Professor Tony Loughland and Professor Mary Ryan explain why teacher collective efficacy is a vital part of their professional learning and how its use influences students’ learning and development…
Do Not Try This Alone
When Tony and Mary started their teaching careers last century there were many lone ranger teachers in the schools where they worked. These lone rangers were often very good practitioners who preferred to work their magic in their own classroom. You didn’t often see them in the staffroom but their students were happy, the parents did not complain and the school executive were generally of the view that “if it ain’t broke it don’t need fixing”.
There were also teachers and executive staff back then who were very generous in the sharing of their practical wisdom. This generosity was much appreciated by Tony who struggled to teach students with English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) backgrounds in inner city Sydney, especially given he had just completed six semesters of enthusiastic and expert teaching of the whole language model of teaching English K-6 in his pre-service education degree.
The collegiality of these colleagues extended to observing them in class, team teaching, sharing programs and resources, affirmation of our small wins as novice teachers and generally making us feel like we might succeed at this profession one day. Their collegiality gave us an enhanced sense of our efficacy as an individual teacher and promulgated a general sense of collective efficacy that we can teach these students well in our school.
There is strong support in the research literature that students thrive when teachers have a positive sense of their self-efficacy as individual teachers as well as a strong sense of their collective efficacy as a stage, faculty, team and school. We argue in this paper that the motivational sources of collective teacher efficacy provide a useful framework for the development and evaluation of professional learning programs at the school level.
The Compelling Evidence for Pursuing Collective Teacher Efficacy
Teachers’ sense of their collective efficacy is the second most important school-based influence on student outcomes. It has an effect size of 1.57 on student achievement according to Hattie’s synthesis of 1200 meta-analyses relating to influences on student achievement (Hattie, 2015). An effect size of this magnitude demands the attention of school leaders and researchers invested in teacher professional learning, “Given the link between collective efficacy and student achievement, understanding collective efficacy in and of itself is a worthy endeavour” (Berebitsky & Salloum, 2017, p.2). This study sought to develop an in-depth understanding of the antecedents of teacher collective efficacy in their professional learning.
Collective efficacy is an extension of the construct of self-efficacy from the broader theoretical framework of social cognition. Collective efficacy is defined as “the extent to which people believe they can work together effectively to accomplish their shared goals” (Maddux & Gosselin, 2012, p.214). Social cognition assumes reciprocal causality exists between a person and their environment, “people respond cognitively, emotionally, and behaviourally to environmental events. Also, through cognition people can exercise control over their own behaviour, which then influences not only the environment but also their cognitive, emotional, and biological states” (Maddux & Gosselin, 2012, p.199). This reciprocal causality has positive implications for teacher collective efficacy as it creates a virtuous cycle of improvement where enhanced collective efficacy contributes to student achievement which then further strengthens collective efficacy (Goddard et al., 2000).
The motivational sources of teacher collective efficacy are mastery and vicarious experiences, social persuasion, and affective states.1Teacher collective efficacy is also enhanced by a team’s ability to analyse the task ahead and make a judgment on their current level of competency to complete the task. All these characteristics represent what is regarded in the literature as effective teacher professional learning. However, teacher collective efficacy has not been commonly associated with a theory of action for teacher professional learning as it has been predominately employed as an outcome measure of the health of a school’s collective culture.
We contend that the measurable construct of teacher collective efficacy can be used as a design framework for professional learning programs as well as being an evaluative measure of its effectiveness. We acknowledge that the question of whether teacher collective efficacy is a necessary antecedent condition for effective professional learning, or a consequence of these programs remains open. We suspect that there might be reciprocal causation between teacher collective efficacy and effective professional learning where the presence of both enhances the other.
The Importance of a Professional Learning Collective
This last section of the paper examines the confluence between the motivational sources of teacher collective efficacy and the principles of effective teacher professional learning (see Table 1 below)
Sources of Teacher Collective Efficacy
Principles of Effective Teacher Professional Learning
Collaborative. Iterative. Focus on teachers’ work
Collaborative. Focus on teachers’ work
Table 1 Collective efficacy, principles and design of teacher professional learning (Loughland & Ryan, 2022, p.345)
What is missing in the hypothesised model in table 1 is an explication of the processes that create the conditions for effective collaboration. One influence on effective collaboration and learning relates to time constraint and leadership support (Park & So, 2014). We have another clue to this missing piece of the puzzle in the finding that the density of networks is more important than centrality in professional learning networks (Berebitsky & Salloum, 2017). Furthermore, the density of networks is significantly related to collective efficacy in schools (Berebitsky & Salloum, 2017). This suggests that more opportunities should be provided for purposeful learning interactions between teachers as depicted in the principles of teacher professional learning in Table 1. This suggests that effective teacher professional learning needs to involve more interaction between teachers than top-down delivery approaches that may be better suited to compulsory compliance training. We know that time for professional learning in schools may be limited so school leaders must make informed decisions on what model of professional learning to adopt in their school.
The literature strongly suggests that a model of school-based, interactive teacher professional learning that focuses on teachers’ work in the classroom is the most effective (Kennedy, 2016). In this model, outside help in the form of academics and experienced practitioners in the system, is introduced if and when they are needed.
We suspect that the arguments we have presented in this paper are not earth-shattering revelations for the readers. The principles of effective teacher professional learning are now well established in the literature. The challenge that remains is one of implementation.
The challenges we identify here are very real to many teachers who are reading this article. There is the serious challenge of finding time for meaningful professional learning in the hectic schedules of schools. There is the conflation between the legislative requirements of compulsory compliance training and the real opportunities for professional growth afforded by effective teacher professional learning. There is the pervasive legacy of the cargo cult model of professional learning where the external consultant, the latest edu-guru, the international keynoter, or the social media superstar are regarded as experts and saviours. Valuable professional learning time is spent listening to them instead of engaging with your colleague next door on meaningful pedagogical discussion on how your students’ learning may be enhanced tomorrow, next week and next term.
Our own post-graduate university courses at the Masters and Higher Degree Research levels are also not exempt from our criticism. Our MEd and EdD programs need to be more adaptive and responsive so that they might produce educators with the scholarly and practical wisdom that they can use to provide the best possible conditions for student success in the schools and systems where they work.
None of these challenges are insurmountable but they require school and system leaders to build cultures of professional learning in schools that create a sense of collective teacher efficacy among their staff. Surely that is not too much to ask in an institution whose core business is learning?
1Mastery experiences are those that focus on developing instructional skills and capabilities. The important goal of improving student outcomes in wellbeing and achievement is at the forefront. Vicarious experiences are those whereby teachers and leaders learn from each other. Social persuasion involves a shared sense of purpose and vision, and a collaborative eﬀort to achieve those goals. Aﬀective states are the social-emotional aspects that underpin eﬀective relationships, including trust, respect and dialogic approaches that value all voices and contributions. A positive relationship between these motivational constructs and collaborative professional learning has been found (Durksen et al. 2017).
NB- Sections of this text have been taken from Tony and Mary’s published journal article (Loughland & Ryan, 2022) that can be found here https://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2020.1711801 (available to access through an academic institution or paid download)
Goddard, R. D., Hoy, W. K., & Hoy, A. W. (2000). Collective teacher efficacy: Its meaning, measure, and impact on student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 479-507. https://doi.org/10.3102/00028312037002479
Hattie, J. (2015). The applicability of Visible Learning to higher education. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 1(1), 79-91. https://doi.org/10.1037/stl0000021
Loughland, T., & Ryan, M. (2022). Beyond the measures: the antecedents of teacher collective efficacy in professional learning. Professional Development in Education, 48(2), 343-352. https://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2020.1711801
Maddux, J. E., & Gosselin, J. T. (2012). Self-Efficacy. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of Self and Identity. Second Edition (Second ed., pp. 198-224). The Guildford Press.
Park, M., & So, K. (2014). Opportunities and Challenges for Teacher Professional Development: A Case of Collaborative Learning Community in South Korea. International education studies, 7(7), 96-108.
Tony Loughland is an Associate Professor and Deputy Head of School (Research) in the School of Education at the University of New South Wales.
Tony is an experienced educator who likes to think that theory should be the plaything of practice. He agrees with Marx’s assertion that philosophy should be used to not only interpret the world but to try to change it. Tony subscribes to Marx as he believes this orientation towards research is vital in a world threatened by anthropocentric climate change. Tony is currently leading projects on using AI for citizens’ informed participation in urban development, the provision of staffing for rural and remote areas in NSW and on Graduate Ready Schools.
Mary Ryan is Professor and Executive Dean of Education and Arts at Australian Catholic University. Her research is in the areas of writing pedagogy and assessment, teachers’ work in, and preparation for, diverse classrooms, reflexive learning and practice, and reflective writing. She was formerly a primary teacher and lecturer in literacy and English and has an extensive record of program development in universities and professional learning for teachers. Her funded research projects are in the areas of classroom writing and preparing teachers to teach for diversity to break the cycle of disadvantage.
Michelle Leonard and Margie Moore give us an insight into a regional focused choir and arts organisation designed to give our students access to multi arts programs . . .
Moorambilla Voices (Moorambilla) is more than a choir. It was founded in 2006 with the aim of creating a regional choir of excellence that encompasses regional children and youth. Moorambilla Voices has expanded to include dance, Japanese Taiko drumming, lantern making and visual art.
It is a regionally focussed arts organisation that seeks to empower children and youth to think big, dream widely and connect to Country1 and their communities. Moorambilla does this through an exceptional annual multi-arts program of workshops, cultural immersions, artistic commissions, residential camps, tours, recordings, performances and more recently an award-winning online learning platform, ‘Moorambilla Magic Modules’
Moorambilla fosters team cooperation through group performance: in choirs, Japanese Taiko drumming groups and dance, which develops general cooperative ability, confidence and leadership skills. Like our rivers in flood – our creative capacity is powerful, breathtaking and immense.
includes voice, dance, drumming and visual arts;
is a universal access program with equality of access for all.
unrelentingly pursues excellence in artistic expression, pedagogically informed learning and performance.
supports children’s mental well-being, resilience and self-esteem.
celebrates and incorporates the Indigenous languages and worldview of regional Australia through consultation and collaboration.
develops social capital through teamwork, community inclusion and group capacity building.
Moorambilla’s commitment to, and connection with, living culture in regional NSW is vital to empower participants and audiences to initiate conversations at every level that encourage and celebrate inclusion and respect. Raising cultural awareness, recognition and respect is at the heart of what we have done since 2006. The use of Indigenous languages in the songs that are performed and the telling of the stories through dance, singing and drumming facilitates this cultural communication and links directly to the broader community agendas of promoting knowledge and learnings of our shared cultural history in an empowering and life affirming way. Our Indigenous elders, community leaders and student participants are vital to the success of the program and, as Elders and leaders from the regional communities share their themes and stories with the artists, they collectively weave them through our yearly program, so we all grow and learn cultural competency year on year on year. Ongoing conversations and support for the Moorambilla program come from the Gamilaraay, Yuwaalaraay, Wiradjuri, Wailwan, Ngiyampaa and Ngemba nations.
Moorambilla prides itself on engaging children from the remote regional area of NSW. We operate regardless of the background or financial circumstances of our participants. Many children on remote properties, and from small towns, are disadvantaged and lack opportunities to engage with creative arts. Rural and remote Australia hosts many areas of disadvantage, with Australia’s lowest levels of income, education and employment. This coincides with high levels of Aboriginality and cultural disconnection and poorer chances of advancement.
Schools in the region lack resources in terms of learning aids, instruments, computers, appropriate buildings and access to consistent internet services. It is common for schools’ internet service to be unreliable; this was exacerbated during the recent floods and mouse plagues (e.g., mice ate through cables to white boards and other electrical equipment). Staff turnover at all levels in the educational system is high and many children move from community to community resulting in disjointed educational exposure- exacerbated during COVID-19, and beyond.
Moorambilla strongly believes that everyone, particularly in a regional or remote part of Australia, should not be limited by education, aspirations or belief in their capacity to live a life rich in opportunities. Moorambilla Voices has a well-developed and focussed planned approach to delivering its program. This ensures Moorambilla continues to contribute to a brighter, and more inclusive, future for our regional communities and the wider Australian arts ecology. It has made the incredible commitment, over seventeen years, to ensuring the pillars of excellence equity and opportunity are upheld and is the longest serving arts organisation in one third of the state.
MOORAMBILLA AND MUSIC AS A CATALYST FOR CHANGE
Evidence demonstrates the clear benefits of music and artistic education programs in breaking children free of disadvantage. Many recent studies confirm the significant value of carefully planned and well taught music/arts programs in all education and their developmental advantages for young people:
Music improves self-confidence, self-expression and fosters creativity. It is a powerful tool in fostering health and well-being(Hallam, 2010).
Music develops neural pathways and enhances brain function. Music stimulates incomparable development of a child’s brain and leads to improved concentration and memory abilities(George & Coch, 2011)
Music promotes teamwork and collaboration. Children are brought to the highest levels of group participation requiring intense commitment, highly developed skills in coordination and a highly evolved sense of musicality and expressiveness(Schellenberg & Mankarious 2012)
Involvement in arts practice can help children develop an understanding of, and respect for, real and fundamental cultural awareness (Bloomfield & Childs 2013)
Dance supports student learning through student engagement, critical and creative thinking, and student self-concept (Fegley, 2010)
Participation in group drumming can lead to significant improvements in multiple domains of social-emotional behaviour. This sustainable intervention can foster positive youth development (Ho, Tsao, Bloch & Zeltzer 2011)
Over the past 20 years, multiple studies (Saunders, 2019; Lorenza, 2018; Meiners, 2017; Winner, Goldstein & Vincent-Lacrin, 2013; Bryce, Mendelovits, Beavis, McQueen & Adams, 2004; Fiske 1999) in Australia and elsewhere have demonstrated better personal and educational performance by those involved in the arts and music. These outcomes include measures such as national school results, student well-being, attendance, reduced need for school discipline or exclusion and better self-control.
ARTISTIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL FRAMEWORK FOR MOORAMBILLA VOICES
Moorambilla, in Gamilaroi language, means ‘place of deep fresh water’. This image of ancient rock art represents the physical manifestation of the Brewarrina Fish Traps2. These are one of the oldest man-made structures in the world. The image is a mark on Country and represents our core program’s geographical footprint in Western New South Wales, Australia. It is a visual symbol of excellence manifest. It represents cooperation, innovation, transference of culture and knowledge, creativity and collaboration, as well as ethical and economic sustainability through aquaculture. This image was adopted in 2018 as the visual representation of our core program and, as such, sits at the heart of what we do.
We recognise that water connects us all to each other – water is vital for human survival. The analogy of the Brewarrina fish traps allows us to connect the economic, cultural and creative importance of water to all Australians. Within this analogy, we have interconnecting slip streams in the Moorambilla Voices flow, which lead either a fish or fingerling to leadership opportunities.
Our core program was established in the state of NSW, Australia. Our fish fingerlings3 swim through, in and out of this, as part of the ensembles of:
Birralii (Year 3 mixed group);
Mirray, primary girls(ages 8-12);
Birray, primary boys(ages 8-12)
and grow into the MAXed-OUT youth company (ages 12-18).
The program starts with skills development workshops, based around music and dance, in schools through which participants are selected, not auditioned. Candidates are selected in workshops for the annual program based on natural ability and tenacity. For many the defining feature is their strong desire to positively contribute to the ensemble.
Our Moorambilla Voices program grows from fingerlings, at various stages of development, swimming through the bends in the flow radiating from our core program. As they swim through this structure, they tour, perform, increase in skill and knowledge, and potentially create new bends in the river (contributing to the wider arts ecology as alumni and associate artists).
