2 May 2024

Literacy and numeracy findings a 'game changer' for ACT public schools

| Ian Bushnell
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Liane Joubert, Yvette Berry and Angela Burroughs at the Legislative Assembly.

ACT Council of P&C Associations president Liane Joubert, Education Minister Yvette Berry and AEU ACT president Angela Burroughs at the Legislative Assembly. ACT public schools face a fundamental shift in coming years. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The teachers union has called it a game changer and parents finally feel heard.

The Final Report of the Literacy and Numeracy Education Expert Panel has been universally welcomed. Education Minister Yvette Berry accepted all eight recommendations in principle and promised funding for their implementation over four years from the start of term in 2025.

The panel has recommended a greater focus on explicit instruction, especially in the early years, more testing to prevent students being left behind and greater consistency across all ACT public schools.

Ms Berry said a fuller government response would come in June but the directorate would start planning with school leaders for a shift from the current autonomous setup to a centralised system delivering a consistent curriculum approach across the ACT.

She said families would start to see some changes in the classroom from day one. But some schools were already adopting the panel’s recommendations and these would be models for others more in need of change.

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She rejected suggestions the government could have acted sooner given concerns about sliding ACT public school performance going back more than decade.

Ms Berry said she had always followed the expert advice and that had shifted in recent years.

Australian Education Union ACT branch president Angela Burroughs said teachers would embrace the panel’s findings, particularly the recommendation for the centralised development of curriculum materials and programs.

Ms Burroughs said this would relieve teachers of unnecessary work that was contributing to burnout and give them back their weekends.

“It will radically change the enjoyment of teaching by freeing up teachers to do what they do best, which is to adapt materials to suit their kids and to make sure they’re providing excellent learning experiences that the students find engaging,” she said.

Ms Burroughs said the recommendations about explicit instruction would be of no surprise to teachers, some of whom deployed it more than others, but they would provide a tighter framework for them.

“What this does do is provide more boundaries in terms of what a learning sequence will look like,” she said. “And the thing I’m really excited about in this report is the commitment to provide sample scope and sequence documents for our teachers and sample units of work.”

But Ms Burroughs said teachers would need support through the implementation stage, and the staffing issue also needed to be addressed.

“The key to this is providing the centralised support for those teachers who need to change their practice and it’s not going to be everyone,” she said.

ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations president Liane Joubert said better late than never was not a term she would use but the council was excited that the struggle of parents and students to be seen and heard had borne fruit.

Ms Joubert said the implementation of the panel’s recommendations would make a real difference for families.

“Some of the parents in the ACT have told us how their children have really struggled to learn to read and they’ve had to make use of other supports such as tutors to learn this foundational skill,” she said.

“We’re hopeful that with the implementation of the recommendations, this will no longer be needed.”

Ms Joubert said parents had told the council that they wanted one educational system instead of 91 individual schools across the ACT.

“Parents would like to be able to send their children to the local public schools without feeling like they’ve either won or lost their postcode lottery,” she said.

“Consistent assessment is also welcomed and we’re hopeful those students who are currently struggling will be able to be identified and some targeted support provided, and no student left behind throughout the implementation of the recommendations.”

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The University of Canberra (UC), where many of the Territory’s teachers are trained, also backed the panel’s recommendations.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Professor Michelle Lincoln, welcomed the focus on the use of evidence-based teaching practices, saying these findings aligned with UC’s Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programs.

“Our units on teaching approaches around literacy and numeracy, and the use of multi-tiered support, are strongly backed by evidence. Our graduates will be well placed to put the recommendations of the report into practice,” she said.

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William Newby8:32 pm 06 May 24

“Game changer” probably the most overused comment on social media these days. How do we find ourselves needing a ‘game changing review’ on providing basic education to our children? Stop all the themes and rubbish, hold children (and parents accountable), stop all the rubbish. Pay teachers more than or the same as our garbos and bus drivers and we might just get more of them.
Yvette Berry was not totally honest with schools and shut downs, Calwell High, I can’t trust her! Will lie through her teeth to make it in again this October.

I think after the next election Andrew Barr needs to do a serious reshuffle and put someone else into the Education portfolio. I have very little confidence in Yvette Berry.

Ms Berry has been in the Education portfolio for nearly 10 years and took her eyes off the ball many years ago. Her breaking down and crying in the Assembly apologising to parents because she was unaware of bullying in our schools was unforgivable. It was the final straw for me. Some of the disasters Ms Berry has overseen and the serious decline in student performance in ACT public schools over the past 10 years are reprehensible. But I guess that is what you get when you have such an ineffective opposition!

Katy Gallagher and Andrew Barr would never have overseen the disasters Ms Berry has been responsible for when they were in the role!

More male teachers would surely help. You don’t see the government doing anything about this. Some diversity is very much required in the education sector.

Having a quota would seem to be an obvious solution. It seems to be a popular solution that is claimed to work in other industries.

pink little birdie5:26 pm 07 May 24

yes however they also need to have a specific teaching degree. Of which there are already several scholarships for men to study teaching.

The necessity for phonics teaching has been known and scientifically proven for decades, so I don’t know which ‘experts’ Yvette Berry consulted if she believes expert advice has shifted in recent years.

Perhaps she consulted the type of ‘expert’ they paid millions of dollars to at CIT and whose ‘work’ is now under investigation? These MLAs need to get scientific advice, not marketing gurus selling themselves.

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