A united voice

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.

feetThis 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.

8 thoughts on “A united voice

  1. Greg you are spot on with the comment however the polarisation of education will make it difficult. This is not to say we should not attempt to provide a unilateral approach. The bottom line is we leave our education climate in a better way than when we entered it.

    1. I envisage a national congress held annually where sectoral groups could nominate a representative. This would ensure we get a depth of experience and expertise from teachers, leaders and administrators in providing sound policy advice to the Education Minister.

  2. United we stand, divided we fall. With such eminent bodies already ‘singing from the same song page’, having them in the one ‘choir’ would lend a far greater sense of clarity and volume to the ongoing debate rather than separate voices. A national congress approach could eliminate the need for individual states to sign off on politically motivated agendas and make decisions that really make a difference especially to the most needy students and schools – what really matters! So when are you convening the first congress?

  3. Greg as always well spoken a united voice coalition on teaching and learning and the funding of student need is well overdue.

    Perhaps a comment then: I lead a state school located in a middle class area of Melbourne who charges parents a small contribution levy $1000 for year 5/6 students a year not including optional extras (eg instrumental music lessons). Yes we have lots of individual student needs some of which is funded. So in way I’m not that different to many Catholic schools (religion apart – although there are RE classes). We have little to no equity funding.

    I also know that our issues are by and large exactly the same – respect for teaching (teachers) as a profession is a 2 way sword. A few teachers do a lot of damage and some under perform and we need to call that if we are to be united for the majority of teachers do an amazing job. As a profession they deserve quality feedback, professional learning and structured time for feedback.

    So what’s creating the divide or blocking such a coalition I’m reflecting upon that now. If we have to wait for sectorial voices to see the value it may not happen. I think action on local levels (betwen schools and networks of schools) may well be a valuable stepping stone.


  4. a great observation focusing on commonalities not differences. It will never happen if we wait for action from above. We need local pressure and development of a Congress model I suggested in another reply. This annual event would highlight australian schooling and work has to be done on building consensus on policy setting. If the profession itself can’t do this how can we expect our poloiicians to do so. So, start agitating

    1. I am something of a bystander in this – but, nevertheless, want to salute the wisdom in Greg’s words. Politicians only really take notice if the numbers building in a cause look like threatening their grasp on the voter’s mind, attitudes and voting intentions. In this context one plus one is definitively greater than two in terms of impact. It’s more like four or eight! Time for the two professional bodies to ‘get their act together’!

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