Candidates and professional artists engage with, and find their own flow in, the system. Because of the transient nature of our candidates and artists, they will enter into this system at various points in their educational life cycle. This sophisticated structure is fluid enough to support change as the child or artist grows.
Moorambilla enables individuals to enter the slipstream or the natural flow in our program through our core ensemble program, or as an associate or featured artist, volunteer or audience member. Artists show our candidates career flow in action and the capacity for creative fluidity. Their connection to the program does not have to be linear; it can happen within the individual’s creative journey and life cycle.
Our program supports a mentoring framework across all our associated art forms. The engagement of composers, choreographers, visual artists and performers of the highest calibre supports our fingerlings to grow.
As cultural sector leaders, we reference this framework through our online, spoken and written word to support and nurture the creative flow of this program within the wider arts ecology. All artists, volunteers and candidates make a commitment to shared cultural understanding through singing, language art and dance, guided by cultural immersion on Country. Furthermore, we make an artistic commitment to recognise, acknowledge and celebrate our shared understanding of marks on Country from fingerling to fully grown fish.
A COVID SILVER LINING – MOORAMBILLA MAGIC MODULES
Moorambilla Voices is an organisation that seeks to empower children and youth to think big, dream widely and connect to Country and their communities. More recently, to support this aim, Moorambilla Voices has created a Nationally award-winning online learning platform – Moorambilla Magic Modules – click here
These modules won the award for the APRA AMCOS National best educational program 2022.
COVID-19, floods, mice and Moorambilla Magic Modules
In early 2020 the world changed. At the end of March 2020, it became clear that the normal mode of delivery for the program was about to undergo significant change due to the emerging restrictions unfolding for COVID-19 risk mitigation.
By April 2020, Moorambilla Voices made the decisive and empowering decision to support all of its associated artists and create pedagogically sequential 20–30 minute modules in consultation with the Artistic Director. Twenty-nine artists were eventually employed to create these modules as the backbone of the 2020/21 program. Artists were paired with an educator so there was industry knowledge coupled with curriculum expertise, and so that the pedagogy is embedded in the content created.
These modules subsequently connected our established and emerging artists to our regional children and their communities, offering skills, humour, hope and a sense of connection at a time when the arts ecology felt like it was fraying beyond repair.
Each module showcases the specialised artistry, integrity and immense capacity of the individual artist delivered in a way that was engaging, sequential, empowering and palatable for regional children and youth already experiencing isolation, lack of resources and opportunity before COVID-19.
In March 2020 floodwaters were swiftly moving across the region that had until that point been a dust bowl; in April 2021 the same region experienced the might of a mouse plague and then floods again in 2021 and 2022, yet still the resilience and commitment to creativity and connection has been maintained by our communities and the Moorambilla team.
Now all of the Moorambilla Magic Modules (157) have been mapped to the NSW syllabuses (music and dance), as well as visual arts, drama, and PE syllabuses to further support their use in the classroom. Now regional educators who have the will but not the skill to engage with the creative arts, can engage in professional development at school with a sequential empowering resource, of which 42% of the content is First Nations led, created or consulted and where every artist has an understanding and connection to the region.
The Moorambilla Magic Modules demonstrate in a tangible way that we have the knowledge and experience in the arts industry to develop and provide online curriculum content for schools.
Connection to current Syllabuses
Existing evidence, underpinning the Moorambilla modules, supports the clear benefits of artistic education programs in helping students develop better self-confidence and self-efficacy.
These modules are based on direct instruction and are designed to create the maximum level of engagement in students4. They integrate educational theories and practical approaches for differentiated teaching to challenge and cater for the needs of all learners5.
These modules represent a collection of resources (strategies, techniques, processes, ideas, tools, digital technologies/ICT) that support participation and engagement for all learners in arts-based classroom experiences6. They use a range of verbal and non-verbal communication strategies to manage learning, participation and engagement7.
Evidence shows that arts learning promotes teamwork and collaboration. We focus on collaborative tasks which require intense commitment and promote the development of coordination and expressiveness.8
Each module is built on differentiated teaching pedagogies embedded in the design of their structure, content and delivery. The Dance modules employ explicit instruction using imagery, descriptions and metaphors to ‘feel/experience’ the movement9. The music modules are presented sequentially through embodied learning starting with a simple phrase reinforced cumulatively10. The modules use sequential and scaffolded learning taking the children from the known to the unknown, providing a firm foundation which is built on, so the students feel supported as they develop their knowledge and skills.
The modules support student learning through student engagement, reflection, critical and creative thinking, and improving students’ sense of self-concept.11
Development of the Modules
Interactive video modules were developed for primary and secondary students, covering and mapped to the NSW Educational Standards Authority’s creative arts syllabus. They include song, dance, art, craft, taiko drumming, photography, drama, literacy and Indigenous culture. They are distributed across three learning stages and five curriculum categories:
Music & Singing
Visual Arts & Drama
Percussion & Rhythm
Total Modules for each stage
2 (early primary)
3 (late primary/early secondary)
Some modules overlap categories, and several can apply to more than one learning stage.
Subjects and artistic presenters are shown in Appendix 1. Top national performers and mentors have been used throughout. Singing coaches include previous members of the Song Company (Anna Fraser, Hannah Fraser and Andrew O’Connor). Taikoz artists explain taiko and general percussion (Anton Lock, Kerry Joyce and Sophie Unsen), Modules have been created by some of Australia’s top dance educators and performers (Jacob Williams, Courtney Scheu, Tai Savage) and many well-known Indigenous artists (Frank Wright, Amy Flannery, Neville Williams-Boney). All of these workshops feature Australian music composed by well-known Australian composers – Kevin Barker, Alice Chance, Andrew Howes, Elena Kats-Chernin, Elizabeth Jigalin, Josephine Gibson, Riley Lee, Christine Pan and Oscar Sweeney and more.
All modules are activity-based – there is no listening without doing. All demonstrate a level of energy matching that of the students.
Click here for 2020 Module Highlights Video (4m28s):
In June 2021, Michelle Leonard, Moorambilla Voices Artistic Director, met with school executives for initial interest consultations around utilising this resource, potential barriers and how to overcome them.
The modules were pilot tested through workshops delivered at schools located in Dubbo and Gulargambone, providing the opportunity for Moorambilla to evaluate the modules’ efficacy as a learning tool and their further market potential. The learnings gained from these evaluations were used to fine-tune the development of the modules being created at the time.
This cycle of testing and review will continue over time, as we work with the schools while we are still developing modules so that we can apply feedback in real time.
They are going to be very useful to teachers because the modules are so well designed by professionals who have done it all before. Brad Haling, teacher Gulargambone Central school.
Gulargambone Central School has used the modules the way Moorambilla anticipated:
Other teachers contacted by Moorambilla have reviewed the modules, with strong positive results.
The modules are an exciting and dynamic online program that have made an enormous difference to my teaching of the Creative Arts. The students have enjoyed the diverse lessons and have made a great connection to country. The units are easy to follow and enjoyable to teach, especially for teachers with no experience of dance or music.Kate Harper, Balranald Central School
All modules developed to date through the Moorambilla Magic Modules are sequential in nature. Skills are taught, reinforced, built upon and extended throughout each individual module as well as each set of modules.
Most modules begin with a warm-up and end with a cool down exercise. Each module’s activities move from simple to more complex activities, carefully scaffolded so that the students experience success by the end of each module. This may be the performance of a First Nations’ sitting down dance (taught through direct instruction) that teaches each movement in context and reinforces each movement phrase along the way; or the drawing of a First Nations animal or fish using the x-ray drawing technique carefully explained and demonstrated bit by bit; or the performance of a complex percussion or taiko drumming pattern learned cumulatively phrase by phrase through speech, movement and imitation.
Most of the modules are in sets of 3, 6 or 12 modules, with each module building on the one before, so that by the end of the sequence students have built a strong skill set in that particular arts area and experienced creative, joyful and successful learning experiences.
In order to establish the relevance of the modules for busy teachers and students in schools Moorambilla Voices has ‘mapped’ the modules to the detailed Outcomes and Objectives of the NSW Syllabuses for primary and secondary schools. The maps contain:
a summary of what is in the modules (as a lesson plan)
how it relates to the areas of skill and knowledge development for each subject,
an outline of the outcomes and objectives covered in the lesson.
These are supplemented by:
links to more information and
fun ideas for extending the students engagement and for giving teachers extra material to build on.
This mapping process provides a crucial link between the classroom and the modules that makes them more meaningful and relevant. It also breaks down the educator’s time barrier administratively to their inclusion.
Many of the artistic projects featured in our 2021 Magic Modules were featured in a live context during our 2022 camps and gala concert. Perhaps most importantly, the 2021 Magic Modules provided the means to continue our strong engagement and relationships with regional NSW school teachers and students, ensuring the success of Moorambilla’s 2022 life-changing, in-person multi-disciplinary arts programs.
The exceptional standard of the Moorambilla Magic Modules has been recognised nationally, being awarded the 2021 APRA / AMCOS National award for Excellence in Music Education.
Moorambilla is enjoying its seventeenth year celebrating the pursuit of artistic excellence, the energy of collaboration, the creation of new music, the sheer joy of singing, dancing, drumming and making art together in this rich and vibrant program. This is acknowledged by the achievement of many national awards over a number of years. We are thrilled to be an important part of the national conversation around identity and excellence.
Click herefor more information on the choirs, the candidates and our program please see the attachments – 2022 and 2019 concert programs and flyers.
When Aboriginal people use the English word ‘Country’ it is meant in a special way. For Aboriginal people culture, nature and land are all linked. Aboriginal communities have a cultural connection to the land, which is based on each community’s distinct culture, traditions and laws.
Country takes in everything within the landscape – landforms, waters, air, trees, rocks, plants, animals, foods, medicines, minerals, stories and special places. Community connections include cultural practices, knowledge, songs, stories and art, as well as all people: past, present and future. People have custodial responsibilities to care for their Country, to ensure that it continues in proper order and provides physical sustenance and spiritual nourishment. These custodial relationships may determine who can speak for particular Country.
These concepts are central to Aboriginal spirituality and continue to contribute to Aboriginal identity. Aboriginal communities associate natural resources with the use and benefit of traditional foods and medicines, caring for the land, passing on cultural knowledge and strengthening social bonds.
2 The Brewarrina Fishtraps, or as they are traditionally known Baiame’s Ngunnhu, are a complex network of river stones arranged to form ponds and channels that catch fish as they travel downstream. Known as one of the oldest human-made structures in the world, the traps are located in the Barwon River on the outskirts of Brewarrina.
3 Fingerling – A young fish, especially one less than a year old and about the size of a human finger
4 Smithrim, K., & Upitis, R. (2005). Learning through the Arts: Lessons of Engagement. Canadian Journal of Education, 28(1/2), 109-127.
7 Dinham, J. (2019). Delivering Authentic Arts Education. Melbourne, AUSTRALIA, Cengage
Bryce, J., Mendelovits, J., Beavis, A., McQueen, J., & Adams, I. (2004). Evaluation of school-based arts education programmes in Australian schools. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.
8 Hallam, S. (2010) The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people, International Journal of Music Education, 28 (3), 269-289
9 Hattie, J., (2009). Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge
10 Juntunen, Marja-Leena. (2005). Exploring and learning music through embodied experiences, “Music and Development – Challenges for Music Education”, The First European Conference on Developmental Psychology of Music Proceedings. 273-276.
Michelle Leonard, OAM Michelle Leonard is the Founder, Artistic Director and Conductor of Moorambilla Voices. Michelle is widely sought after as a choral clinician on Australian repertoire and appears regularly as a guest speaker, adjudicator and workshop facilitator. Michelle was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for Services to the Community and Performing Arts in 2017, 2018 the Sydney University Alumni of the year award for services to the Arts and in 2019 was named in the Financial Review’s top 100 most influential women. In 2021 Michelle led the rehearsal nationally for the ABC Classic choir.
Margie Moore, OAM, Arts and Education consultant Margie has extensive experience as an arts, education and music educator and administrator. She has had successful careers as a teacher, music consultant, lecturer in arts education and managing the highly regarded Sydney Symphony Education Program. She offers consultancy to a range of arts organisations in Australia and the UK. Margie has been on the board of Moorambilla Voices since 2010 and has held executive positions in both the NSW and National Orff Schulwerk Associations.
Rose Dixon gives some practical advice on how to support students with ADHD . . .
WHAT IS ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects around 9.4% of children under the age of 18. ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). The diagnostic term attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) refers to individuals who display patterns of inattention, impulsivity, and overactive behavior that interfere with daily functioning (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) V (APA, 2013) criteria for diagnosing ADHD list three types of ADHD and the accompanying characteristics.
Formerly referred to as ADD, students with inattentive ADHD display symptoms of inattention, but do not possess symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity. This is the type of ADHD most commonly found in girls. As students with this type of ADHD don’t exhibit the typical high energy and impulsive behaviours, they can often be under identified.
This subset of ADHD displays symptoms of impulsivity or hyperactivity but does not display symptoms of inattention.
People with combined ADHD display symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
The combined type of ADHD is characterised by symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Students with combined type ADHD exhibit symptoms of inattention such as struggling to concentrate on their work, difficulty following instructions, appearing distracted, forgetfulness, and misplacing items. They also exhibit hyperactive and impulsive symptoms such as being unable to sit still, restlessness, talkativeness, high energy levels, and interrupting others.
For all three types, these characteristics have to be present before twelve years of age and be manifested in school and out of school settings. They must also have adverse effects on academic performance, occupational success, or social-emotional development (APA, 2013). To add to the complexity of the diagnosis, children with ADHD are also likely to have co- existing emotional, behavioural, developmental, learning, or physical conditions (Wolraich & DuPaul, 2010).
Students who have ADHD face many challenges in school. The core symptoms make adapting to behavioural expectations and norms at school very difficult, often resulting in academic problems and peer exclusion (de Boer &Pijl, 2016; Mikami, 2010). Students with ADHD commonly have co-occurring problems such as anxiety, depression and learning disabilities. All predict further school impairment (Larson, Russ, Kahn, & Halfon, 2011; Taanila et al., 2014).
DIAGNOSIS OF ADHD
ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys than girls, usually in a ratio of four to one, but research into ADHD in adulthood suggests an almost equal balance between men and women (Barkley & Fischer, 2008). A lower diagnosis rate among females in childhood can result because girls with ADHD are more likely than boys to have the inattentive form of ADHD and are less likely to show obvious problems or challenging behaviours.
Whilst students with ADHD need to be diagnosed by a medical professional, teachers may notice some of the following behaviours usually related to the three different types.
Predominantly inattentive type
The student may:
Submit inappropriate work or inaccurate work
Have difficulty attending to conversations, activities or tasks
Be easily distracted
Have difficulty following directions
Frequently lose materials and/or have difficulty organising tasks and materials
Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive type
The student may:
Appear to be in constant motion
Frequently fidget and move in their seat
Become restless during quiet activities
Leave their seat when expected to remain seated
Interrupt others and classroom activities
Talk excessively and/or fail to follow classroom procedures
TREATMENT FOR ADHD
While there is no cure for ADHD, and it can persist into adulthood (Barkley & Fischer,2008), evidence- based treatment can help a great deal with symptoms (Moore et al, 2018).
Treatment typically involves medications, behavioural and/or educational interventions. Given the often poor school outcomes of students, a growing number of studies have trialled school-based interventions for ADHD (van Krayenoord, Waterworth & Brady,2014) including the daily report card (DRC), where the child is set, and awarded for achieving, specific behavioural targets; academic interventions which focus on antecedents of problems; organisational skills training; and social skills training.(Chronis, Jones, & Raggi, 2006; Evans, Owens, Wymbs, & Ray, 2018).
