The revised Australian curriculum will be available to teach in schools from 2023. What are the next steps of the implementation and what do these changes mean for teachers and education professionals at a time when staff are already struggling with heavy workloads? Education Matters finds out.
Version 9.0 of the revised Australian curriculum was endorsed on Friday 1 April 2022 when commonwealth, state and territory Education Ministers agreed that the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) met the key objectives to refine, realign and declutter the curriculum, with a focus on reducing content in primary years and lifting quality.
“The key word was decluttering,” says de Carvalho. “Teachers also felt that they were, particularly at primary level, skating across a curriculum that was a mile wide and an inch deep and they felt pressure just to rush on to the next topic. So decluttering allows them to teach for deeper conceptual understanding and grasping of key concepts before moving on was another objective.”
“It was also important to look across different subjects – mathematics, science and technologies – at the connections. In the previous curriculum, subjects like science were introducing students to mathematical concepts that they hadn’t even learnt in the maths curriculum because they were developed at different times the first-time round,” de Carvalho continues.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE AUSTRALIAN CURRICULUM
The first Australian Curriculum was launched in 2009, after ACARA was established in 2008. When ACARA was reviewed in 2015 it was agreed that the Australian curriculum would be reviewed every six years – this is the first cyclical review. Ministers gave ACARA terms of reference in 2020 and the review was conducted in accordance with those terms of reference. This is also the first time that the Australian Curriculum has been reviewed in full, across all subject areas.
CONSULTATION WITH TEACHERS
ACARA had been working with consultation groups on the refinements in order to get a consultation draft together for about 12 months before the revisions were released for open consultation explains Sharon Foster, Executive Director, Curriculum, ACARA. “We would engage teacher reference groups to work with us to give us their feedback and to test ideas with them. That was a powerful part for us – hearing the teacher’s voices all the way through. We also had curriculum reference groups with representatives from each of the jurisdictions and sectors who were specific to a particular learning area and subject. This was all really valuable information to help us firm up the consultation draft,” says Foster.
The consultation was open for 10 weeks and approximately 6000 online surveys and 900 email submissions were received. ACARA then engaged with the University of Queensland’s Institute for Social Science Research who undertook an independent analysis of the data. “We took that onboard to work through further refinements of the consultation draft to reach the version which then went through to the board and then finally was endorsed as approved curriculum,“ continues Foster.
THE NEXT STEPS
It’s widely known across the industry that workloads and teacher shortages are at an all-time high. This crisis looms large and was recently addressed with the release of the Teacher Workforce Shortages Issue Paper on 8 August 2022. The paper sets out the nature of the problem and responses to date, aiming to prompt discussion on priority areas of focus and potential actions to address teacher shortages. With this in mind, some may consider this bad timing, that a new curriculum must now be rolled out, across all subject areas nationally. “It is perhaps not well understood that the launching of a new curriculum is not the end of the work. For teachers in schools, it’s the start of the work,” says Veronica Yewdall, Professional Officer, Independent Education Union of Australia (IEU), NSW Branch.
When a syllabus is launched it then must be turned into a programme at school level. This involves developing a teaching scope and sequence which sets out the order of the syllabus content and the amount of time spent on each section. Teachers then break it down even further into programs that will direct their work with students over the weeks of a term, and then again into lessons, explains Yewdall.
“Teachers welcome the decluttering of the curriculum at the national level, and at the state level where that applies. However, it is essential to recognise the intensification of workload that accompanies such changes, particularly when multiple syllabuses are released in close proximity to each other,” says Yewdall. “It’s really important for teachers to have appropriate levels of support and an appropriate timeframe for implementation.”
SUPPORT AND RESOURCES
ACARA is working on provision for teacher support, and the individual states will also consider current issues when setting timelines for implementation explains Foster. “Some states will decide to phase it in, they may choose to take English and Maths first, others may choose to tackle primary school first and secondary school second. Similarly, to the way they implemented the Australian Curriculum the first-time round,” says Foster.
ACARA is currently working on creating new work samples for version 9.0. “These play a particular role in helping teachers unpack what the achievement standards look like,” says Foster. ACARA will also publish new illustrations of practice, including case studies demonstrating how teachers have gone about implementing the changes. “We also know that the jurisdictions will develop up quite explicit information that deals with their policies and requirements to support their teachers to develop the curriculum. ACARA staff will also be running some professional learning sessions to help teachers unpack and understand the intent of the curriculum,” adds Foster.
“From our perspective this curriculum sets high standards that is for what students have to learn no matter where they are across the country. Every student deserves access to a high-quality curriculum, and we think we’ve now given them that,” says de Carvalho.
For further information and to the view the curriculum digitally visit, v9.australiancurriculum.edu.au
This article was originally published in Education Matters Secondary Magazine – to read the issue download it here.