Landmark summit proposes bold reforms to level Australia’s education playing field

Landmark summit proposes bold reforms to level Australia’s education playing field

Leading policymakers, experts and educators have gathered at Parliament House in Canberra today to address inequities in Australian secondary education.

The landmark ‘Equity in Australian Secondary Education: Crossing the Divide’ summit, hosted by the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (ASPA), discussed a range of solutions for a “longer-term reform agenda” to achieve full and fair school funding, improved school leader wellbeing, and senior secondary assessment.

“This Summit represents an unprecedented opportunity to shape an agenda for reform that delivers on the Australian Government’s commitment to provide every young Australian with access to a high-quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances,” Andy Mison, ASPA president said.

“By bringing together experts and decision makers from across the country, the Summit aims to produce practical, evidence-based solutions to tackle inequity and unlock the potential of all students and schools.”

Equity must be defined in new agreements

Pasi Sahlberg, Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Education, said it is encouraging to see governments increasing public school funding closer to long-awaited minimum levels, as WA and NT have recently done in their new agreements with the Federal Government.

“It is paramount that these new resources will be targeted to those schools and children who need it most,” Professor Sahlberg told The Educator.

“I hope this Summit will make it clear that Australian education will become fairer and better only when equity in education is clearly defined in these new agreements and policies that follow, and when schools are not just permitted but encouraged to find the best ways to engage all students to do their very best in and out of school.”

Current funding agreements undermine choice

Tom Greenwell, a Canberra-based teacher and writer and Professional Associate of the News and Media Research Centre at the University of Canberra, said Australia’s school funding arrangements undermine, rather than support, choice.

He says current arrangements contribute to Australia’s unusually segregated school system with overwhelming evidence that concentrating disadvantaged students in public schools is a key structural weakness in our school system, and it needs to be addressed to improve student achievement.

“It is time for social segregation to be seriously addressed by all governments,” Greenwell told the Summit.

“A priority for the National School Resource Agreement, now being negotiated, is for improved measurement and reporting on the socio-economic diversity in schools, and its impacts on wellbeing and achievement.”

‘Principals are critical in shaping future reform’

Edmund Misson, acting CEO of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) said he was glad to be discussing the big issues facing the nation’s education sector at a Summit which is led by the profession.

“Principals and other school leaders hold enormous expertise, and their input is critical in shaping future reform,” Misson told The Educator.

“We know they need the time to be able to focus on driving strategies for school improvement, and the resources to ensure the day-to-day business of running a school occurs smoothly. [The Summit] enables leaders from across the secondary education space to strategise and deliberate to ensure Australia’s secondary teachers and school leaders feel better supported, now and into the future.”