USEFUL CLASSROOM STRATEGIES TO SUPPORT STUDENTS FROM YEARS 1 – 6 WITH ADHD
Teachers can employ evidence-based strategies in three key areas which have demonstrated positive outcomes. These include classroom management, organisation training and social skills training.
1 Evidence-based proactive strategies which improve behaviour
The behavioural classroom management approach encourages a student’s positive behaviours in the classroom, through a reward system or a daily report card, and discourages their negative behaviours. This teacher-led approach has been shown to influence student behaviour in a constructive manner, increasing academic engagement. Although tested mostly in primary schools, behavioural classroom management has been shown to work for students of all ages (Evan, Owens & Burford, 2014; Harrison, Burford, Evans & Owens, 2013)
Develop routines around homework and classroom activities. You will need to teach and reteach these routines and positively reinforce the student when they follow them.
Give praise and rewards when rules are followed.
2 Organisational training
Organisational training teaches students time management, planning skills, and ways to keep school materials organized in order to optimize student learning and reduce distractions. This management strategy has been tested with children and adolescents (Kofler et al, 2011).
These strategies can include:
Giving clear, effective directions or commands. Usually only give one command at a time and use a student’s name in the command.
Using Visuals – Place charts around with the Rules and Routines on them
Allowing breaks – for children with ADHD, paying attention takes extra effort and can be very tiring.
Allow time to move and exercise
Teacher cues for transition between activities, such as claps or music
Extra books – a set at home and a set at school
Use of calendars
Close to teacher
Away from distractions (e.g., electric pencil sharpener)
Away from windows, the door and other high traffic areas
Avoiding bright display areas at the front of the room or in the group teaching area
Assignments and Homework
Make assignments clear – check with the student to see if they understand what they need to do
Provide choices to show mastery (for example, let the student choose among written essay, oral report, online quiz, or hands-on project)
Make sure assignments are not long and repetitive. Shorter assignments that provide a little challenge without being too hard may work well
Be creative – creativity is a strength for students with ADHD
Use organisational tools, such as a homework folder, to limit the number of things the child has to track.
Ask another student, if possible, to be a homework partner
3 Evidence based Social Skills Training
Social skills training allows children and adults to acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to recognise and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions and handle challenging situations constructively. Many available programs provide instruction in and opportunities to practise, apply and be recognised for using social skills. This type of learning is fundamental not only to children’s social and emotional development but also to their health, ethical development, citizenship, motivation to achieve and academic learning (Evan, Owens & Bunford, 2014).
Research shows that large numbers of children with ADHD are contending with significant social, emotional and mental health barriers to their success in school and life (Kofler et al, 2018). In addition, some children with ADHD engage in challenging behaviours that teachers must address in order to provide high quality instruction. Schools can use a variety of strategies to help students improve their emotional well-being and connectedness with others. Providing children with well managed learning environments and instruction in social skills addresses many of these learning barriers. It does so by enhancing school attachment, reducing risky behaviours, promoting positive development, and positively influencing academic achievement. Well-implemented social skills training is associated with the following outcomes:
Better academic performance
Achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive social skills training
Improved attitudes and behaviours
Greater motivation to learn
Deeper commitment to school
Increased time devoted to schoolwork, and better classroom behaviour.
Happier/ fewer instances of mental health disorders (e.g. depression)
The evidence-based strategies that have been discussed in this paper can usually be implemented in the Year 1-6 classroom. They address the core symptoms of ADHD such as the ability to pay attention, conflict with teachers and peers, challenges with executive function, inattention symptoms, poor organisation skills and self-esteem. However, school- based interventions should target the outcomes identified as most important to the students and their families. Other studies have found that positive teacher- child relationships and good home-school relationships (Gwernan-Jones et al, 2015) and advocacy for the student may be the strongest intervention and have the greatest impact on student’s outcomes.
Even if you find it difficult to implement the adjustments in the three areas outlined above, just maintaining good relationships with the students and their families can be a very strong starting point.
American Psychiatric Association, D., & American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5 (Vol. 5, No. 5). Washington, DC: American psychiatric association.
Barkley, R. A., Fischer, M. (2008). ADHD in adults: What the science says. New York, NY: Guilford. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Data and statistics about ADHD.
Chronis, A. M., Jones, H. A., & Raggi, V. L. (2006). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Clinical psychology review, 26(4), 486-502.
de Boer, A., & Pijl, S. J. (2016). The acceptance and rejection of peers with ADHD and ASD in general secondary education. The Journal of Educational Research, 109(3), 325-332.
Durlak J. A., Domitrovich C. E., Weissberg R. P., and Gullotta T. P. (Eds.) Handbook of social and emotional learning: Research and practice. New York, NY: Guilford Press, 2014.
Durlak J. A., Weissberg R. P., Dymnicki A. B., Taylor R. D., and Schellinger K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 2011; 82: 405-432.
Evans S, Owens J, Bunford N. Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 2014;43(4):527-551
Evans, S. W., Owens, J. S., Wymbs, B. T., & Ray, A. R. (2018). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for children and adolescents with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47(2), 157-198.
Gwernan-Jones, R., Moore, D. A., Garside, R., Richardson, M., Thompson-Coon, J., Rogers, M., et al. (2015). ADHD, parent perspectives and parent–teacher relationships: Grounds for conflict. British Journal of SpecialEducation, 42(3), 279–300.
Harrison JR, Bunford N, Evans SW, Owens JS. Educational accommodations for students with behavioral challenges: A systematic review of the literature. Review of Educational Research 2013;83(4):551-97.
Kofler, M. J., Rapport, M. D., Bolden, J., Sarver, D. E., Raiker, J. S., & Alderson, R. M. (2011). Working memory deficits and social problems in children with ADHD. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 39, 805-817.
Kofler, M. J., Sarver, D. E., Harmon, S. L., Moltisanti, A., Aduen, P. A., Soto, E. F., & Ferretti, N. (2018). Working memory and organizational skills problems in ADHD. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines, 59(1), 57–67.
Larson, K., Russ, S. A., Kahn, R. S., & Halfon, N. (2011). Patterns of comorbidity, functioning, and service use for US children with ADHD, 2007. Pediatrics, 127(3), 462-470.
Mikami, A. Y. (2010). The importance of friendship for youth with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Clinical child and family psychology review, 13, 181-198.
Moore DA, Russell AE, Matthews J, Ford TJ, Rogers M, Ukoumunne OC, et al. School-based interventions for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review with multiple synthesis methods. Review of Education. Published online October 18, 2018.
Perry, R. C., Ford, T. J., O’Mahen, H., & Russell, A. E. (2021). Prioritising targets for school-based ADHD interventions: a Delphi survey. School Mental Health, 13(2), 235-249.
Taanila, A., Ebeling, H., Tiihala, M., Kaakinen, M., Moilanen, I., Hurtig, T., & Yliherva, A. (2014). Association between childhood specific learning difficulties and school performance in adolescents with and without ADHD symptoms: a 16-year follow-up. Journal of Attention Disorders, 18(1), 61-72.
van Kraayenoord, C. E., Waterworth, D., & Brady, T. (2014). Responding to individual differences in inclusive classrooms in Australia. Journal of International Special Needs Education, 17(2), 48-59.
Wolraich, M. L., & DuPaul, G. J. (2010). ADHD Diagnosis and Management: A Practical Guide for the Clinic and the Classroom. Brookes Publishing Company. PO Box 10624, Baltimore, MD 21285.
Dr Roselyn Dixon has been a special education teacher in both mainstream and special education settings in primary and secondary schools. Rose has been in academia and involved with Inclusive Education for more than 25 years. She has published research in the fields of social skills and behavioural interventions for people with a range of disabilities including students with Oppositional Defiance Disorders and Autism.
She has been actively involved in examining the relationship between digital technologies and pedagogy in special education and inclusive classrooms for students with Autism as well as the implications of the NDIS on people with disabilities in rural and remote communities. Rose is an Honorary Associate Professor at the School of Education, University of Wollongong, where she was previously the Academic Director of Inclusive and Special Education. She continues to support doctoral students in Inclusive and Special education with a focus on Autism.
Jack Galvin Waight delves into the reasons why it is essential to make our public schools secular havens . . .
As educators we know that in the classroom, and in modern society, time is crucial. Workloads are excessive and the curriculum is crowded. As outlined in my Eric Pearson 2021 Report: Teaching not preaching: Making our public schools secular Special Religious Education (SRE) is a massive waste of valuable learning time. The equivalent of the loss of a full term for a primary school graduate.
It is also an administrative burden for schools and causes our students to both sit out and miss out. SRE, even contradicts the Department’s own Schools Success Model that “requires a focus on teaching and learning” and the 2020 NSW Curriculum Review which recommended as a priority that the Government reduce the impact of extra-curricular issues and topics. (NSW Education Standard Authority [NESA], 2020)
Compounding this loss of valuable time is the weekly battle to keep our schools secular havens. Programs like Hardcore Christians, Jesus Car Racing, andHillsong’s Shine are considered, by academia, as the exact opposite of what is appropriate and required for our students and society. Like the discredited $61million a year taxpayer funded chaplaincy program, there is a consensus that SRE is outdated, devalues the profession, potentially promotes extremism and is simply not appropriate for 21st Century learning.
My report (Galvin Waight, 2022), which was released in July 2022, analyses this research, examines special legal advice pertaining to legislation, and contains structured interviews with academics, activists, labour theorists, and union leaders. The paper provides key campaign recommendations to ensure that our NSW public education system is secular, inclusive and appropriately reflects multicultural and pluralistic contemporary society.
The findings highlight that, as a profession, it is time for us take this time back. Our students need education not indoctrination.
A profession united
This important work has started. For the first time ever in NSW, and as an outcome of my report there is a unified educational alliance — Primary Principals’ Association (PPA), Secondary Principals’ Council (SPC), the NSW Teachers Federation and the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations (P&C) — arguing that SRE/Special Education in Ethics (SEE) simply must go, or at the very least, not interfere with curriculum time.
These peak groups are calling on both sides of politics to implement an independent review of SRE/SEE.1
It should be noted that there has not been an independent review of SRE since the 1980 Rawlinson report. The 2015 ARTD Consultancy2 terms of reference examined only the implementation of SRE and SEE in NSW Government schools – it was not an independent review into SRE/SEE.
All peak educational groups are unified in their view that not interrupting curriculum time is essential. Noting that SRE/SEE could take place in schools at lunch/ recess or before and after school. A precedent for this was created in 2015, when the incoming Victorian Labor Government introduced a ministerial direction, removing Scripture from formal class time, virtually eliminating the program (Galvin Waight, 2022), Providers and any other religious or community groups could still apply to use public schools, outside of curriculum time, as part of the Department’s Sharing of School Facilities policy (NSW Department of Education, 2021)
If it can happen in Victoria: it can happen in NSW. Both the Primary Principals Association (PPA), 2022, and the Secondary Principals Council (SPC) 2017 have published position papers on the issues which they have identified around SRE/SEE. They can be accessed via: https://nswppa.org.au/position-papers & https://www.nswspc.org.au/position-papers/. Federation also has a long-standing policy position that SRE has no place in NSW public schools and that any education (religious or not) should be done in line with an approved curriculum and by a qualified teacher. This includes Ethics which as highlighted in my research paper, started out with good intentions but has become a distraction, helped to legitimise SRE, and is now part of the problem.
Parental and community support
Surveys and census data continues to reveal a growing community consensus and groundswell of public opinion for secular education and society.As part of my report Federation commissioned a Quantitative Survey of the NSW public and in April 2022 an online survey of 1,467 adults was conducted. Results showed that most parents want religion to be taught after school hoursand that most support is for secular values to be taught.
Of note, interviews revealed that when parents find out what is actually occurring in their children’s SRE lesson, they often become the greatest activists for change. Fairness in Religion in Schools (FIRIS) is one of these parent and community groups that continues to hold the Department, Providers and Government to account. FIRIS is most concerned that SRE is a self-regulating system with no oversight, and calls for the legislation to change and the time be given back to the professionals.
This community activism, survey data and international research comparisons (Galvin Waight, 2022)show that Australia, and NSW in particular, is completely out of step with the rest of the world. Most developed countries have recognised the dangers of extremism and have shifted to a world view General Religious Education (GRE) approach.3
This is highlighted by Dr Jennifer Bleazby’s 2022 study showing that religious instruction (SRE) can indoctrinate students by encouraging them to uncritically accept beliefs that are not well supported by evidence. Including conspiracy thinking, science denialism and extremist thinking. Her report concluded that it is time to seriously revaluate the place of religious instruction in our schools.
Alarmingly, even the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in international legal cases has criticised and likened countries that still have a segregated, partial exemption process such as NSW to a ‘ghetto approach’ (Evans, 2008b, p. 470). (Galvin Waight, 2022)
Our Unfair funding system
Australia is also an international outlier when it comes to schools funding by continuing to maintain one of the highest concentrations of religious schools compared with other OECD countries. Approximately 30 per cent of all schools in Australia are affiliated with a religion and 94 per cent of private schools.(Centre for Public Education Research (CPER), 2022) This system of segregating children along lines of class, wealth, and religion, with large government subsidies to private schools and little accountability, is unprecedented internationally.
The media has largely focused on the proportion of public money going to elite and well-endowed private schools, but my report examines what Jennifer Buckingham, from the Centre for Independent Studies, describes as “‘fundamentalist’ Christian schools.”(Galvin Waight, 2022),
As religious education author Marion Maddox outlines, in my interview with her, ‘Some of the philosophies underpinning these schools are far from benign yet many are receiving substantially more government funding than public schools’.(Galvin Waight, 2022)
In December 2022 ABC Four Corners rang me with questions about my report. Most significantly, they asked who is regulating and evaluating these schools? The programs excellent investigative report aired in January 2023 and investigates the disturbing practices of Opus Dei schooling and its influence in the NSW Liberal Party.
Reporter Louise Milligan reveals in some cases the schools are not following state curriculum. They are accused of persistent attempts to recruit teenagers to Opus Dei and of teaching misinformation about sexual health, including discouraging girls from getting the HPV cervical cancer vaccine. Former students at the elite schools reflect on the practices they say have scarred them for life, going as far as to call the schools “hell on earth.” (ABC Four Corners, 2023)
This is why Australia’s unfair and unsecular education system must continue to be challenged. This is why Federation continues to campaign for a funding system that prioritises public schools. This is why the School Chaplaincy Program (which remains unfettered by statute and oversight and that the High Court in 2014 ruled was of no benefit to students under the law) (Galvin Waight, 2022) must also be scrapped.
Recommendation 3 of my report calls on Federation and the AEU to reinvigorate a national campaign to replace chaplains with qualified school counsellors. For as Ron Williams (the dad who took on the government and Scripture Union QLD in the High Court and won twice), said in my interview: “Qualified school counsellors are exactly what is required we just need more of them.” (Galvin Waight, 2022)
Making History – a secular revolution
In the early 19th century, Australians did something very special. We put aside our sectarian division, came together and created the world’s first legislated secular education system. At that time, we abolished state aid to religious schools and cemented the NSW public education system as one of the best in the world. We did this by embracing the secular.4
Australia, once leading the world in secular education and academic results, is now falling behind on the international stage. It is no coincidence that this has occurred in the time of a sustained period of de-secularisation. A small, but organised, religious lobby has influenced our public life, institutions, and policy. This lobby has taken an active interest in public education. It is time that we, as a nation and union, take a respectful interest in religion in schools too.
