Ascot State School children Adelaide Morton, 8, with twins Thomas and Hamish Campbell, 7. Picture: Annette Dew
Ascot State School children Adelaide Morton, 8, with twins Thomas and Hamish Campbell, 7. Picture: Annette Dew

Radical education overhaul ahead

AUSTRALIA'S schooling system has failed a generation of children and must be fundamentally overhauled if millions of students are to reach their potential, a new report to government finds.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Education Minister Simon Birmingham will on Monday release education guru David Gonski's highly anticipated second review into Australia's schools.

The report recommends a radical shake-up of schooling, with the old "industrial model" of mass education - where students progress in lock-step with others of their age - abandoned in favour of a 21st century data-based model, in which individual learning ­outcomes are consistently assessed and mapped online.

Among the report's recommendations is a push to give all students a unique identifying number and create an "online formative assessment tool" that teachers would use to diagnose where students are at and plot the next steps in their learning trajectory.

The report is scathing of Australia's slide down international assessment rankings, with the eight member review panel declaring our schooling system had "failed a generation of Australian school children by not enabling them to reach their full learning potential."

Mr Turnbull, who will endorse the report and its recommendations today, said Gonski 2.0 presented an opportunity "to achieve educational excellence".

While the report does not recommend streaming classes according to ability or accelerating gifted learners through whole year levels, it does propose changing the curriculum over a period of five years so teachers ultimately provide different content and exercises to different students in the one classroom.

It also proposes changing the way student achievement is assessed, by replacing the old A-E report card with a clearer measure of individual student improvement.

The review panel argues the old-fashioned grade reporting can disguise minimal improvement in the case of straight A students and fail to recognise lesser achieving students who are showing good gains.

The report warns many schools are "cruising, not improving", by maintaining a mediocre level of performance but not doing enough to boost the results of its high- achieving students.

It criticises the inflexibility and rigidity of the curriculum which provides the same learning content to whole year levels, despite the fact that the most advanced learners in any one class are typically five-to-six years ahead of the least ­advanced learner.

"Many students are not ­realising their full potential because our current school education system is limiting opportunities for teachers to tailor learning to individual development needs," it says.

"The lock-step delivery of the year-level based curriculum makes it difficult to develop teaching and learning programs for students who are above or below year-level expectations."

The Gonski 2.0 report also recommends re-prioritising the curriculum to focus on the fundamental building blocks of learning and ensure that by the age of eight, all students have the basic literacy and numeracy skills that they ­require.

"We can and must do more. We now have the blueprint to do it," Mr Turnbull said.

"We are drawing a line in the sand to say with our record and growing funding secured, we now must focus on the reforms that improve education outcomes for all Australian students."

Senator Birmingham said the report was "a big blueprint for change right across school education in Australia".

The federal Education Minister also said once the new "online formative assessment tool" was up and running it may have the potential to replace NAPLAN.

"That is a discussion people might have in many, many years time, once it is built and operational".

 

Federal Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
Federal Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

 

VOLUNTEER AIDES MAY FREE UP TEACHERS

Volunteers and paid non-teaching staff could be brought in to relieve lunchtime and ­assembly supervision so classroom teachers can focus on boosting student results.

The Gonski 2.0 report warns that schools have become strangled by red tape, and the administrative burden placed on teachers is hampering our academic results.

The report recommends a fundamental overhaul of teaching strategies - requiring teachers to abandon their general daily lesson plan and instead provide individual learning plans for each student.

"For the new model to be successful, teachers will have to embrace significant changes so they can create multi-streamed differentiated lesson plans for each class," the report says.

The new model would require teachers to invest extra time, mapping and monitoring individual student progress, but with most classroom teachers already overworked and time-poor, the Gonski report recommends that schools look to free up their teachers.

"This could involve considering different and innovative ways to free up teacher time, for example using more para-professionals and other non-teaching personnel, including trained volunteers, to assist with non-teaching tasks such as lunchtime or assembly supervision or administrative tasks," it says.

The report also states that teaching "must become a high-status profession of expert educators" and talented teachers should be fast-tracked through promotions and salary bands.

Teachers who are interested in becoming school principals should also be able to express this goal early in their career and follow clearer paths to school leadership ­positions.