Expert Panel Report – Good Plan, but Schools Need Support Now
Monday December 11 2023
The release today of the Improving Outcomes for All report sets out an ambitious 10-year plan to address systemic inequities and lift outcomes in Australian schools. While the scale of reform is significant, ASPA President Andy Mison said “after many years of dysfunction and neglect in properly supporting public schools, a long-term plan is needed to deliver the changes our students deserve.”
“However, our young people cannot wait 10 years to see meaningful improvements in their experience and outcomes. The funding shortfall for public schools must be urgently addressed as an immediate priority, empowering principals and school communities to make locally-relevant decisions about their reform journey,” Mr Mison said.
ASPA acknowledges the Expert Panels' recognition of the great work of our profession, and the need to mitigate reform pressure. Many recommendations will take years to implement. For example, improving socio-economic diversity across systems will require major incentives and cultural change. Developing the ‘quality assured curriculum materials’ for teachers across the curriculum from F-12 is an enormous undertaking, and it is not yet clear who will lead this work. And whilst we are very keen to see every student access careers education and training programs that support their post school transition, this will require significant investment and recruitment amidst a teacher shortage unlikely to abate within the next three years.
ASPA welcomes practical recommendations like fast-tracking the Unique Student Identifier and harmonising teacher registration. New national measures for wellbeing and segregation will also provide an evidence base to support reforms that will hopefully improve equity of opportunity for our disadvantaged students.
ASPA endorses the recommendation that Governments implement ‘full service school models to connect students with the community and health services they need.’ Our remote and regional schools must be prioritised for this work, and it must be a jointly funded effort from Departments of Health and Community Services.
“We strongly support the focus areas of equity, wellbeing and workforce identified in the report – these absolutely reflect the right priorities. However, we hold concerns based on experience that the burden of driving and implementing reforms will inevitably fall to principals who are already at capacity. We wonder at the suggestion of yet more accountability requirements, while the rhetoric rightly focuses on valuing and supporting the profession as the solution,” Mr Mison said.
“To truly uplift outcomes over the next decade, governments must shoulder the responsibility for system-wide changes, properly resource schools to 100% of the School Resource Standard, and trust the expertise of principals to lead reforms locally. Full funding must happen now, not staged over 10 years. Without this foundational support, even the best-intentioned plans will struggle to deliver the improvements our students need.”
ASPA urges immediate action on addressing the public school funding shortfall as the crucial enabler for broader reform efforts to succeed. We also call for greater investment in supporting principals as system leaders and reform champions within their school communities.