This does not mean we need to halt teaching of General Religious Education, values and world views. Yet a fear of backlash has left many politicians, teachers and members of the general public scared to come out and say what they believe. We can no longer afford to be silent and need to be ‘loud and proud’ of our secular beliefs. The groundswell of public opinion against SRE, government-funded chaplaincy and religious schools needs to become a people-power movement. For, as Australia becomes more polarised and divided on political and religious lines, embracing the secular has never been so important.
Federation is starting this process and later this year (2023) will host an inaugural secular conference. The aim of the conference will be to raise awareness, build key alliances, highlight key campaigns and begin the secular narrative. This is important because secularism has the potential to be a unifying political and social force and a movement for social justice.
Australia can once more lead the world in secular education and learning outcomes. Reclaiming the secular represents an opportunity on all sides of politics to unite and embrace inclusion. It represents an opportunity to create a society in which people of all religions, and of none, can live together fairly and peacefully.
Imagine a country where all religions are treated equally with the freedom to practise without fear of discrimination. A country where education is free of vested interests and teachers are treated and respected as the professionals that we are.
Imagine a state:
• that doesn’t compromise on secular legislation where schools have the appropriate time and resources to meet all students’ needs
• where school children are taught about world religions by a qualified teacher as part of an inclusive, authorised curriculum
• where the educational focus is on student outcomes and creating a vibrant, cohesive society.
This can easily be us again. It’s time that we, as a profession, take the secular lead in NSW. Our students and society need education not indoctrination, teachers not preachers.
1 This review should examine:
The quality, and efficacy of the lessons, instructors and providers.
The effects of missed teaching and learning on students and schools.
Departmental policy and procedures,
Australian Bureau of statistics (ABS) data and
the collection and release of participation data on SRE/SEE, which has not occurred, despite this being a recommendation of the:
1980 Rawlinson Religion in Education in NSW Government Schools Report
2011 NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the Education Amendment (Ethics Classes Repeal) Bill
2015 ARTD (consultancy) review of SRE and Special Ethics Education.
2 ARTD Consultancy are a consultancy firm commissioned to review SRE in 2015
3 General Religious Education is “education about the world’s major religions, what people believe and how those beliefs affect their lives”. It is taught by qualified teachers employed by the Department of Education in a safe, respectful and inclusive classroom setting..
Jack Galvin Waight is author of the 2021 Eric Pearson Study Report entitled Teaching Not Preaching: Making Our Public Schools Secular. He is a Federation Country Organiser in the Hunter/Newcastle area, Vice President of Hunter Workers, Federation’s Representative on the Department’s Consultative Committee for Special Religious Education (SRE)/Special Education in Ethics (SEE) and DoE Excellence in Teaching and involvement in broader educational issues Award recipient.
In this wide-ranging interview, Kate Ambrose, Director of the Centre for Professional Learning and Maurie Mulheron, past NSW Teachers Federation President, go deep into the history of Local Schools, Local Decisions. This policy has defined the past decade of the NSW public school system, devolving the structure of the state-wide system with detrimental effects on every school and classroom in the state. Kate and Maurie discuss the policy decisions that led to the implementation of Local Schools, Local Decisions and the ongoing ramifications on the public school system in NSW.
What do data and evidence mean for you, your school, and your students? What does it mean to be data literate? What does evidence-based decision-making look like in the school context? Making meaningful use of data and evidence empowers the teacher to make informed decisions about their students’ progress based on professional judgement.
This course looks closely into different definitions of data and evidence, the different types of data that are available to teachers on a day-to-day basis, evidence-based decision making, uses and purposes of data, and how to make data fit for purpose.
Professor Jim Tognolini from the University of Sydney’s Centre for Educational Measurement and Assessment will lead an interactive and content driven professional learning day. Completing this course will give you a voice in the narrative around the purposes of data and evidence in classrooms and schools.
This course is NESA Accredited. Please expand the ‘Accreditation’ bar for further details.
Online via Zoom
Wednesday, 25 October
Prof Jim Tognolini
Professor Jim Tognolini is Director of The Centre for Educational Measurement and Assessment (CEMA) which is situated within the University of Sydney School of Education and Social Work. The work of the Centre is focused on the broad areas of teaching, research, consulting and professional learning for teachers.
The Centre is currently providing consultancy support to a number of schools. These projects include developing a methodology for measuring creativity; measuring 21st Century Skills; developing school-wide practice in formative assessment. We have a number of experts in the field: most notably, Professor Jim Tognolini, who in addition to conducting research offers practical and school-focused support.
Completing Empowering Teachers Through the Meaningful Use of Data and Evidence: K-12 will contribute 5 hours of NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) Accredited PD in the priority area of Delivery and Assessment of NSW Curriculum/EYLF addressing standard descriptors 5.4.2 from the Australian professional Standards for Teachers towards maintaining Proficient Teacher Accreditation in NSW.
$200 for one day
Face to face (21 June 2023) and online via Zoom (25 October 2023)
Pasi Sahlberg delves into a discussion of Australia’s place in the world of education, and examines why Australia is somewhat of an outlier in that world . . .
Wolves live in extended families called packs. That helps wolves to defend their territories and ensure the protection of, and food for, the young. Cooperation is why wolves survive in harsh conditions in wilderness.
Sometimes a wolf leaves the pack and becomes a lone wolf. A lone wolf is often stronger than the others in the pack. In the wolf kingdom a lone wolf can also be a curious young adult that wants to explore new territories rather than follow the others. Sometimes it is a rebel that doesn’t get along with the rest.
In this article I wonder whether Australia has become an educational lone wolf. While Australia formally belongs to international organisations such as OECD, UNESCO, and World Economic Forum, and takes part in their education programmes, Australia is becoming an outlier in terms of the directions its education systems are heading now. A couple of decades ago the Australian education system was a role model for many others, not so much anymore. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Leading an education system is not easy. Since no one seems to have an answer to all the questions to which education ministers and their servants are expected to respond, closer professional cooperation and exchange of ideas between governments have become the new normal in global educational leadership. Collective search for solutions to education systems’ problems does not always succeed, but it can help to avoid adopting some bad ideas that sometimes only make things worse.
International experts have voiced their concerns that Australia might be on the wrong course if it aims to offer world class education to all children in the future. Already a decade ago Michael Fullan advised Australians by saying there is no way that ambitious and admirable nationwide goals, set out in the Melbourne Declaration, will be met with the strategies being used then. “No successful system in the world has ever led with these drivers”, Fullan (2011, 7) wrote. Last year he told Australian education leaders that a decade may have been lost due to the inability to choose the right drivers in education reforms. In September, speaking to a group of school leaders, OECD’s education director Andreas Schleicher warned Australia of the perils of the wrong way, saying we may end up training our youth to become second class robots instead of educating them to be first class humans. Both of these global authorities have deep personal understanding of Australian education.
During the last decade Australian education has had a trend of declining performance, similar to what most other OECD countries have experienced. For example, according to the latest international data, one fifth of Australian 15-year-olds miss adequate literacy skills targets needed in life (OECD, 2019). That figure reaches almost half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia (ACER, 2019). Trends are similar in mathematical and scientific literacy as well. Regardless of frequent reforms and steadily increased total expenditure on education, learning outcomes remain stagnant or decline.
We can change the course but not with the same logic that has caused this inconvenient situation. This would be easier through policy learning in closer collaboration with other education nations.
Living without a pack
Recent educational literature and research describes, in detail, various aspects of the state of Australian education today (Bonnor et al., 2021; Burns and McIntyre, 2017; Netolicky et al. 2019; Reid, 2020). Contemporary issues and challenges in professional publications are clear and commonly accepted among education practitioners, experts, and academics. These issues and challenges include, but are not limited to, school funding, systemic educational inequalities, and an inadequate initial teacher education system. It is good to keep in mind that we are not alone with these challenges; many other countries are trying to solve these same problems, too.
The problem is not that we wouldn’t know enough about what is behind the declining educational performance in Australia during the past two decades. There is no shortage of reviews, evaluations, declarations, and commission reports about the education system and how it is not working the way it should. The problem is that we are not good at turning these findings and recommendations into new practices that would eventually make education better.
The real issue is that during the past decade Australia has become a passive member in an increasingly vibrant international community of education system leaders. One such global platform is the International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP) that was launched in 2011 by the OECD and Education International (EI) as a response to emerging problems such as teacher shortages, initial teacher education, and professionalism in the teaching profession (Edwards and Schleicher, 2021). ISTP is a high-level invitation-only policy forum for the world’s best-performing education systems. Delegates, that must include a nation’s education minister and the head of national teacher association (i.e., Australian Education Union), take two days to explore current issues in the teaching profession and discuss solutions to current issues and challenges, such as teacher shortages and initial teacher education.
Australia has been invited to attend these summits since the beginning. Every time, it has declined to attend. A decade of valuable opportunities to learn from others and build professional and political relationships has been wasted. In absence of these professional and policy dialogues, the perspective to the challenges we try to work out becomes narrower. At the same time, Australian schools and educators would have a lot to offer to their peers in other countries. It seems like we are a lone wolf in global education.
How are Australian schools different?
In many ways Australian schools are like schools anywhere in the OECD. In most education statistics (whether is about class sizes, curricula, or how much is spent on education) Australia is like most others (OECD, 2022). There are, however, some aspects where schools here are very different from most others. These are all issues that beg the question: What do these differences mean in practice?
Here is a brief description of three things that make Australian school system an outlier among the OECD community.
1. Total number of compulsory instruction hours for children during primary and lower secondary education
Around the world, children start primary education typically when they are six years old. They then continue schooling in lower secondary and upper secondary schools. Overseas, the total length of school education is about 12 years, in Australia it is 13 years. The school year includes normally 36 to 40 weeks (or 180 to 200 schooldays). Comparing compulsory instruction hours, that students in different countries are required to attend during primary and lower secondary education, reveals the whole picture See Figure 1.
Figure 1. Compulsory instruction time in general education in hours in public primary and lower secondary schools
Source: OECD (2021)
According to Figure 1, primary and lower secondary education in OECD countries, lasts on average, 7,638 instruction hours during 9 years of schooling. In Finland, for example, that time is 6,384 over 9 years of schooling. Australian students have a total of 11 years of primary and lower secondary education that equals to 11,060 instruction hours (OECD, 2021). That is more than in any other OECD country. Schooldays in primary education in other OECD countries are often significantly shorter compared to Australia. Again, children spend more time in primary school in Australia than their peers in Finland, Estonia, or South Korea spend in primary and lower secondary education combined.
What does that mean in practice? Some might expect that because Australian students spend so much more time in school by the age of 15, their academic outcomes in OECD’s PISA or other international assessments must be much better than students in Korea, Estonia, or Finland. But that is not so. There is no correlation between students’ instruction time and academic performance in school.
2. Distribution of public and private expenditure on primary and secondary schools
Education is not cheap. Governments in OECD countries allocate 10 to 15 per cent of their national budgets to education. There are different ways to compare how much – or little – countries around the world spend on educating their youth. One common indicator is total expenditure on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary institutions as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). Total spending in OECD countries on primary, secondary, and post-secondary non-tertiary education institutions, on average, is 3.5 per cent of GDP as Figure 2 shows.
Figure 2. Total expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP by source of funds
Source: OECD (2021)
Education is quite expensive in Australia, too. Total spending on school education in Australia according to Figure 2, is about 4 per cent of GDP that is significantly more than the average spending in OECD countries. What makes Australia different in this club of world’s wealthiest nations is the share of funding that parents pay for their children’s education. At primary and secondary education, private spending from parents’ pockets accounts for 0.3% of GDP across OECD countries. In Australia it amounts to at least 0.7% of GDP that is one of the largest relative shares of private funding of primary and secondary education among all OECD countries.
In other words, private spending accounts for 10% of expenditure at primary and secondary education on average across OECD countries, but it reaches 20% in Australia (OECD, 2020).
Australia is also an outlier in terms of the relatively high proportion of students, in primary and secondary education, who attend non-government schools. Now, that figure is about 35 per cent, being higher among secondary school-aged students especially in urban areas where there is more choice (ABS, 2022). What it means to have public education has become a different question in Australia compared to many other rich countries.
3. Proportion of disadvantaged children attending schools where the majority of students are disadvantaged
Parents’ right to choose the suitable school for their children has been part of the global education reform movement since the 1990s (Sahlberg, 2016). This has served well some parents and their children but has led to growing segregation of schools by the socio-economic conditions of students. Market mechanisms don’t always work in education as expected. Absence of intelligent regulation of education markets have led many countries to see increasing number of disadvantaged students attending schools where most students are disadvantaged like them. Figure 3 illustrates what the situation was in 2018.
Figure 3. Proportion of disadvantaged students attending schools where the majority of students are disadvantaged in OECD countries
Source: OECD (2018)
There are only four other OECD countries where larger proportion of disadvantaged students are studying in schools where the majority of students are disadvantaged. In Australia, based on OECD data shown in Figure 3, that figure is 52 per cent. This is a consequence of education policies in Australia during the last two decades that have treated education as a marketplace where parental choice determines supply and demand of schooling. OECD’s (2018) analysis has revealed that when a disadvantaged student attends a school where the majority of students are not disadvantaged, by the age of 15 that student will be, educationally speaking, approximately 2.5 years ahead of students who attend schools where the majority of students are disadvantaged.
Being a lone wolf may be good if the rest of the pack is heading in the wrong direction. But, if you are alone surrounded by challenges and have lost a way to go, being without a pack may become difficult. Navigating in the wilderness alone can be difficult and risky. Solving wicked problems with others often leads to better solutions.
In 2022, Australia has a new federal government and many of its jurisdictions are electing new parliaments soon. One good decision the ministers and their education system leaders could make is to return to international education policy dialogues. There are many good opportunities to learn how other countries deal with the teacher shortages or modernise initial teacher education to better meet the needs of future schools, for example.
Every year, since 2011, the OECD and Education International have organised the International Summit on the Teaching Profession with the world’s top-performing education systems. Here education ministers and education leaders from the top 20 education nations explore current issues and innovation in the teaching profession. Collaboration between ministers and teachers’ unions as well as genuine policy learning between the nations are the key principles of these summits. Minister Jason Clare could attend in the 2023 summit that will be hosted by the Biden administration in Washington DC. This is perhaps the best next opportunity to learn what could be improved in the current federal government’s action plan and in teacher policies across the country. All ‘education nations’ are there, why wouldn’t we be?
Fullan, M. (2011). Choosing wrong drivers for whole system reform (Seminar series 204). Melbourne, Australia: Centre for Strategic Education.
Netolicky, D., Andrews, J., and Paterson, C. (Eds.) (2019). Flip the system Australia – What matters in education. London: Routledge.
OECD (2018). Equity in Education: Breaking Down Barriers to Social Mobility. Paris: OECD Publishing.
OECD (2019). PISA 2018 Results (Volume I): What Students Know and Can Do. Paris:OECD Publishing.
OECD (2021). Education at a glance. Education indicators. Paris:OECD Publishing.
OECD (2022). Education at a glance. Education indicators. Paris:OECD Publishing.
Reid, A. (2020). Changing Australian Education: How policy is taking us backwards and what can be done about it. London: Routledge.
Sahlberg, P. (2016). Global Educational Reform Movement and its impact on teaching. In Mundy, K., Green, A., Lingard, R., and Verger, A. (Eds.) The Handbook of Global Policy and Policymaking in Education. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 128-144.
Pasi Sahlberg is a Finnish educator, former schoolteacher, and award-winning author who has lifelong career in education. His books and essays about education are translated into 30 languages and read around the world.
