Following the release of the Expert panel report Improving Outcomes for All: The Report of the Independent Expert Panel’s Review to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System (see Expert Panel’s Report – Department of Education, Australian Government), a representative group of ACTA Councillors had a very productive meeting with Dan Skehan, Senior Advisor to Federal Minister for Education, The Honourable Jason Clare, on Wednesday 20 December.
The Report was delivered to all Education Ministers on 31 October 2023, and published in December 2023. It highlights areas of reform focus for all levels of governments’ consideration as they negotiate the next National Schools Reform Agreement (NSRA), including a number of recommendations central to ACTA’s mission.
ACTA, represented by the President E/Prof Chris Davison, Chair of the ACTA Schools Consultancy Group Dr Michael Michell, Co-Chair of the ACTA EAL/D First Nations Consultancy Group Liz Easton, NT councillor Fran Murray, and Vice-President Dr Helen Moore, commended the Expert panel recommendation 5C, which argues that to understand the progress of students and report on Australia’s education goals, governments commit to revising the Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia to ensure it collects essential data, including d) identifying and defining priority equity cohorts clearly, by replacing ‘language background other than English’ (LBOTE) with ‘English as an additional language or dialect’ (EAL/D). This recommendation is a policy lynchpin for EAL/D education at the national level, and will require collection and reporting of nationally consistent English language proficiency data based on a common English language proficiency measure.The 2027 timeline for identifying and defining the EAL/D cohort allows ample lead time to validate the English proficiency measure, support reliability of teacher assessment, and build systems’ data capabilities.
Implementation of this recommendation as part of the NSRA has value for state and territory jurisdictions as it provides a nationally comparable basis for assessment of EAL/D need, allocation of targeted resources, development of EAL/D teaching programs and tracking the English language progress of the EAL/D learner cohort. It strengthens systems’ capacity to respond to the 200,000 EAL/D learners (additional to the current 600,000) projected to enrol in schools over the next four years as a result of Australia’s increased and sustained immigration.
ACTA has a face to face meeting with ACARA on 8 February to follow up these implications, and will also lobby state and territory Ministers as appropriate. Detailed information about previous failures in EAL/D policy in the NT were used by the ACTA group to show how increased funding alone does not necessarily lead to improved outcomes for learners. Although the Expert Panel’s recommendations regarding First Nations Assistant Teachers (Recommendation 4B) identified the need for improved pay and training pathways which better recognise the prior learning of these educators, ACTA also highlighted that the overall failure to follow through on the recommendation to identify English language learners in the rest of the report provides no assurance that the agenda includes attention to supplying and equipping teachers to meet EAL/D learning needs.
The response to ACTA’s concerns was very positive and we have been invited to meet with the Departmental staff leading the negotiation of the next stage of the NSRA in mid January.