The OECD says that in Australia, “disparities in student performance related to socio-economic status take root at an early age and widen throughout students’ lives”: even the youngest learners in our school communities are not getting a go.
Decades of research and examining best practice in classrooms have already shown us how to make our prosperity work for everyone through education. Sadly though, the insatiable desire, for quick wins and partial solutions, especially at election time, remains as strong as ever. Coming up with a shiny new idea, a pithy slogan or a bucket of money rarely improves learning outcomes for each child.
While politicians have looked for an easy answer, many educators have been guilty of relying on hope as a strategy for change. And this is despite the fact that we know the real driver for improvement is effective teaching overseen by effective leaders supported by parental engagement. We have many great teachers, the problem is however, that they are not in every classroom. And there’s an equity issue here too: every child deserves a great teacher, but those whose needs are greatest deserve the greatest teachers of all.
To truly turn the tables when it comes to schooling, everything must be on the table: the curriculum, funding, teaching practices, collaboration across different sectors and engage with the teaching unions, universities and workplaces. It is not enough just to think about and talk about new models of schools – we have to have ways of implementing and at scale.
Wholesale change to the way we do schooling in Australia is a hard sell, even for the most consummate retail politician. But the cost of doing nothing, or more of the same, is unpardonable when there are young children who continue to start school on the back foot. Bringing our best to the table means doing everything we can for those children who have a rough start not just a school, but in life.
Our PM believes that “if you’re having a go, you’ll get a go”. Let’s start with universal high quality affordable early education because if not, then the most vulnerable in our communities will never ‘get a fair go’.