Headway made on access and equity

Multicultural Matters: Education Quarterly, Issue 8 2023

Significant progress has been made regarding culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) students requiring English language provision, specialist teacher and dedicated support programs, after Federation secured commitments from the Department of Education in June this year.

These improvements are important because in NSW public schools, more than 200,000 students require English as additional language or dialect (EAL/D) support, and an additional 3832 new arrival migrant and refugee background students are funded under the federal government’s New Arrivals Program.

Yet just 48 per cent of EAL/D staffing entitlements allocated to schools are filled by permanent teachers, and of those undertaking these roles, only 58 per cent are EAL/D qualified.

Commitments include:

  • Schools being required to declare all EAL/D vacancies for recruitment and these positions will be closely monitored. Any positions to be put on hold will require resubmission for approval, to which tighter scrutiny will be applied.
  • Additional classroom space provided for two existing Intensive English Centres (IECs). In consultation with Federation, a review of the intake areas for IECs was agreed, to ensure an appropriate balance with demand. Longer-term demand projections and the study of historical trends will form a statewide strategy around the provision of future IECs and permanent infrastructure needs.
  • The concerning practice of students on temporary visas enrolled in IECs being denied enrolment into their host high schools has been resolved. Transitions have begun and planning is underway to ensure that should they want to; all students can successfully transition into their host high schools in 2024.
  • The Department has increased funding in support of the work of Anti Racism Contact Officers (ARCOs). With a notable surge in racism arising in the current context of national and world events, this is very much needed. Further, schools must have the necessary resources to ensure they provide the necessary support for ARCOs to fulfil all aspects of their roles, so they can work with their school communities towards achieving the elimination of racism in all forms.

Federation continues to pursue objectives outlined in the March Council decision, “Multicultural Education: Access and Equity”, deemed critical to achieve if students with CALD backgrounds are to have the appropriate support they need; and schools are to have the necessary resources and release to ensure students have access to the education required to achieve to their potential.

Recent audits have ensured a variety of matters pertaining to multicultural education and anti-racism are reviewed. Central to these matters are teachers, students, and the public education system. The Department must support better social inclusion outcomes and take greater responsibility for the provision of well-resourced programs.