Pasi is recipient of several honours and awards for his work for education as human right, including 2012 Education Award in Finland, 2014 Robert Owen Award in Scotland, 2016 Lego Prize in Denmark, and 2021 Dr Paul Brock memorial Medal in NSW.
His research interests include education policy and reform, equity in education, international education issues, and school improvement. He is Professor of Education at the Southern Cross University in Lismore, visiting professor at the UNSW Business School, and Adjunct Professor at the Universities of Helsinki and Oulu in Finland. Pasi lives in Lennox Head with his wife and two sons.
Maurie Mulheron gives us all an insight into the effects that Local Schools, Local Decisions has had on education in NSW. . .
In a choreographed media conference outside a public high school in western Sydney on Sunday 11 March 2012, the NSW Government announced Local Schools, Local Decisions (LSLD) with the Premier and Minister for Education flanked by representatives of two principal groups. It was a plan purporting to ‘empower’ schools. But the evidence is that a far more sinister ulterior purpose, which had been some years in the planning, was driving the policy.
The issue of ‘school autonomy’ is hardly new. It has been an article of faith for many conservative politicians and some economists around the world since the 1970s. It has its origins in a neo-liberal economic theory that public provision is wasteful and ineffective, government expenditure should be reduced, taxation should be lowered and that the more competitive the environment in which government services operate the more efficient they will become. It is a theory that is applied to all aspects of public sector management. ‘School autonomy’ is not an idea relating to teaching and learning that was developed by teachers or education theorists. Its origins and purpose are based in economics and finance.
This is why two international management consultant and accountancy corporations were engaged by the NSW Treasury between October 2009 and January 2010 to conduct a detailed financial audit of the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET), the first NSW government agency to submit to the process. In time this would provide Treasury with the economic rationale for LSLD.
The overarching work was undertaken by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) which was contracted “…to undertake a scan of DET expenditure and to develop a methodology that will allow Treasury to undertake future scans of other agencies.” Its purpose was to achieve significant financial savings. The January 2010 BCG document was called Expenditure Review of the Department of Education and Training (DET) – Initial Scan.i
The second corporation engaged at the time to undertake complementary work was Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC). Its December 2009 report, DET School-based employee related costs review – Interim Report was also prepared for the NSW Cabinet. While the BCG scan dealt with all the operations of the Department, the PWC report dealt specifically with staffing costs. As stated in its objectives, the report was to “…review areas of expenditure relating to DET’s School-based employees where there is scope for change and recommend actions to reduce DET’s expenditure in these areas.”ii
SECRET CABINET DOCUMENTS LEAKED
Both of these Cabinet-in-Confidence documents were never meant to be seen by the community or the teaching profession. However, in the lead-up to the March 2011 state election they came into the possession of the NSW Teachers Federation which, in response, reiterated the union’s concerns that ‘school autonomy’ models had seriously weakened public provision of education. The evidence for this had been mounting overseas for many years. In Australia, during the 1990s the Victorian Liberal Government instigated a dramatic experiment in devolution through the passing of the Education (Self-Governing Schools) Act (1998). It was later repealed by an incoming Labor Government but not before it had seen Victoria’s performance on governments’ benchmarks for achievement, the international PISA testing program, fall below the Australian average in all tested areas – reading, mathematics, and science.iii
In the week leading up to the 2011 NSW state election, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) revealed the intent of the secret BCG and PWC reports.iv “The shock comes not so much from the report’s far-reaching findings – which cut deep – but in the way it has been kept secret for so long. The deception used to get hard-working principals and teachers to, in effect, do the dirty work, will strike them as a betrayal.”v
And the betrayal was clearly articulated in the BCG report, “We have identified some quick wins, but have focused mostly on identifying the major opportunities to drive significant savings over time.”
To achieve this the BCG, throughout the review, argued the merits of the devolved school autonomy model of Victoria and, indeed, used Victoria as the benchmark. It noted that “NSW appears to have approximately 9000 more ‘in-school’ staff than Victoria”, also arguing that “NSW appears to have 13% more school related staff than Victoria”, and that “NSW appears to have 12% more non-teaching staff than Victoria.” The review goes on to argue that once the model of devolution similar to Victoria is adopted, “DET should aim to capture as much of this gap [in staffing levels] as possible.”vi
In essence, the BCG review argued that cost cutting through devolution could provide, “opportunities … worth $500-$700 million in recurrent costs and $800-$1000 million in one-off benefits.” The BCG review even advised how the devolved model could be sold to the public, “Possible to position these initiatives as part of a broader school regeneration or schools for the future program.”vii
What was becoming clear was that the NSW Treasury was determined to reduce the number of employees across the NSW public education system, and this was the focus of the second scan undertaken by PWC. The strategy was to ensure principals delivered the savings. Indeed, one section was labelled, “Empower Principals to act” where the report states, “We believe that increasing Principal accountability for managing School-based costs should be focused on driving a positive financial impact in the short to medium term while also maintaining educational outcomes.”viii
REPORTS REJECTED THEN DUSTED OFF
These two reports could easily be dismissed, as they were provided to the NSW Cabinet in the final months of the Labor administration, with an impending March 2011 state election. It should be noted that the extreme nature of the reports’ recommendations led the then Labor Education Minister to shelve both of them. However, they cannot be so easily ignored as both reports by these two corporations were to inform, and were referenced in, the incoming NSW Coalition Government’s Commission of Audits, one released as an Interim Report into Public Sector Managementix in late January 2012 and the Final Report: Government Expenditurex published in May 2012. Indeed, in the latter paper, there are 64 references to the benefits of devolution as a means of achieving efficiencies across the whole of government.
The NSW Commission of Audit Final Report of May 2012 stated,
“For many years financial management in NSW has been confusing, lacking in transparency and below the standards expected of efficient and effective government. This situation is not sustainable.”
The answer, it argued, is that,
“The devolution of authority and accountability, specifically in the areas of education and health, means expenditure (and power) must move from the centre to more local units.”
“The Commission is generally of the view that devolution should not increase expenditure in aggregate though capabilities and systems will need attention at the start. Expenditure in local units should however increase and be offset by reductions at the centre. These are exciting reforms that offer a new era for TAFE, more power and responsibility to school principals, and more community and clinician input and responsibility within Health.”xi
THE 47 SCHOOL TRIAL
Running parallel to the work that BCG and PWC was undertaking from October 2009 until January 2010, was a devolution trial involving 47 schools called the School-Based Management Pilot which was to test some of the key BCG and PWC concepts, notably as to whether local decision-making could produce savings similar to those captured in Victorian schools. This trial, which also began in late 2009, had originally been planned to end in 2010, but continued through to late 2011. Just a few weeks later in January 2012, the Final Report of the Evaluation of the School-Based Management Pilot was released.xii
Even though the justification for the 47 schools trial model was that it would bring about a lift in student achievement, in the final report evaluating the trial the entire section on student results was a mere 85 words in length in a document that ran to 92 pages. However, this should not have been of any surprise as there was no baseline academic data collected at the beginning of the trial, nor any other key data such as that regarding student suspensions, behaviour referrals, attendance, staff turnover. In fact, the only data collected by the NSW Department of Education related to student enrolments, data that is collected from every school annually. This revealed that, for the duration of the trial, 21 of the 47 schools lost enrolments. But this data was excluded from the final report. Instead, the evaluation based its positive findings on scant empirical evidence relying on anecdotal and subjective observations which included supposed comments of four different principals who all uttered almost identical phrases: “This has created a positive buzz in the school”; “[There’s] a buzz about the school in the town”; “Another principal reports ‘a buzz around the school in the community’”; “and there is a buzz about the school in town.” Four different principals all commenting on a perceived “buzz”. However, this woefully inadequate evaluation did not prevent the new Coalition Education Minister mentioning the trial’s “success” as a key justification for the introduction of LSLD.
The true purpose of the 47 schools trial was made clear in the earlier BCG report which revealed that the quarantined devolution model had led to savings of $15-25 million.xiii Later in the BCG report it was argued, “To capture savings from devolution requires more than the current rollout of the current [47 schools] trial. Current trial involves additional costs that will need to be phased out (e.g., to cover higher than average staff costs in some schools) and does not yet address staffing implications at the State and Regional Office.”xiv The “additional costs” were the significant additional funding each of the 47 schools received from the Department, in effect a temporary financial sweetener that would ensure a positive evaluation. It was only the BCG report that exposed that there was no intention to maintain this level of funding support beyond the trial. Towards the end of the BCG report the strategic thinking behind the trial was exposed: “[Must] test and measure impact and risk of devolved model(s) to prove concept. Assess risks and put in place any mitigation strategies to manage them.”xv
When LSLD was announced in March 2012, it was marketed as an education policy. This was the first of many falsehoods promulgated by the Government. There was no mention of the Boston Consulting Group report of 2010; no mention of the Price Waterhouse Coopers report; and no mention of the NSW Commission of Audit Reports of 2012 either. Nor did the Government ever reveal the real purpose of the 47 schools trial.
In fact, it was not the Minister for Education who was first to announce the LSLD policy. Instead, it was the NSW Treasurer who, in September 2011 when delivering his first budget, revealed “[The] Government plans to reform government schools by giving them more authority to make local decisions that better meet the needs of their students and communities.” This announcement could be found in the budget papers under the section “Delivering on structural fiscal and economic reform.”xvi
In reality, LSLD was always going to be about expenditure and the efficiency savings that could be secured, “There is considerable scope in NSW to reallocate expenditure in education and training to improve outcomes, through greater devolution of resource allocation decisions to principals and TAFE Institute Directors. This can occur within existing expenditure budgets.”xvii It is worth noting that the findings of the BCG report regarding the savings that could be accrued through devolution were referenced in the 2012 NSW Commission of Audit report.
So, what did the NSW Commission of Audit’s recommended ‘reductions at the centre’, a critical feature of Local Schools, Local Decisions, mean in practice? It is important to revisit the NSW Treasury’s demand on the Department of Education at the time.
Savings measures had to be identified by the Department in the 2011-2012 NSW budget to cover the four-year budget period up to 2015-2016. These measures were implemented as “general expenses in the education and communities portfolio have still outstripped the growth in government revenue”.xviii
The Department needed to find $201 million in savings from the 2012-2013 budget and $1.7 billion over the four year forward estimates period. The measures also included the 2.5 per cent labour expense cap, as detailed in the NSW Public Sector Wages Policy which had been reinforced by changes to the NSW Industrial Relations Act.
The savings demanded of the Department were introduced at the same time that Local Schools, Local Decisions was rolled out. In reality the ‘reductions at the centre’ resulted in a significant and unprecedented loss of positions from the Department, both public servant and non-school based teaching positions. And this, not a lift in student outcomes, was the primary objective of Local Schools, Local Decisions.
Ken Dixon, the general manager of finance and administration within the NSW Department of Education at the time, later described the policy to give principals more autonomy over school budgets as being driven by cost savings. In public comments he argued, “The Local Schools, Local Decisions policy is just a formula to pull funding from schools over time.” Mr Dixon, in a key senior Departmental position at the time the policy of Local Schools, Local Decisions was being developed, also revealed that the loss of at least 1600 jobs in the Department was factored into the business case. xix
The ‘reductions at the centre’ included the loss of hundreds of non-school based teachers and support staff from programs throughout NSW including from curriculum support, professional development, staffing, drug and alcohol education, student welfare, student behaviour, community liaison, staff welfare, the equity unit, rural education, assessment and reporting, special education, and multicultural education. In essence, the capacity for the Department to initiate and fund system-wide support for teachers was decimated. To this day, the Department of Education has not been able to rebuild any significant systemic support.
6 MONTHS ON: THE CUTS ARE CONFIRMED
From the day that LSLD had been announced, the NSW Teachers Federation had opposed it, providing the evidence to members and the public that had been revealed to the union in the leaked BCG and PWC reports. An intense state-wide campaign was instigated. The union had been researching ‘school autonomy’ from at least 1988, prompted by the Metherell crisis. It had also studied closely the impact of devolution in other jurisdictions including Victoria, New Zealand and the UK. And there had been more recent experiences of ‘school autonomy’ policies that had been imposed in NSW.
Just a few years earlier in 2008, the Federation had been involved in a bitter and protracted industrial dispute with the NSW government over staffing including the loss of service transfer rights for teachers. The concern was the dramatic negative consequences for difficult to staff schools in outer metropolitan and rural areas. In a fax sent to all schools by the Federation at the time in the lead up to a 24-hour strike, the union showed remarkable prescience in sounding a warning that, “[The Government’s procedures will] establish the preconditions for the full deregulation agenda as in Victoria. Federation is in no doubt that if the NSW government succeeds in destroying the state-wide teacher transfer system that the next step is to introduce devolved staffing budgets to schools which include teacher and non-teacher salaries.”xx Just four years later this was now a fundamental element of the LSLD model.
It was also in the area of special education that the NSW government had instigated a devolved funding model which had been trialled in the Illawarra in 2011 and implemented across the state in 2012. This new method of allocating funding had been foreshadowed in the BCG report which stated that there was potential savings of up to $100 million from the “fast growing special education area”. Once again, comparing NSW to Victoria, the BCG report argued, “Victoria introduced reform initiatives in 2005 which stemmed growth of special education and suggests a broad opportunity exists to streamline NSW special education/equity programs”.xxi The scheme was promoted to the community as Every Student, Every School but it was clear that not every student in every school would receive the support they needed. The reduction in centralised support, for instance, led to funding cuts for thousands of students with autism and mental health concerns who were excluded from the Integration Funding Support program.xxii
It was not until 11 September of 2012, six months after the LSLD announcement, that the intention to dramatically cut funding to the school system and TAFE was finally revealed by the then NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell – a decision he described as “difficult but necessary”. The total amount of education funding to be cut amounted to $1.7 billion, almost the exact figure to the dollar that the BCG and PWC reports had recommended could be achieved through devolving budgets to local principals and TAFE institute managers. Also confirmed in the announcement was the loss of a total of 1800 non-school based teaching and support staff positions from Department offices – from the centre and from regional offices. This was a similar number to the total that Ken Dixon had explained had been factored into the LSLD “business case”.xxiii
For months following the March 2012 public release of the LSLD policy, the Federation had been attacked by the Government which accused the union of lying to the profession about the intention to cut funding. But even though it was now vindicated, the Federation still found the news of the $1.7 billion cuts grim. Earlier, in response to the LSLD announcement, it had called all members out on strike, firstly in May 2012 for a two-hour stoppage, and later in June for a 24-hour strike.
While not preventing the full impact of the cuts to education, the strikes did achieve some important protections, at least for public school teachers. In response to the industrial action, the Department withdrew the plan to provide all schools with an actual staffing budget, making it notional instead. A school’s staffing entitlement, which was to be replaced by an unregulated principal’s choice of the ‘mix and number’ of staff, was also protected.
The Commission of Audit had declared that all staff ratios were to be removed from industrial agreements, citing NSW public school class sizes as the first example. “The Commission of Audit agrees that some workforce management policies and input controls are managerial prerogatives and should not be incorporated into awards…Examples are: teacher to pupil ratios…”xxiv
A public campaign in the lead-up to the strikes led to references to class sizes reconfirmed in subsequent industrial agreements. Finally, the plan to abolish the incremental pay scale was also withdrawn.
GONSKI – A POLITICAL LIFELINE
Following a long campaign led by the Australian Education Union, and strongly supported by the NSW Teachers Federation, a Federal Labor Government announced a comprehensive inquiry into schools funding in April 2010. The inquiry team was chaired by David Gonski whose name would become synonymous with the subsequent report delivered to government in November 2011. But it was not until 20 February 2012 that the report was released publicly. By April the following year, the Federal Government announced a new national $14.5 billion schools funding model. The funding was to be delivered over a six-year transition period from 2014 to 2019 with two-thirds of the funding to be provided in the final two years.
