Opinion: Real change demands real engagement

Opinion: Real change demands real engagement

Over the past few years, funding has been a key issue for education, along with improving outcomes for all children in schools. It is therefore welcome that the NSW Parliament is holding inquiry hearings into 'Measurement and outcome-based funding in New South Wales schools’. Funding cannot solve the wicked problems in education, but it is a core means to implement change.

This inquiry will explore the key issues and fundamental changes needed to improve the education of children. Issues such as child protection, assessment, teacher employment conditions, school systems, accountability, support for vulnerable children, measurement of learning and teaching will all be covered; and no doubt additional issues will arise.

With such fundamental and constant media commentary and discussion it is therefore somewhat surprising that there were only 20 submissions to the Inquiry. In particular the presentative of teachers, those (along with pupils) who will be most impacted by any reforms, failed to make any submissions, as did high-profile media commentators on this very subject.

After the well-publicised campaigns for funding with ‘I give a Gonski’, actually suggesting what needs to change and need to be funded seems to be missing. Demanding additional funding, without actually exploring what needs funding is deeply flawed. You do not approach a bank manager for money, without stating the need for the money.

Some of the politicians involved in the Inquiry might be controversial, and this may be used as a justification for some choosing not to participate in the Inquiry, but in a mature society you play the issue, not the person. Retreating into polarised echo chambers does not allow society to progress.

If stakeholders in education want change, they need to engage, otherwise they are betraying their principles and those whom they claim to represent. Education needs fundamental reform. We need a diversity of voices to find solutions. For those who choose not to take part, they abrogate their option to critique. To quote one of the most outspoken advocates for funding who has failed to make a submission: “they should put up or shut up”.


Dr David Roy from the University of Newcastle, works closely with governments and disability advocacy groups.