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Schools Need a Long-Term View

Opinion article published in The Courier-Mail, 16 November 2017

TOMORROW more than 50,000 Year 12s graduate. These young people have seen more versions of the iPhone than state elections during their short lives.

Change is a constant companion for these members of the iGeneration and will be for life, with predictions they will face 17 job changes and five careers.

If this is the future for today’s graduates, what will it look like for the youngest Prep students when they graduate in 2029?

Disappointingly, education is yet to feature prominently in the state election campaign.

There have been some positive announcements with respect to future state schools and planning.
However, no party has yet put forward a long-term comprehensive vision for education that impacts all schools, teachers, students and families.

This is particularly concerning given that Queenslanders can now cast their vote at pre-polling booths across the state.

Decisions governments make about education today matter even more tomorrow. A long-term view is needed when measuring impacts on student outcomes. Moving state and national results, even incrementally, takes sustained and ongoing effort. Education policies take time to develop, trial and implement.

It took several years to enact major statewide reforms such as Queensland’s “learning or earning” laws, the Prep year and moving Year 7 to high school. Currently, work is occurring to prepare for the biggest changes to senior assessment and tertiary entrance in more than 40 years, but the first graduates of the new system won’t finish Year 12 until 2020.

When these extended time frames are considered against heightened public expectation and political appetite for immediate results, the challenge for meaningful education reform becomes apparent.

It is clear Queensland has recorded significant improvements across a range of key indicators. Queensland has been the biggest improver in NAPLAN since testing began, particularly across Years 3 and 5. Kindergarten participation has jumped from 29 per cent to more than 95 per cent since 2008. More students are being retained between years 10 and 12, rising from 81 per cent in 2011 to 87 per cent in 2016. In 2017 more than 39 per cent of Year 12s who graduated in 2016 were studying a bachelor degree at university six months after finishing school.

There has also been an increasing trend towards nationalisation of education through federal funding interventions and initiatives such as the Australian Curriculum and national teacher standards and performance accreditation.

While national consistency and agreed benchmarks are important, there is still ample opportunity for state-based reform ideas. There are stunning examples of excellent teaching, inspired leadership and outcomesdriven programs at work in Queensland schools.

Our state can be proud of the gains made to date, but students today and those starting their education tomorrow deserve the ideas, attention and investment of their next state government.

The Productivity Commission report Shifting the Dial; 5 year productivity review stated that states and territories had “the greatest” policy responsibility to enact change.

Queensland is poised for the next major education reform agenda. Research has already confirmed the key planks need to include quality teaching, empowered autonomous school leadership and evidence-based initiatives tailored to Queensland schools and their students.

Queensland has strong foundations and a talented education workforce on which to build. Independent schools look forward to working in partnership with the next Queensland government, and the state and Catholic schooling sectors on transforming education for the future.

A copy of The Courier-Mail article can be found here.

David Robertson is the Executive Director of Independent Schools Queensland

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