The NSW government’s decision to “completely overhaul” school curriculums has come in the wake of the NSW Teachers Federation receiving “unprecedented levels” of negative feedback to current policy.
NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes said the review, the first of its kind since 1989, would implement the latest findings of the Gonski review, which called for a fundamental re-evaluation of how Australia educates children, and a move away from the “industrial model” of teaching.
Meanwhile a survey written by Sydney University Business School and conducted by the Federation showed that 97 per cent of teachers, principals and executives have been swamped by administrative work since the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy was implemented in 2012.
That policy gave schools more responsibility for managing their own finances and administration, although it also saw the loss of over 700 educational support positions in schools.
Of the 18,234 survey respondents, representing over a third of the workforce, a further 95 per cent claimed that their work has become “more complex”, 87 per cent have seen an increase in work hours, while 40 per cent claimed to have witnessed a decrease in support for student welfare.
The overwhelming feedback was that the focus on administration and data collection is making it increasingly difficult to carry out their primary duty, educating children.
Locally, New England Teachers Federation organiser Susan Armstead hopes that something positive can come from the curriculum review, although fears that not basing the curriculum review around teacher knowledge and expertise could prove to be another policy failure.
“Everyone knows what ‘consultation’ can mean - using outside ‘experts’ to impose the government’s position – this announcement has all the usual bells and whistles, but as usual no details,” she said.
“I don’t think any teacher would object to a considered and thorough process of reviewing our overcrowded curriculum, but teachers should be writing the review.”
“Professional teachers know how to teach, so give us the means to do it, give us the hands in the classrooms – all 23 of the Gonski recommendations come with resourcing issues.”
A Department of Education spokeswoman told Fairfax Media it provides significant resources and programs to help teachers with the demands of their work, including $88 million in extra staffing resources, $50 million to support principals, and $60 million to increase the professional skills of staff.
“Student welfare has received an extra $167 million in funding for wellbeing services, positive behaviour programs and specific support for children with special needs.”