At its heart was the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), effectively the minimum level of funding a school needed to have the vast majority of its students meet national outcomes. In essence, the more complex a school’s student profile, the greater level of funding it would attract, noting in the case of NSW public schools, the additional funding would be provided to the system to distribute on a needs basis.
On 23 April 2013, NSW became the first state to sign a bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth, less than seven months after the announcement of the $1.7 billion cuts at the state level. In reality, the Gonski funding model was seen by the then NSW Education Minister as a political lifeline. The NSW Department of Education was faced with a serious contradiction. On the one hand, it had built a financial model to implement LSLD, but which was designed to de-fund the system in order to deliver $1.7 billion in savings. From 2014, however, there would be additional money provided to schools. But it soon became a case of a wasted opportunity. None of the additional recurrent funding could be used for any significant and much needed whole of system improvement. Improvements such as reduced class sizes, which for junior primary and lower secondary schools had not been reduced in many decades, nor for a reduction in face-to-face loads which also had not improved in decades. Indeed, there was little funding retained by the Department at the centre to rebuild the programs that had been decimated back in 2012. In other words, the government had squandered the opportunity to capitalise on a key advantage of the public education system which is its capacity to achieve massive economies of scale.
In a crude attempt to engender support for LSLD, the Department deliberately attempted to link LSLD with the additional Gonski funding in schools, as though the BCG and PWC audits, the Commission of Audit reports, the Public Sector Wages Policy, and the demand of the NSW government for departments to reduce labour expenses every year had not occurred. This re-writing of the history led to the Department’s Centre for Educational Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) developing a survey instrument that linked the two disparate variables — LSLD and additional funding. But neither of these variables, the system wide change to governance and the increase in Commonwealth and State funding, was dependent on the other. So, to conflate them in the first evaluation question where each variable is portrayed as being interdependent was a serious error, offending a basic tenet of research methodology. In response, the Federation raised the fundamental question as to exactly what was being evaluated: a change to the governance model of the public school system announced in March 2012 or the additional funding achieved two years later in 2014 through the National Education Reform Agreement (NERA).
The additional funding had been allocated to individual schools untied, with little guidelines, minimal accountability and almost no programmatic system-wide support. Little wonder that even CESE’s Local Schools, Local Decisions Evaluation – Interim Report stated “…we were unable to determine…what each school’s [Resource Allocation Model] RAM equity loading allocation was spent on.”xxv
Firstly, the devolution model was never designed to make funding information transparent. Indeed, it was designed to do the exact opposite, make funding matters more opaque. This was because the devolution model was expressly designed for twin purposes: deliver savings back to central government and allow governments to shift the responsibility for these savings to local managers. It was only ever intended to give local schools the illusion of control.
Secondly, the model was never designed to distribute and manage significant increases in funding. There now existed no comprehensive systemic and state-wide programmes designed to lift student outcomes across all schools: “In terms of differential change over time, we found no relationship between changes over time in these engagement measures and levels of need, with the notable exception that students in higher-need schools typically showed less positive change over time in levels of social engagement than students in lower-need schools. In other words, the gap in this measure between higher-need and lower-need schools increased over time, rather than decreased.” [Author’s emphasis]xxvi
CRITICAL VOICES IGNORED
Over the years, there has been a tendency for government departments, like the NSW Department of Education, to declare that policies are developed from ‘evidence-based decision-making’. Yet, in the case of Local Schools, Local Decisions, this assertion must be contested. Moreover, it may actually be a case that the declaration of ‘evidence’ is a strategy to shut down debate, noting that very little in education policy, practice and theory exists without competing points of view.
The extreme Local Schools, Local Decisions policy was implemented dishonestly. Its true intentions were hidden from the profession with critical voices and available research ignored. In relation to ‘school autonomy’ models John Smyth believes, “Sometimes an educational idea is inexplicably adopted around the world with remarkable speed and consistency and in the absence of a proper evidence base or with little regard or respect for teachers, students or learning.”xxvii
In his essay, The disaster of the ‘self-managing school’ – genesis, trajectory, undisclosed agenda, and effects, Professor Smyth went on to argue that ‘school autonomy’ in reality is government “…steering at a distance, while increasing control through a range of outcomes-driven performance indicators.”
Further he said, “The argument was that schools would be freed up from the more burdensome aspects of bureaucratic control, and in the process allowed to be more flexible and responsive, with decisions being able to be made closer to the point of learning. Many of these claims have proven to be illusory, fictitious, and laughable to most practising school educators.”
Dr Ken Boston, one of the members of the Review of Funding for Schoolingpanel chaired by David Gonski, expressed frustration at the continuing promotion of devolution, arguing that “. . . school autonomy is an irrelevant distraction. I worked in England for nine years, where every government school . . . has the autonomy of the independent public schools in WA – governing boards that can hire and fire head teachers and staff, determine salaries and promotions, and so on. Yet school performance in England varies enormously from school to school, and from region to region, essentially related to aggregated social advantage in the south of the country and disadvantage in the north.”xxviii
Plank and Smith in their paper, Autonomous Schools: Theory, Evidence and Policy, argued, “Placing schools at the centre of the policy frame, freeing them from bureaucracy and exhorting them to do better has not by itself generated many of the systemic improvements, innovation, or productivity gains that policy makers hoped for.”xxix
Professor Steven Dinham from the University of Melbourne acknowledged the lack of evidence for ‘school autonomy’ models: “The theory that greater school autonomy will lead to greater flexibility, innovation and therefore student attainment is intuitively appealing and pervasive. School autonomy has become something of an article of faith. However, establishing correlation and causation is not so easy.” Dinham says, “What is needed above all however, is clear research evidence that the initiative works, and under what conditions, rather than blind enthusiasm for the concept.”xxx
‘School autonomy’ was responsible for a “lost decade” in education according to one of New Zealand’s leading education researchers Dr Cathy Wylie formerly of the New Zealand Council of Educational Research (NZCER). In her book, Vital Connections: Why We Need More Than Self-Managing Schoolsxxxi, Wylie argued that schools in NZ needed more central support, and that devolution had caused the loss of ‘vital connections’ between schools.
Even the OECD was ignored. In its 2009 PISA cross-country correlation analysis, PISA 2009 Results: What Makes a School Successful? – Resources, Policies and Practices (Volume IV) the OECD authors argued that “. . . greater responsibility in managing resources appears to be unrelated to a school system’s overall student performance” and that “… school autonomy in resource allocation is not related to performance at the system level.”xxxii
And yet, this OECD report was released three years before the 2012 NSW Commission of Audit argued enthusiastically for a devolution model (sold later as Local Schools, Local Decisions).
A decade on, the catastrophic policy failure of Local Schools, Local Decisions is clear. The findings of the Department’s own research body, CESE, amplify this:
“To date, LSLD appears to have had little impact on preliminary outcome measures.”
“These results suggest that LSLD has not had a meaningful impact on attendance or suspensions.”
“However, the direction of the relationship was not as we expected: students in higher-need schools showed less growth in social engagement than students in lower-need schools.”xxxiii
So, what has occurred after this lost decade? No lift in student outcomes, the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged widening, a massive increase in casual and temporary positions in schools, no improvements in attendance, no improvement in suspension rates, no lessening of ‘red-tape’, a dramatic increase in workload, growing teacher shortages, and the salary cap still in place. The paradox is, of course, that the more localised the decision-making, the more onerous, punitive and centrally controlled are the accountability measures.
The Local Schools, Local Decisions policy has left the NSW Department with no levers; no capacity to develop, fund and implement systemic improvements to lift all schools or to achieve massive economies of scale. Purportedly, the bulk of funding is in school bank accounts with the Department unable to determine what it is being spent on. Instead, we are left with policy by anecdote as revealed in the comments quoted within the CESE evaluation.
The tragedy of Local Schools, Local Decisions is that its structure remains in place, even if its name has changed. By 2021, the NSW Department had realised that LSLD had failed public schools, their teachers, and their students. It had also failed the community of NSW. Addicted to policy by alliteration, the Department rebadged it as the School Success Model (SSM). But this title reveals the continuing mind-set of both the Government and the Department. If we have learnt anything from the last decade it is that schemes like LSLD are essentially a cover for a government to abrogate its obligation to all children, all teachers, and all public schools. Instead, what is needed is for the NSW government, through its department, to accept it has an onus to provide systemic programmatic support rather than devolve the risk and responsibilities onto individual schools. Finally, the time to listen to and accept the advice of the teaching profession, and for the powerful, politically connected accountancy firms to be dismissed, is long overdue.
i Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Expenditure Review of the Department of Education and Training (DET) – Initial Scan (2010) pp 188-193
ii PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC) DET School-based employee related costs review – Interim Report (2009) p2
iii AEU (VIC) Submission to the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission Inquiry into School Devolution and Accountability (2012) p2
iv Anna Patty SMH Secret cuts to schools (19 March 2011)
v Anna Patty SMH Secret report administers a shock to the system (19 March 2011)
vi BCG op.cit. pp 188-193
vii BCG op. cit. p92
viii PWC op. cit. p18
ix NSW Commission of Audit Interim Report into Public Sector Management (January 2012)
x NSW Commission of Audit Final Report: Government Expenditure (May 2012)
xi NSW Commission of Audit op. cit. p10
xii NSW DET Final Report of the Evaluation of the School-Based Management Pilot (2012)
xiii BCG op. cit. p13
xiv BCG op. cit. p34
xv BCG op. cit. p146
xvi NSW State Budget Papers 2. 1- 14-15
xvii NSW Commission of Audit Op. cit. p71
xviii NSW Department of Education and Communities Saving measures to meet our budget (2011)
xix Anna Patty SMH Tip of the iceberg: warning 1200 more education jobs to go (14 September 2012)
xx NSW Teachers Federation fax to all schools (13 May 2008)
xxi BCG op. cit. p58 and p150
xxii “Reform funding on need” in Education (NSWTF) (16 August 2022)
xxiii Anna Patty SMH NSW to slash $1.7 billion from education funding (11 September 2012)
xxiv NSW Commission of Audit: Public Sector Management p83 (24 January 2012)
xxvCentre for Education Statistics And Evaluation (CESE) LSLD Evaluation Interim Report (July 2018) p8
xxvi CESE Op. cit. p8
xxvii John Smyth The disaster of the ‘self‐managing school’ – genesis, trajectory, undisclosed agenda, and effects Journal of Educational Administration and History 43(2):95-117 (May 2011)
xxviii Quoted in Education Vol 97 No 7 Maurie Mulheron On Evidence Based Decision-Making 7 November 2016
xxix David N Plank and BetsAnn Smith Autonomous Schools: Theory, Evidence and Policy in Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy Helen F. Ladd and Edward Fiske (eds) (2007)
xxx Stephen Dinham The Worst of Both Worlds: How the US and UK Are Influencing Education in Australia Journal of Professional Learning (Semester 1 2016)
xxxi Cathy Wylie Vital Connections: Why We Need More Than Self-Managing Schools (2012)
xxxii OECD PISA 2009 Results: What Makes a School Successful? – Resources, Policies and Practices (Volume IV) (2010)
xxxiii CESE Op. cit. p53, p51, p51
Australian Education Union (AEU Victoria ) (2012) Submission to the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission Inquiry into School Devolution and Accountability
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) (2010) Expenditure Review of the Department of Education and Training (DET) – Initial Scan
Centre for Education Statistics And Evaluation (CESE) (July 2018) LSLD Evaluation Interim Report
Dinham, S., (2016) The Worst of Both Worlds: How the US and UK Are Influencing Education in Australia Journal of Professional Learning (Semester 1 2016)
Gonski , D et al (2011) Review of Funding for Schooling Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
OECD (2010) PISA 2009 Results: What Makes a School Successful? – Resources, Policies and Practices (Volume IV)
Patty, A., (19 March 2011) Secret cuts to schools Sydney Morning Herald
Patty, A., (19 March 2011) Secret report administers a shock to the system Sydney Morning Herald
Patty, A., (11 September 2012) Tip of the iceberg: warning 1200 more education jobs to go Sydney Morning Herald
Patty, A.,(14 September 2012) NSW to slash $1.7 billion from education funding Sydney Morning Herald
Plank, D N. and Smith, B., (2007) Autonomous Schools: Theory, Evidence and Policy in Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy Helen F. Ladd and Edward Fiske (eds)
PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC) (2009) DET School-based employee related costs review – Interim Report
Smyth, J., (May 2011)The disaster of the ‘self‐managing school’ – genesis, trajectory, undisclosed agenda, and effects
Journal of Educational Administration and History 43(2):95-117
NSW Commission of Audit (January 2012) Interim Report into Public Sector Management
NSW Commission of Audit (May 2012) Final Report: Government Expenditure
Wylie, C.,(2012) Vital Connections: Why We Need More Than Self-Managing Schools
Maurie Mulheron was a teacher for 34 years, including 10 years as a high school principal. Throughout his working life he was an active member of the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) for which he was awarded Life Membership.
In 2011 he was elected President of the NSWTF, taking up the position in 2012, and serving four terms until 2020.
Between 2016-2020, he was also Deputy Federal President of the Australian Education Union, to which he was awarded Life Membership in 2020.
Maurie played a central role in the schools funding, salaries, staffing and save TAFE campaigns throughout this period.
Internationally, Maurie has been active in the global campaign opposing the growing influence of corporate ‘edu-businesses’ and their attempts to commercialise and privatise public education.
Maurie is currently Director of the Centre for Public Education Research (CPER).
Professor Megan Watkins and Professor Greg Noble present a research-based examination of the complexities involved in working with students of refugee backgrounds in our schools. They discuss why it is both inherently difficult and necessary for NSW public school teachers to strive to meet the needs of these students and their families . . .
In mid-2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated the total number of refugees world-wide was 27.1 million (Refugee Council of Australia, 2022). This number has risen dramatically in recent years due to the increasing number and intensity of conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia, forcing many to flee their homelands and seek safety elsewhere. Many of these refugees are under 18 years old, and many are unaccompanied minors. While Australia’s proportion of this number is relatively low, thousands of young refugees (Refugee Council of Australia, 2017) enter Australia each year on humanitarian visas and face the daunting prospect of beginning school in their newfound home with limited or no English, limited or no literacy in their first language, disrupted or no previous schooling, and the scars of trauma resulting from the experiences of war, the death of loved ones, poverty and protracted periods of displacement in refugee camps and/or one or more countries of transit (Yak, 2016). Once settled, many may be under pressure to earn an income or to help other members of their family, which affects their attendance and progress at school (Refugee Council of Australia, 2016). In addition to contending with these difficulties, issues around gender, faith and racism may affect their capacity to ‘fit in’ (Yak, 2016).
The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education (DoE) now records that there are more than 11,000 students of refugee backgrounds in NSW schools (NSW DoE, 2020). While many of these students are located in metropolitan Sydney, in particular in the western and south-western suburbs, there is an increasing number settling in regional areas, posing considerable challenges for schools and their communities to ensure that these students’ complex needs are met. Schools are often the first point of contact with wider Australian society for young refugees, so how schools position and serve them has enormous consequences (Uptin et al., 2013).
Various community, government and non-government organisations have provided considerable assistance to schools, but a number of studies suggest that not only is far more needed (Sidhu et al., 2011; Block et al., 2014), but that further research is required to gauge refugee students’ experiences of schooling and whether current practice is addressing their needs and those of teachers (Ferfolja and Vickers, 2010).
