Principals respond to Gonski's curriculum overhaul

Principals respond to Gonski

On Monday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull endorsed David Gonski’s blueprint to lift Australia’s educational performance, calling it an opportunity to build a stronger school system.

The report, titled: ‘Through Growth to Achievement Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools’, is Gonski’s second major review into Australian education, which has stagnated and declined, both in comparison to other nations and in real terms.

To turn this around, the review identified 23 recommendations under five themes:

  • Laying the foundations of learning before the school years and in the home environment;
  • Equipping every student to grow and succeed with the knowledge they need and a focus on growing each individuals’ skills;
  • Creating, support and valuing a profession of expert educators including building on the Government’s reforms to date in teacher education;
  • Empowering and supporting school leaders with experience and autonomy;
  • Lifting aspirations with quality assurance, data and evidence-based research

So what do Australia’s principals make of these radical changes to the curriculum?

Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) president, Dennis Yarrington, welcomed the proposed changes to the Australian curriculum, saying a ‘one size-fits all’ learning program is not reflective of how today’s students should be learning.

“Primary schools are pressured to cover more content, including ‘special’ programs aimed at solving social ills and personal trials,” Yarrington told The Educator.

“However, little advice is given about what content does not need to be prioritised or taught explicitly. Unfortunately, in all of this feverish development and lobbying for content delivery, a most important aspect of teaching, the how to teach, has been lost.”

Like Yarrington, NSW Secondary Principals Council (NSWSPC) president, Chris Presland, agrees that the existing curriculum is too cluttered to be effective in driving improved teaching and learning outcomes in Australian classrooms.

“The reality is that the curriculum is way too overcrowded. Schools have to tackle road safety, swimming safety, obesity and so many other areas of social welfare and safety has grown enormously as every year passes,” Presland told The Educator.

“So we really do think it’s time for a review, and time for a much stronger focus on general capabilities.”

Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA) president, Andrew Pierpoint, said ASPA had been calling for increased principal autonomy, which was recognised in the report.

“The professional learning for principals is most welcome particularly when it is of the profession, for the profession,” Pierpoint told The Educator.

“It is very pleasing to see that the report also recommends a review of the Australian Curriculum together with a move away from the industrial model of education to a more contemporary, world class approach.”

However, Pierpoint said it is critical that these initiatives be appropriately resourced to ensure their success.

“There is a strong feeling among principals in jurisdictions across Australia, that the issues raised in this report go far beyond the political cycle – for real and embedded change, these initiatives must be embraced by all levels of government for a sustained period,” he said.


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