfast in advocating for more government funding to ensure that Catholic education remains affordable for all families who choose it – for those living in the eastern suburbs of Sydney through to those living in Broken Hill in outback western NSW. Under the new Morrison Government, the Catholic education sector is hopeful that we will be able to work collaboratively with Education Minister Dan Tehan to ensure Catholic schools receive adequate funding that will keep Catholic education accessible and provide parents with assurances about their school fees now and well into the future.

NAPLAN results were released recently and the conversations have been largely around paper versus online testing and the fact that results are not meeting the expectations of educators, parents and the broader community. There’s a plethora of articles in the media and no shortage of commentary from education experts on NAPLAN – why we do or don’t need it, what’s wrong with it and how we should fix it. In all the NAPLAN noise, it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose of NAPLAN and that is to test the important skills that are essential for every child to progress through school and life.

Testing the literacy and numeracy skills of students at various points in their education will help to identify areas of concern so that schools and parents can work together to proactively address them as early as possible. It’s important that schools are transparent with parents about their child’s NAPLAN results and that schools and parents work together to start addressing any knowledge gaps. So, find out what remedial programs or strategies your school has in place and how your child could benefit. Don’t get lost in the debate about NAPLAN and don’t overestimate it. Remember, it’s one test on one day that should be used to help ultimately improve student learning outcomes.

In May, the NSW Government announced a review into the NSW curriculum. This is the first comprehensive review of the entire school curriculum, from Kindergarten to Year 12, since 1989. The purpose of the review is to ensure our education system is preparing students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. The review aims to put the recommendations of the Gonski Report into practice and to improve the curriculum by decluttering it, making it simpler to understand and teach. This is a unique opportunity to develop a curriculum that ensures our schools adequately prepare students for life and success after school.

While it’s still early days and we’re not sure what’s in store, what we do know is that it will be critical for teachers, schools, principals, students and parents to be consulted in the review process. The Council of Catholic School Parents will submit to the review and seek input on behalf of all Catholic school parents and their children in NSW. Please contact us if you have thoughts or concerns in any of these areas.

The Council of Catholic School Parents (CCSP) NSW/ACT is the peak representative body for parents with children in Catholic schools in NSW and the ACT. Parents and educators can access more handy resources on the CCSP website: www.ccsp.catholic.edu.au

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