Private schools call for ‘strengths-based approach’ to education policy

Private schools call for ‘strengths-based approach’ to education policy

Australia needs a “compelling national vision” for education, says Australia’s peak body for private schools.

The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia’s (AHISA) statement, released ahead of the 2019 federal election, called for a fresh approach to national education policy making, with a strengths-based approach at its centre.

Strength-based practice is a social work practice theory that emphasises people's self-determination and strengths and promotes resourcefulness and resilience in the face of adversity.

AHISA’s CEO, Beth Blackwood, said that for too long, a “deficit model thinking” had prevailed in education policy development.

“Over the last decade, politicians, business and industry leaders and “policy-preneurs” have sought to build a case for change by claiming that Australia’s school system is failing,” Blackwood said.

“Australia’s schools are far from failing; they are demonstrating that they are agile organisations responding in innovative ways to the challenges of digital disruption and rapid social and technological change.”

Blackwood said that if Australia’s schools are to continue this successful transformation, they need “strategic, bi-partisan support” from governments.

“The push and pull of party politics on policy development threatens to act as a brake on the transformation of Australian schooling,” she said.

AHISA has put forward three foundational principles that it says governments must adopt to “empower national education policy making in Australia”.

  • National leadership to be expressed through bi-partisan policy commitments across the education continuum, from early learning through to tertiary provision
  • Trust in and respect for the professional expertise of educators
  • Recognition of and support for diversity in schooling provision to meet the needs of all learners.

“A compelling national vision for education to engage educators, students and their families, and the wider community can only be achieved through a strengths-based approach to policy development, not a misleading presumption of failure,” she said.