When will the Federal Government learn?

The Federal Government had failed to learn the lessons of the NSW experiment, which introduced learning progressions and an online assessment tool into schools that were blamed for creating excessive teacher workload, President of the Australian Education Union Correna Haythorpe told Federation’s Annual Conference.

As part of the negotiations for a national school reform agreement between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments, theTurnbull Government plans to tie school funding to the introduction of learning progressions and an online assessment tool in the near future, and work is already underway on its development.

“Instead of highlighting where individual students need support, the system [in NSW] has created a bureaucratic and logistical nightmare for our members,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This trial of learning progressions held in more than 600 schools across NSW imposed hours of additional administration for our teachers, not just once, but repeated every five weeks.

“By all accounts the system is unworkable, our members have reported being stressed and overwhelmed by this trial and the workload that’s required for its implementation.

“However, [federal Education Minister] Simon Birmingham has chosen to ignore the lessons of the NSW experience and plans to unleash a similar system of learning progressions and an online forwarding of assessment tool onto every school across the country.”

Ms Haythorpe said Minister Birmingham’s proposal will be the biggest reform of the Australian Curriculum teachers have faced in decades.

“The NSW trial of learning progressions and online forwarding of assessments only covered two curriculum areas, but Simon’s draft national school reform agreement plans to do it across 15 areas within the next three years,” she said.

“He plans to roll this scheme out with no additional support or funding to help our members implement and use the database. And if all that’s not bad enough, he’s going to implement this without consulting the teaching profession — the very teachers, principals and support staff that will be saddled with burden of implementing these changes.

“We cannot allow our public schools to become victims of Birmingham’s agenda. In his quest for reform he’s conveniently ignored that these learning progressions were originally created as teaching guidelines; they were never meant to be used as a means of assessment.

“And despite widespread outcry for a comprehensive review of NAPLAN, what we have is a draft NAPLAN review and we know Birmingham has stated NAPLAN stays regardless of the outcome.

“So NAPLAN, learning progressions, online assessment tools — when will teachers actually have the time to teach? It’s a resource-intensive, one-size-fits-all school reform but without any additional resources. Ignoring the teaching profession when it comes to school reform is simply a recipe for disaster.”

Ms Haythorpe reported to delegates that the Fair Funding Now! campaign has resonated with the electorate, which centred on clear demands to ask of a future federal government:

  • To reverse the $1.9 billion cuts over 2018 and 2019
  • To strike agreements with the Commonwealth and state and territory governments that ensure every public school is funded to 100 per cent of the Schooling Resources Standard by 2023, and remove the 20 per cent cap on the Commonwealth share of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) from the Commonwealth Education Act
  • To establish a capital fund for public schools to ensure all children are educated in classrooms and learning spaces where their needs can be met
  • To reverse the cuts in disability funding.

“Conversations are happening in school communities across the nation as every branch and associated body gears up for the next federal election,” Ms Haythorpe said. “We’ve identified 18 target seats as part of our strategy and … we have a clear choice at the next election.

“Bill Shorten came out immediately and committed to restore the $17 billion of cuts. So this federal election we will be campaigning to elect a government that puts public schools first.”

She said vocational education must be fully funded by governments because it is “a public good and should be provided for a well-resourced public institution, TAFE”.

“That requires a wholistic understanding of what TAFE does,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“In particular, TAFE helps people reach their aspirations, it assists communities to be resilient, to be strong and to be socially inclusive and it supports industries to be sustainable and innovative, which ensures that people have access to decent jobs.

“With massive government cuts to funding, TAFE has been seriously damaged and it’s come as great cost to our members to their students and to their families.

“In support of the Stop TAFE Cuts campaign, recently we launched a TAFE manifesto, which is a blueprint to restore Australia’s TAFE system.”

The manifesto calls on the federal government to:

  • guarantee a minimum of 70 per cent government funding to the public TAFE system
  • rebuild the TAFE system
  • abandon the failed student loans experiment
  • cancel all the debts of students caught in private for-profit provider scams.

“It calls on the government to reinvest in the TAFE teaching workforce and to develop a future-focused TAFE development strategy in collaboration with the profession and the unions,” Ms Haythorpe said. “And it calls for a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments and to support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.”