In 2019, the NSW Teachers Federation commissioned researchers at Western Sydney University to undertake such a study to help fill this gap and to yield data to inform how they may best support teachers working in these complex environments. The report, It’s Complex! Working with Students of Refugee Backgrounds and their Families in New South Wales Schools, (Watkins, M., Noble, G., & Wong, A. ,2019) is the product of this research. Its title, drawn from a comment made by one of the teacher participants, reflects not only the complex needs of refugee students and their families but the inherent complexity of meeting these needs often within schools already grappling with the challenges of socio-economic disadvantage, increasing cultural and linguistic diversity and students with physical and intellectual disabilities. Meeting the needs of students of refugee backgrounds is undertaken alongside those of other students, making the task for teachers a complex one indeed.
It’s Complex aimed to capture this complexity. The research informing the report included interviews and focus groups with executive staff and teachers, students with and without refugee backgrounds and the parents or carers of students of refugee backgrounds in ten public schools. These schools included primary schools, high schools and Intensive English Centres (IECs) in Sydney and regional locations in NSW, with high and low populations of students of refugee backgrounds and varying numbers of students with a Language Background Other Than English (LBOTE) amongst their broader populations. The study also involved observations in classrooms, playgrounds and at school community events. In addition to school-derived data, interviews were also held with relevant personnel in organisations supporting refugee students and their families.
The study examined the challenges faced by school communities as a result of their increasing number of students of refugee backgrounds. It looked at the educational and broader needs of these students; the programs in place to support them within schools; the links between educational experiences and other aspects of the settlement process and the social contexts in which settlement occurs; the consequences for teacher workloads and their professional capacities; and a range of other issues. This article provides a broad overview of the project’s key findings with a link here to the full report for more detailed examination of these from the perspectives of each of the various informant groups that participated in the study.
One of thekey findings of the research was that the needs of students of refugee backgrounds are not simply the pragmatic requirements of educational performance, these students also have complex linguistic, social, cultural, psychological and economic needs. In discussion with principals and other senior executive across the 10 project schools, the area of greatest need identified was that of welfare, not only ensuring students were fed, housed and felt safe but that there was support for those who experienced psychological trauma as, without addressing this, it was considered difficult for students’ educational needs to be met. Yet these respondents also stressed the highly individualised nature of these students’ needs with one teacher remarking: ‘all refugee students struggle but struggle in different ways. We have very capable students, students that have, you know, not as much capacity to learn as others. And some are very bright – a full range of learners’.
While not news to school executive and teachers, the research revealed how schools aremuch more than educational institutions. This may have always been the case, but with increasing and diversifying refugee intakes, they have become complex sites of refugee and community support, with greater expectations and challenges. As one principal commented: ‘I guess we are kind of, we have almost become a community centre, and this is something that I find quite challenging … So, we get a lot of requests that are far removed from our brief as a school’. Schools, therefore, are grappling with a range of issues that result from these greater expectations: teacher workload, professional learning, funding issues, interagency coordination and community liaison.
The research also found that there were uneven levels of expertise and support across schools, both by region and by type, and related to school and community contexts, and individual teacher’s experiences. There are schools, such as IECs, which are set up well to meet these challenges, developing significant banks of expertise and resources, and there are schools which, by dint of their location and demographics, are not well set-up nor well-funded.
Many teachers are providing additional support beyond the classroom in terms of arranging homework clubs, extra work, support services, community liaison, etc, creating increased and intensified workloads which have stressful consequences for work-life balance and some teachers’ mental health. Many teachers are providing this extra support but with varying degrees of experience and expertise. Many do not have English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) qualifications, for example, exacerbating the stressful circumstances in which they are working. Many are also finding themselves in classrooms with an increasing complexity of student populations, posing challenges for classroom teaching.
This was matched with very uneven levels of understanding in schools – amongst teachers, non-refugee students and the wider community – of the complex experiences and challenges faced by students of refugee backgrounds. Staff in schools often struggled to ‘get the right balance’ between addressing the pastoral, the academic and the socio-cultural needs of students of refugee backgrounds with huge implications for these students’ learning. One executive staff member reflected on the problem of an overemphasis on the pastoral:
“I think that when we are dealing with our students one-on-one and we start to hear and get to know them more and hear the history of where they have come from and their trauma, there can be a bit of a tendency to make excuses for them not improving academically and as strongly as they could and … I am going to use the word ’pity’, like there can be an element not from all teachers but from some teachers.”
An executive member at another school suggested such an approach raised questions about the nature of wellbeing itself: ‘So, it is striking that balance between wellbeing as welfare and wellbeing as self-esteem and achievement’.
As a consequence, students of refugee backgrounds have very varied educational experiences: some are settling well, and some are not ‘fitting in’. While most value the efforts undertaken at their schools, as do their parents and carers, many are also suffering from a lack of support. These students are also faced with the dilemma of in\visibility: they often stand out – for various reasons – but their needs are often ‘invisible’, and they can fall through cracks in the system. Many students recounted the enormous challenges of English language and literacy acquisition and often felt underprepared for their educational experiences. Many students continued to experience enormous problems in the transition from IECs to high school and there appeared little progress in addressing these issues, despite being well documented in previous research (Hammond, 2014).
Many students of refugee backgrounds reported the ongoing incidence of racism, though this is not always acknowledged by staff in schools. This racism varied in scale and type from microaggressions of other students avoiding contact and making veiled derogatory comments, to forms of structural racism often resulting from well-intentioned programs that actually reinforced these students’ lack of belonging. In one example of the former, in a school with a predominantly Anglo-Australian student population attended by a small number of refugee students of African backgrounds, a teacher referred to students making racist taunts in the form of ‘back door kind of comments’. The teacher explained how students would say: ‘So, they are asking for a black pen, like they will disguise the racism and emphasise certain things like, “Can I have a black pen?” or something like that. Whereas I shut that down immediately’.
While schools provided various forms of assistance, many continued to struggle with developing and sustaining productive relations with parents of refugee backgrounds and their wider communities.
The work of Refugee Support Leaders (RSLs), a temporary measure introduced in response to the arrival of large numbers of Syrian refugees in 2016, proved increasingly important in many schools and their broader communities. RSLs took up roles in the wake of the loss of the NSW Department of Education Multicultural Education/EAL/D consultants that occurred in 2012, a loss which has been detrimental for many schools. A pleasing development, following the publication of It’s Complex, and because of the NSW Teachers Federation’s advocacy, has been the appointment of EAL/D Leader roles seemingly filling the void of the previous Multicultural Education/EAL/D consultants. These are much needed positions which, it is hoped, are ongoing, supporting schools in meeting the EAL/D needs of not only refugee students, but the many students who require specialist EAL/D teaching.
Finally, while much work has been done to address issues around the coordination of governmental and non-governmental agencies in the area of refugee settlement, this has not always been embedded well in daily practice in schools. For this work to be consolidated and extended we must enable multiple, critical conversations – between the Department, support organisations and schools; between teachers, students, parents/carers and their wider communities – around students’ educational, pastoral and social needs, and the capacities of schools to address them. Failure to facilitate such dialogue will threaten the stability of life that students of refugee backgrounds and their families so urgently need.
A useful starting point will be looking at the full report, which can be found at:
If you are interested in applying to the It’s Complex: Working with students of refugee backgrounds in NSW public schools professional learning course run by the Centre for Professional Learning, please click here.
Block, K., Cross, S., Riggs, E. and Gibbs, L. (2014). Supporting schools to create an inclusive environment for refugee students. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 18(12), 1337-1355.
Ferfolja, T. and Vickers, M. (2010). Supporting refugee students in school education in Greater Western Sydney. Critical Studies in Education, 51(2), 149-162.
Hammond, J. (2014). The transition of refugee students from Intensive English Centres to mainstream high schools: Current practices and future possibilities. Sydney: NSW Department of Education and Communities.
New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education (DoE)(2020) Supporting Refugee Students https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/multicultural-education/refugee-students-in-schools.
Sidhu, R., Taylor, S. and Christie, P. (2011). Schooling and Refugees: Engaging with the complex trajectories of globalisation. Global Studies of Childhood, 1(2), 92-103.
Uptin, J., Wright, J. and Harwood, V. (2013). ‘It felt like I was black dot on white paper’: examining young former refugees’ experience of entering Australian high schools. Australian Educational Researcher, 40(1), 125-137.
Megan Watkins is Professor in the School of Education at Western Sydney University. Her research interests lie in the cultural analysis of education exploring the impact of cultural diversity on schooling and the ways in which different cultural practices can engender divergent habits and dispositions to learning. Megan began her career as an English/History teacher working in high schools in Western Sydney. Her most recent book is Doing Diversity Differently in a Culturally Complex World: Critical Perspectives on Multicultural Education (Bloomsbury, 2021) with Greg Noble.
Greg Noble is Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. Greg has been involved in research in multiculturalism and education for thirty years. His interests have centred around the relations between youth, ethnicity, gender and schooling, as well as aspects of curriculum and pedagogy in multicultural education. He also has broader research interests in issues of migration, ethnic communities and intercultural relations. He has published eleven books, including: Doing Diversity Differently in a Culturally Complex World (2021) and Disposed to Learn (2013), both with Megan Watkins, and Cultures of Schooling (1990).
Helen McMahon, Michelle Gleeson, Andrea Gavrielatos & Trystan Loades consider one of the most important topics for all teachers … classroom management. Helen, in the introduction, returns to a topic that she wrote about in the 2015 edition of the JPL. Michelle and Andrea then give us the primary school perspective and Trystan discusses the high school context . . .
Teaching is complex, no more so than when it comes to the management of student behaviour. Effective teaching can only occur when the behaviour of students is successfully dealt with at a whole school and individual class level. High standards of behaviour are essential in creating a productive and positive learning environment, as well as a safe and respectful school.
A high standard of behaviour should be expected of all students and applied throughout the school each day by everyone. From the outset it is important to understand a fundamental principle: while the public education system accepts all students, we do not accept all behaviours.
The student profile of many of our schools is becoming ever more complex and, therefore, teachers require increasingly sophisticated sets of skills to deal with behaviour in their own classes. However, it is important to understand that the management of student behaviour is also a collective responsibility, across the whole school by all staff, and in serious cases with systemic Department of Education support.
As all schools are required to develop a behaviour management plan, it is essential that this is developed collaboratively, and closely adhered to by all staff, in order to develop consistent approaches to unacceptable conduct.
Individual teachers, particularly for those who are beginning their teaching career, will usually need additional advice, support, and professional learning opportunities to acquire the range of skills that allow them to gain confidence and become professionally autonomous. Any professional learning should cover areas such as:
why engaging teaching strategies can be the basis for minimising unacceptable behaviour
how to manage persistent disruptive and challenging behaviours
strategies that could be used to de-escalate conflict situations
the need to engage parents and caregivers early and in a positive manner
the support that will be available from colleagues and executive teachers.
The NSW Department of Education’s Student Behaviour Policy (2022) states, “All students and staff have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity in an environment free from intimidation, harassment, victimisation, discrimination and continued disruption.” To ensure that schools are safe, productive, and stable learning environments it is essential that this fundamental policy position is embedded in the school culture and reinforced daily.
Classroom management – school contexts
During the liveliness and excitement of a bustling school day, there are many things out of our control. One of the things that we, as teachers, can control is how we set up our day and our classroom to ensure that we set our students (and ourselves) up for success.
The way classroom management looks in each classroom is ultimately up to the teacher. And whether or not you are working in a school which sets clear systems, expectations and routines, there are practices for your classroom that can make the day flow in a more positive direction.
Before we launch into the what and the how, let’s start with the why. On top of knowing our content and how to structure a lesson, classroom management directly affects the conditions for student learning and effective teaching. When the learning space is organised … students’ academic skills and competencies, as well as their social and emotional development are supported and enhanced (Kratochwill, DeRoos, Blair, 2009). This aligns with the Professional Knowledge and Professional Practice domains of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (NESA 2018), specifically that teachers ‘Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments’ and ‘Know students and how they learn’. The intersection of these two standards with regards to classroom management highlights that not only do our considerations about how we arrange the learning space matter, but this, combined with a deep understanding about our students’ individual characteristics and needs, can be affected and supported by that very learning environment. What are the things we need to factor in for our students before they’ve set foot through the door for our lesson or for the day? How can we suitably reflect on our lesson plan to anticipate how we might deal with behaviours that become too excitable? How can a teacher pre-empt and identify strategies to ensure all students are engaged safely and successfully in classroom activities?
Across both primary and secondary settings, there are universal elements to classroom management. that link back to the Standards. that can help us reflect on how we best set our students up for success in their learning. Let’s take a look at a day in the life of a primary school teacher and a learning period for a high school teacher, and, in doing so, share some strategies which you can add to your toolbox to support you…
A Day in the Life of Primary School – through the lens of classroom management
Starting the day
Classroom management begins well before the front gates open for students and families. This time is quite possibly the most important part of the day with regards to effective classroom management.
A good habit to develop each day when you arrive at your classroom is to map out the day plan in a visual timetable, either written or with visual aids, displayed at the front of the room. This practice is an example of how to utilise Universal Design for Learning as seen in the Universal Design for Learning planning tool (2021). This framework is most beneficial for students with additional needs, however it reduces the fear of the unknown and can be beneficial for all students. Taking a moment to walk through what’s happening, on any given day, can also help you to anticipate the flow of what’s planned and review what you’ll need for the lessons for the day. Using the morning routine to locate and organise resources needed for your lessons will assist in those teaching moments to maintain your students’ focus and minimise opportunities for behaviours to unravel. Being proactive in having what you will need at the ready, or mentally noting what you need to prepare during the session break and considering how and where resources are accessed during the learning is an important aspect of classroom management related to the routines you establish and maintain in your classroom.
Setting the tone of your learning environment
How you then organise your classroom with resources and routines inherently sets the tone of the learning environment. Giving attention and consideration to how the classroom helps to develop a culture of learning and structure is something which can often be forgotten. Setting up the learning space in a way which is conducive to teaching and learning is paramount.
It is helpful to ask questions such as ‘can students and teachers move around the room with ease?, ‘is there enough room to walk?’, ‘is the floor clear of resources?’, ‘are resources clearly labelled and packed in the appropriate place?’, ‘where will students sit for group discussions or brainstorming or modelled lessons?’, ‘what kind of noise levels are acceptable and at what times?’.
Ideas as simple as group structures and seating arrangements can promote positive behaviours and academic outcomes (Wannarka & Ruhl, 2008). There is evidence to support the idea that ‘if students are working on individual assignments, they should be seated in an arrangement that makes interacting with peers inconvenient…for example, in rows students are not directly facing each other’. Conversely, ‘when the desired behaviour is interactive… seating arrangements that facilitate interactions by proximity and position, such as clustered desks or semi-circles, should be utilised’ (Wannarka & Ruhl, 2008). Strategically planning these structures prior to the day beginning can have a positive influence on student engagement and behaviour.
Involving your students to establish a set of expectations supports a shared understanding of what is valued in the learning environment for everyone to be able to engage in learning. It can also assist students to regulate collaboratively the classroom behaviour. What is important to one group can be vastly different to another, so this process is a crucial component to classroom management and is most successful when students have agency in determining the conditions for learning as well as the positive rewards and negative consequences that go along with these. Along with collaboratively setting up, and explicit teaching of, class expectations, each teacher will have a different system of organisation with regards to student jobs, and overall set up. It is important to be strategic in deciding which student will be responsible for each job depending on their social, emotional and academic needs. Guiding questions such as the following are helpful to ask yourself when selecting students for each job: Do any students require regular breaks? Does a particular student require a peer to assist them in executing the job? Will the students be able to refocus upon completion of the job?
As with any element of classroom management, it is crucial to model and guide students in how to successfully perform each task before expecting them to complete it independently.
