With permission of Alan Moir, Sydney Morning Herald

Curriculum review a red herring

Joan Lemaire
Senior Vice President

The Australian Education Union (AEU) will make a submission to the Review of the Australian Curriculum announced by the Federal Government.

Federation, along with each state and territory branch of the AEU, will contribute to the submission.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s announcement of a Review of the Australian Curriculum in January is clearly a tactic to divert attention from his Government’s failure to commit to fully fund the Gonski reforms.

The review was announced before NSW schools have commenced teaching the new syllabuses in English, Mathematics, Science and History which incorporate the Australian Curriculum.

It is clear that the Abbott Government is seeking to focus on curriculum, teachers and so-called principal autonomy rather than accept its responsibility, as the Government, to ensure that all schools have the necessary resources to provide all students the quality education they deserve.

Former Director-General of the NSW Department of Education and Gonski Review panel member Dr Ken Boston wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald (January 17) that “if there had been no Gonski Report there would be no Review of the Australian Curriculum”. He argued criticisms of the content and quality of the curriculum are aimed at diverting attention from “the correlation between poor student performance and aggregated social disadvantage”. Dr Boston noted: “At present it is mainly the hard working and talented children of the privileged who have access to the very highest levels of educational achievement. If Gonski is implemented, such access will be available increasingly to the similarly talented children of the socially disadvantaged. This is equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes: differences in outcomes will inevitably exist between children but they will no longer be the result of factors such as poverty, religion or sector of schooling.”

Dr Jim McMorrow’s recently released report on funding has found that if the Abbott Government fails to continue the Gonski funding reforms beyond 2017, up to 20 per cent of public schools will be operating below the Schooling Resources Standard recommended by the Gonski Review and without the necessary resources to support every child’s access to equal educational opportunities.

Federation, along with other AEU branches, is engaged in a national campaign with Gonski vans travelling from Perth, Darwin, Hobart and Cairns to raise awareness, and call on the Abbott Government to commit to the full six years of Gonski funding and ensuring the funds are allocated on a needs basis to support the most educationally disadvantaged students.

The announcement of the review may have caused uncertainty for many NSW teachers who are implementing the new syllabuses. Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards President Tom Alegounarias stated in the Board Bulletin on January 24: “There are no implications for the implementation of the NSW syllabus arising from this review. The implementation of the NSW syllabuses will continue on the existing schedule.”

Federation’s work with professional teacher associations was instrumental in ensuring that the curriculum change in NSW included effective consultation with teachers, development of support materials and an implementation timeframe which has provided time for familiarisation, preparation and planning around the new syllabuses which incorporate the Australian Curriculum.