As the new Federal Minister for Education Christopher Pyne settles into his portfolio, I have been thinking about what changes have been made to the educational landscape over the past six years. I don’t want to rekindle old debates because many of the Gillard-Rudd policies and initiatives have already been criticised and condemned. It may be that in time, these will be viewed as genuine attempts to improve the education system.
One of the most important commitments made over the past six years has been toward school funding particularly those with diverse needs. This signals a shift in policy thinking and a recognition that every school is diverse, learning needs are different and funding should be based on the level of need at each school.
We are told that our new Minister will be focused on practical policies but I wonder whether it’s now time for a collective voice that can inform policy development. In the past broad policy discussion has often been bogged down by sectional interests but I think we need a coherent voice for the teaching profession as a whole.
This is not to diminish the work of organisations such as the Australian College of Educators (ACE) and the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) or representative groups such as primary and secondary principals associations, unions and parent councils but each comes to the table with their own agenda reflecting the concerns of its particular constituency. In today’s world, shouldn’t there be just one agenda – improving the learning outcomes of every student by ensuring we have effective and skilled teachers in every classroom?
I would like to think that by combining these groups into one alliance or affiliation, we could finally end old debates around public vs private, left vs right, state vs commonwealth in favour of robust discussion and ideas that work towards building a highly professional education system where teacher work is respected, teacher learning is supported and student learning is at the centre of every policy. The alliance would serve in effect as a thought leader and think tank at the service of developing coherent education policy.
Let’s hope by the time the next federal election comes around, we may have a united voice for the profession and importantly, an advocate for all students.