Relationships sit at the heart of effective classroom management and a simple yet effective way to connect with your students, and to set the tone of the day of learning, is to greet students personally as they enter the classroom. Positioning yourself at your door, monitoring both students as they unpack and those that are settling into the room allows you to:
start the day with a positive connection with your students,
remind students of classroom expectations through specific praise of preferred behaviours, in turn supporting the transition into the formal learning space, and
gauge the moods and mindsets your students have before the learning begins.
This, in turn, offers a “low-cost, high-yield” proactive strategy that complements the organisational elements to setting up the learning environment (Cook, et. al 2018). Coupled with your proactive measures of setting up your resources, being proactive with your students’ behaviour, and starting every day with a positive and personal acknowledgement of each student in your class, has been shown to promote higher levels of academic engagement. It also minimises, even prevents, the occurrence of problem behaviours that disrupt learning. Additionally, being perceptive to the emotional wellbeing of your students, not only as they start the day but throughout the day, and particularly following transitions, can assist you in managing behaviours through pre-corrections, further modelling or revision, or tuning in to students’ needs to support them to re-engage or regulate their behaviour.
Positive reinforcement extends the tone of the learning environment and can take varied forms without always being a tangible reward although, at times, the extrinsic motivator can help. Acknowledging and reinforcing the behaviours you expect supports students with direct feedback on what is valued, but is only effective when the reinforcement is genuine, clear, and explicit about the behaviour and given in a timely manner (i.e., straight after the target behaviour). If there are established positive reinforcement procedures in your school, it is critical that these are integrated into your own systems. Such integration, however, does not preclude the use of your own additional strategies, if required, which can be as simple as non-verbal cues and verbal praise, a positive phone call to parents, to tangible reward tokens or activity rewards. Knowing the individual preferences of your students will also inform the approach that you take for encouraging positive behaviour in your classroom. Most students will respond to the universal support and expectations for behaviours (be they the whole school or your class systems) but some students may require an individualised approach with targeted and specific behaviour goals that have positive consequences negotiated with the student and their parents or carers.
“Be the calmest person in the room”
And while giving attention to the routines and structures of our classroom allows us to exert some control in pre-empting behaviours, the only thing we can control is ourselves and to be the calmest person in the room. The key to effective routines and structures lies in modelling and explicit teaching but this begins with our own behaviours. Students are more likely to replicate calm energy if they have been shown this. The importance of being responsive over reactive, having and modelling empathy, and above all else being consistent, sits hand in hand with the positive, safe and supported learning environment that is conducive to the success of our students.
Transitions and breaks
When it comes to managing your expectations around behaviours at any point in the school day, it’s often safer to never assume your students will know how to behave. Establishing expectations not only with regards to the use of resources and interactions for group or independent work, but also around transitions requires explicit teaching through modelling. For example, if your students are expected to enter and exit the classroom quietly and in two straight lines or move from sitting on the floor to their desks, then preparing them from the outset with clear expectations and demonstrations is required, even for simple tasks such as these. Show your students what the transition looks like, sounds like and feels like so that they can experience that through practise, revising as often as needed.
While classroom management is often viewed as enacted within the four walls of the classroom, practices such as active supervision apply in the playground and have similar effect and impact in managing behaviour. The proverbial ‘eyes in the back of your head’ comes to mind. The effects of scanning, movement and proximity on supporting positive behaviour in any school setting will influence behaviour. It is important to remember that our job is to teach and that every moment is a teaching moment, whether we are in the classroom or elsewhere. Teach and praise what you want to see more of and celebrate the steps along the journey.
Managing the end of the day
The bookends of the day largely dictate the overall organisation of your classroom, and where much attention is given to setting up the day, the end of the day is equally important. Similar to the setup, pre-empting issues and being proactive is key at the end of the day – knowing that your students are going to start feeling tired and fatigued, consider what could go wrong with the planned group activity, or art lesson, and make adjustments to your plan where necessary. If you think they require some time to regulate, complete a calming ‘brain break’. If it seems as though they are lacking energy, complete an energising activity. (Although ‘brain breaks’ can be done at any time throughout the day, the end of the day is often when they are utilised most regularly).
Allow yourself plenty of time for packing up, giving yourself at least 10 minutes at the end of the day to finish calmly and smoothly with an activity before students are dismissed such as read a story/poem, play a game, silent reading or journaling, guided drawing, practise gratitude, dance or sing. The activity could be a routine one or be different every day, this is up to you and your class. Just as the expectation stands for entering the classroom, be consistent with clear expectations for how students leave the classroom when the bell rings. Think about how many students will you dismiss at once- will they be the same students at tables/desks or the students who are packed up and quiet? Supporting a positive and calm end to the day will not only support your students in finishing the day on a good note but is also good for our own wellbeing to avoid ending the day in frantic chaos.
When you need support…
With the increase of students with additional needs enrolled in public schools, over the course of a career, teachers will likely be met with students who challenge and provoke our thinking. Sometimes, when redirection and all proactive, positive systems have been exhausted or when the safety of a child, a class, or staff members is at risk, different strategies are required.
Whether or not an individual behaviour plan is required, at times, it is critical to utilise expert and experienced staff, including senior executives, for support.
Some things to remember, if and when faced with more complex, challenging and escalating behaviours, are:
remain calm – think about your tone of voice, body language, what you are saying, how you are moving, where you are positioned,
explain why the specific behaviour is unacceptable – Is it unsafe? Is it disturbing the learning of others? Is it respectful?
don’t buy into any secondary behaviours which may arise,
give short and direct instructions – it is helpful to use the student’s name first and then the clear, explicit direction,
call for assistance.
Remember, once any incident is dealt with, it is important to move on and start fresh.
Students come to school to learn and they all have a right to do so in our vibrant and diverse public education system. With clear and visible expectations and routines which are reiterated and retaught consistently through a calm and predictable teacher, you set yourself and your class up for success (Dix, 2017).
For many students, their school, and in particular their classroom, is the place where they feel most at ease, at baseline and where they can truly be themselves. Their teacher is a constant and when we act and react predictably to all situations, it makes our students feel safe. Safety allows students to remain calm, display positive behaviours and in turn, engage in learning. ‘Visible consistency with visible kindness allows exceptional behaviour to flourish’ (Dix, 2017).
A High School Context
Teaching is a highly complex activity, which, depending on which research you read, requires a teacher to make as many as 1500 decisions a day.
As stated earlier, teachers have a core responsibility to ‘Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments’ Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (2018). Our students also have a core responsibility to ensure that they are contributing to a positive learning environment. As Helen McMahon stated in our introduction: while public education accepts all students, we do not accept all behaviours.
High schools are busy places, in which movement and transitions are an integral part of every school day. The effective management of student behaviour is critical to ensuring that our practice and pedagogy impacts positively on the learning of our students. Without it, learning cannot take place.
Three ways in which teachers can impact on student behaviour are through: routines and structures, controlling the learning environment and engagement.
Routines and Structure
As high school teachers, we are always receiving students who are arriving from another context, be it roll call, recess, lunch or the previous lesson. Our class may be arriving as a group who were together in the previous lesson or be a group coming together for the first time that day. This poses significant challenges for a teacher who needs to ensure that the start to their lesson is both orderly and purposeful.
Paul Dix, author of When the adults change, everything changes (2017)states, “Your students might claim that they prefer to lead lives of wild and crazy chaos. In reality, it is your routines, and your relentless repetition of them, that makes the students feel safe enough to learn.”.
Managing the Start of Lessons – Explicitly teaching clear and consistent routines throughout the structure of your lesson has many benefits for you and your students. Meet students in the same way every lesson, if they line up, do it the same way every time. Greet every student, building a connection before entering the classroom. Ensure that the first contact is proactive, positive and within your control. If you search YouTube, you will find videos of teachers sharing elaborate handshake routines which are individual to each student. This would not be something we could all do, but a personal verbal greeting to all students is something we can all achieve, it could be asking about the lesson they have just left or simply a personalised greeting. These interactions also help teachers, before entry to the classroom, to pick up on issues students are arriving with.
Feeling Safe – Consistent routines and structures provide students a connection to, and a feeling of safety in, our classrooms. For students, the idea that ‘I know what to expect’ allows space for engagement in initial instructions and explicit teaching. For students who have experienced trauma and those who have additional learning needs this is critical to building a sense of trust and safety as a learner.
Managing the End of Lessons – Our role in supporting smooth transitions is particularly important at the end of lessons. It allows for reflection on the learning which has taken place and provides support to our colleagues who will be receiving our students during the next teaching period. It also directly impacts on the safety of students and staff as they move to the next location of their day. Having a consistent routine at the end of lessons is as important as at the start of each lesson. Developing a suite of strategies such as exit tickets, routines around packing up and preparing to leave the room are vital and the important thing is to, as Paul Dix said, be relentless in your repetition of them.
Controlling the Learning Environment
Taking control of your classroom is a vital component of being a successful teacher. There is no one way to do this, and every teacher is different, however, being passive is not an option.
The NSW Department of Education’s Classroom management: Creating and maintaining positive learning environments (CESE 2020) cites research which says:
Put simply, classroom management and student learning are inextricably linked; students cannot learn or reach their potential in environments which have negative and chaotic classroom climates, lack structure and support, or offer few opportunities for active participation (Hepburn & Beamish 2019, p. 82), and students report wanting teachers who can effectively manage the classroom learning environment (see Woolfolk Hoy & Weinstein 2006, p.183; Egeberg & McConney 2018)
Layout – Assert your control of the classroom environment through the arrangement of furniture. Set up the space before students arrive whenever you can. If there are materials to distribute to allow learning activities to begin, have them on desks before students arrive. This saves time and removes opportunities for disruption.
Managing Behaviour -Exercise power to gain power and, therefore, control of the environment. Gain compliance through small instructions which are easy to follow, such as completing a simple task of collecting or getting out equipment or setting up a page in a workbook can settle a class and establish your authority in the classroom. Taking ownership of behaviour management is critical in establishing your authority. You should always know how to get support from colleagues and your Head Teacher but resolving issues yourself will always pay off in the long run. It is important to note that knowing when an issue needs to be escalated is also critical.
Seating Plans – A well-considered seating plan allows students to know where to be and for you to control where individuals are in your learning space. Some students may have specific positions described in their Individual Learning Plans (ILPs). A seating plan can allow you to establish effective group work as a supportive structure in your classroom.
Non-Verbal Communication – The use of non-verbal communication is a core skill we all need to develop; it can allow us to intervene early and get behaviour back on track without drawing attention to a student or their behaviour. This can be as subtle as eye contact at the right moment, a hand movement to suggest calming or even a smile and a nod.
Positioning – Where you place yourself at key times such as student arrival, roll marking, giving instructions, asking questions will impact on each activity’s effectiveness. Your ability to move around the room while maintaining a scanning view allows you to keep on top behaviour and levels of student engagement. Some teachers use a specific position in the classroom to manage student behaviour which is separate to positions they use for explicit teaching. Used consistently, this can even become an example of non-verbal communication as students learn to associate it with an intervention by the teacher.
Pace – Your control of the pace of your teaching and the learning in your classroom is also a key strategy in developing an orderly and effective classroom. Research has shown that a slow pace of instruction can cause significant behaviour problems. The right pace in a lesson will positively impact on student engagement and progress in learning.
Any teacher, who has become involved in a struggle of attrition with an individual or a class around behaviour, knows that it is a negative cycle, which needs to be broken. The way to break it is always through positive engagement in learning.
Explicit Teaching – Students’ knowledge of what they are learning, and why they are learning it, impacts on their engagement. Building their ‘field’ of knowledge around a topic or specific activity adds richness and promotes genuine understanding and interest.
Modelling – Modelling an activity for a class, or group within a class, draws students into a task and provides the opportunity for a teacher to build credibility with students. A teacher sharing skills is a way for students to see that their teacher is an expert from whom they can learn.
Questioning – A skilled teacher will use a wide range of questioning techniques to develop students’ ideas, to check on understanding, to draw individuals into the learning process and to inform their own decision making on where to take the lesson next. Questions allow a teacher to take a class deeper into a topic and promote students’ skills of justifying and explaining their reasoning. Simple techniques like ‘no hands up’ or ‘think, pair and share’ place structure and enhance the teachers control of order in a classroom. The use of closed questions to check recall and open questions to promote deeper thinking and analysis will be appropriate at various times within a class’s learning. Click here for the link to the Department of Education’s section on Questioning
Participation – Designing learning activities or tasks which require active participation is fundamental to building student engagement.
When teachers require that students participate in lessons, rather than sit as passive listeners, they increase the odds that these students will become caught up in the flow of the activity and not drift off into misbehaviour (Heward, 2003).
This idea is explored in detail by Geoff Munns’ JPL article from 2021. He said,
“We talked about students being ‘in-task’ (positively involved in their learning) as opposed to being ‘on-task’ (just complying with teacher instructions).”
No matter which stage you are teaching, being prepared, and having as much organisation in place as possible will enable any teacher to deal with the unexpected. As stated earlier a teacher will make as many as 1500 decisions in any normal school day, each one may be critical to a student’s learning or the management of their behaviour. Teaching really is rocket science.
Cook, C, Fiat, A, Larson, M, Daikos, C, Slemrod, T, Holland, E, Thayer, A & Renshaw, T (2018). ‘Positive greetings at the door: Evaluation of a low-cost, high-yield proactive classroom management strategy’, Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, vol. 20, no. 3.
Dix, P. (2017). When the adults change, everything changes: seismic shifts in school behaviour. (1st ed.). Independent Thinking Press.
Egeberg, H & McConney, A (2018) What do students believe about effective classroom management? A mixed – methods investigation in Western Australian high schools. Springer International Publishing
Helen McMahon is an experienced secondary History and English teacher. For much of her career she taught in the south-west region of Sydney. Helen held the position of Deputy Principal at Bankstown Girls High School before being appointed as Principal to Leumeah High School. Following her retirement as principal she returned to the classroom, teaching English at Keira High School.
Helen is the author of a popular article on behaviour management published in the very first edition of the JPL which is still available. The article was based on beginning teacher professional development courses she delivered on behalf of the Federation.
Andrea Gavrielatos began teaching in 2015 at Bardia Public School in Sydney’s South West.
She has worked in mainstream and special education settings. Prior to her current role she worked as a relieving Assistant Principal in an SSP which caters for students with Emotional Disturbances, Behaviour Disorders and Intellectual Disabilities.
Andrea is currently an Assistant Principal at a large Primary School in the Canterbury-Bankstown area. She has worked in infants and primary.
Throughout her career, Andrea has supported early career teachers to establish planning/programming routines and classroom management strategies as presenter at various conferences and courses.
Michelle Gleeson began teaching in 2005 as a primary teacher and is currently acting Deputy Principal at a large primary school on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Throughout her career, Michelle has been involved in advising early career teachers on accreditation processes and supporting beginning teachers to establish planning/programming routines and classroom management strategies as presenter at various conferences and workshops for the CPL and NSWTF.
She worked as a Professional Learning Officer at the NSW Institute of Teachers (now known as NESA) and advised teachers and school executive on designing and implementing effective processes to support the learning and development of all staff, using the framework of the Teaching Standards.
Trystan Loades has been a high school teacher for 26 years. He has held classroom teacher and executive roles in both NSW schools and schools in the UK, where he was a Faculty Head Teacher for 6 years. He is currently a Deputy Principal at Keira High School in Wollongong.
In recent years Trystan has worked closely with the University of Wollongong Master of Teaching program. He collaborated in the writing and delivery of professional learning for teachers supervising Professional Experience.
He currently leads new staff induction and support for beginning teachers at his school.