Morrison Government’s ‘Groundhog Day’ education reform agenda

12 December 2019

The Morrison Government’s education reform agenda resembles Groundhog Day, where education is stuck in a time loop of bad policy, no consultation and an underfunded school system.

The COAG Education Council today released a communique committing to national reform actions, including a proposed curriculum review, learning progressions, an online formative assessment tool and phonics, all of which have been progressed without consultation with the teaching profession and their union.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the Commonwealth’s education reform agenda would not succeed without the input of the teaching profession and without the Morrison Government’s commitment to fully fund public schools to 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard.

“Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan has failed to formally engage the teaching profession at any stage of rolling out his reform agenda,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This has led to bureaucratic ideology taking precedence over real-world experience and teaching best practice.”

“Any student assessment program must have teaching and learning at its heart, be aligned to the Australian curriculum, be owned, informed and supported by the teaching profession and address any workload impacts and professional learning concerns through appropriate additional resourcing,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“We remain gravely concerned about the reform agenda, the lack of transparency about what is planned and the lack of genuine consultation.”

“We cannot support the implementation of any reforms that exclude the teaching profession and its representatives from the very beginning,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that today’s announcement also failed to mention the most important factor in helping raise student performance - additional funding to implement any new initiatives and to replace the billions of dollars cut by the Morrison Government from public school budgets.

“It is a fact that there are huge equity gaps in school funding in Australia. The PISA 2018 results highlighted the impact of six years of Federal Coalition failure when it comes to properly funding and resourcing public schools,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“The Morrison Government’s policy of school funding inequity is short-changing a generation of Australian students by creating a system of ‘haves and have nots’, and yet Minister Tehan completely ignores this reality.”

“The Federal Coalition’s scrapping of the original Gonski funding model, imposition of $1.9 billion in funding cuts in 2017-18 and capping federal contributions to the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) for public schools means that by 2023, 99% of public schools will be funded below the SRS whilst 99% of private schools will be funded at or above the SRS,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Our public school teachers provide a high quality education for Australia’s students, but they are already stretched by the Morrison Government’s budget cuts. Now with this agenda rolling out, they will be expected to do even more without additional funding support or resources, and while having no input into the reform process. This all adds up to a recipe for failure by the Morrison Govt.”

Ms Haythorpe welcomed the Education Council’s recognition of the critical role that early childhood education plays in giving every child the best start to life. However she questioned why the Morrison Government continues its refusal to guarantee funding for the sector.

“The Morrison Government’s failure to guarantee ongoing funding beyond 2020 for two years of preschool for all Australian children means that our Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector continues to have uncertainty in funding. This has a deep impact on forward planning, retention of staff and on learning programs for children,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe urged the Education Council and Minister Tehan in particular to engage in genuine consultation with the teaching profession and their representatives, the AEU.

“Given the dramatic impact of the proposed reforms on teaching and learning on our schools we urge Ministers to engage in genuine consultation with the teaching profession through the AEU about all matters related to the National School Reform Agreement as a matter of urgency,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“We acknowledge that in the communique the Education Council has committed to improving its consultation processes however if that fails to address our concerns, then we will reserve our right to take further action.” Ms Haythorpe said.