The big news over the weekend were the reforms announced by NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli linking teacher pay to professional standards and giving principals greater control of their school funding budget. It’s been described as the ‘greatest revolution to hit NSW education in 50 years” and while I don’t wish to disagree with the intent here, I think we need to see this policy position as the next stage in an iterative process that has been underway for sometime.
The policy recognises what we already know about effective teaching and teachers.
In some ways, these reforms are moving closer to Finland’s model where for the past 20 years schools are autonomous and teachers have the authority to do what is needed to improve student learning. Pasi Sahlberg, Finland’s Director General of Education said recently that this was one of the keys to their international success.
I think we have reached a general consensus that:
- The school community is where learning is improved
- Good teachers supported by instructional leaders influence student learning outcomes
- The industrial model of school will become irrelevant as we develop and promote professional learning communities
- We find new ways to recognise and reward teacher excellence by encouraging greater investment in professional learning
- Highly centralised systems stifle innovation
The government sector is able to draw upon examples from international and local education sector experience in moving towards a model where principals and teachers are given greater autonomy where it counts – in schools and learning spaces.
As Minister Piccoli said, the reforms will set “principals and teachers with great ideas free from the bureaucracy to try them.”