Earlier this week, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) announced the appointment of Ms Lisa Rodgers as it’s new CEO following what it termed an ‘extensive national and international search’. Read more
Last week, Education Matters shared findings from The Grattan Institute’s Mapping Australian higher education 2016 report alongside comments made by its Higher Education Program Director, Andrew Norton.
Tasmania’s State Government has moved to allay concerns that the proposed new starting age for schoolchildren could be detrimental to kids’ health.
Earlier this year, Tasmania’s Premier Will Hodgman announced the Government would lower the starting age from five to four years and six months, following a review of the Education Act.
At five years, Tasmania currently has the oldest minimum starting age for schoolchildren of any other state or territory in Australia.
However, Early Childhood Australia’s Tasmanian branch President Anne Barwick told The Mercury that the proposed change has “the potential to impact children negatively”.
“A high percentage of Tasmanian children access kindergarten – a non-compulsory year – and this change equates to children as young as three years, six months being integrated into a school environment,” she said.
Further concerns have been raised by the union for childcare workers, the Tasmanian Association of State School Organisations, Rural Health Tasmania and the state Opposition, causing the Government to respond with a new fact sheet on the initiative.
Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff announced the fact sheet, saying it aims to dispel concerns raised by detractors of the plan.
“The Government is proposing to lower the compulsory starting age for prep by six months — not 18 months as is being falsely claimed by some,” he said.
“This means instead of starting prep at the age of five, Tasmanians will start at the age of four and a half years. This is a very significant but by no means a radical change, this simply brings Tasmania in-line with the rest of Australia.”
Mr Rockliff confirmed Ms Barwick’s concerns, however, stating that parents will have the choice to send their kids to kindergartner sooner, starting at the age of three years and six months.
The Mercury reports that Opposition education spokesperson Michelle O’Byrne contends the initiative is not backed up by solid evidence.
“All that Tasmanians have been told by the Government is that the justification for changing the school starting age is that it will bring the state into line with the rest of the country … there is no definitive Australian school starting age.”
A “Stop lowering the school age in Tasmania” petition organised by United Voice has so far been signed by 2,561 people.
The school starting age fact sheet can be found on the Tasmanian Department of Education website.
The marathon campaign in the lead up to July’s Federal election has already yielded some indication of what to expect from the major parties with regard to education spend and policy.
As mentioned in our update of two weeks ago, the Federal Budget announced an increase of $1.2 billion over three years for school funding, but it comes with a number of caveats.
The amount was announced as part of an overall budgetary commitment of $73.6 billion – the total amount the Commonwealth is planning to provide schools over the next four years. The majority of this money was already budgeted for.
The additional $1.2 billion promised by the Coalition will be delivered using state and territory assessments of the neediest schools, as was recommended by the Gonski review, along with a number of other conditions (such as a standardised Year 1 assessment of literacy, phonics and numeracy against national standards, as well as a minimum standard of literacy and numeracy skills for Year 12 students).
While the additional funding has been welcomed, it has also been noted that it only partially restores the funding cuts introduced by the Coalition in 2014.
By comparison, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor have promised an additional $4.5 billion over two years, which is slated to include $1.8 billion for regional and country classrooms.
While more money sounds like it will produce a greater windfall for Australian schools, the priority in which they receive these funds is still determined by the individual states and territories, not by the Commonwealth, thereby producing markedly varied results across the country.
The argument being made by the Coalition and a host of pundits is simply that increasing funding does not necessarily increase the performance of schools and, in turn, the academic performance of students themselves. However, this is exactly what the Gonski review was supposed to achieve and it is this element of the academic system that needs to discussed in detail by the major parties.
For yet another election campaign, we can all expect to hear the term ‘Gonski’ much more in the weeks to come.
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The Federal Government has released its budget for the year ahead, announcing a total spend in education of $33.7 billion, yet not all areas of education are set to benefit.
Despite the spending, the government announced cuts of $152.2 million over four years to the Higher Education Participation Program, as well as $20.9 million over four years from the Promotions of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Program.
By comparison the $33.7 billion in spending includes an increase of $1.2 billion of school funding, to be delivered between 2018 and 2020, as well as $118.2 million over the next two years going towards students with a disability.
As pointed our by Senior Lecturer in Education Policy at the University of Melbourne, Glenn Savage, the increase in funds falls ‘short of the $4.5 billion promised by Labor between 2018-19 as part of the Gonski reform model’.
However, the increase is nevertheless likely to be warmly received by educators who have been fearing cuts, with the government previously hinting it might cease all funding to public schools altogether.
‘The funding increase is out of step with education minister Simon Birmingham’s repeated claim that funding does not matter as much as other features of schooling such as curriculum or quality teachers. If this were truly the case, then why the funding increase?’ Savage questions in a brief letter to SBS News.
What funding does exist for schools is expected to be delivered on a needs-based plan. which may require students as young as five or six facing tests in order to determine whether they qualify for extra assistance.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said these changes have been introduced to improve student performance.
‘It is completely unacceptable that the performance of our students in fundamental skills like literacy and numeracy continues to slip even while our funding continues to significantly increase,’ Birmingham told the Sunday Telegraph.
The changes also include minimum standards for students to pass Year 12, as well as changes to teacher pay structure, with performance set to be rewarded over length of service.
Several issues have also been deferred in this budget, with higher education reform pushed back one year and little to be seen for early learning.