NSW school overhaul to ‘declutter’ the curriculum

The review is expected to take about 18 months.

The review is expected to take about 18 months. Photo: Getty

The entire New South Wales school curriculum will be “decluttered” under the first comprehensive review in 29 years.

It is expected to lead to a greater focus on Australian history and literature, as well as core subjects English, maths and science.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Education Minister Rob Stokes announced the review on Sunday after last month’s Gonski report found curriculums across the country had failed a generation of students.

Mr Stokes said the NSW review would implement the findings of the report. It’s expected to take about 18 months.

“This is a once in a generation chance to examine, declutter, and improve the NSW curriculum to make it simpler to understand and teach.”

It will also examine the role of new technologies and teaching methods.

“The world has changed rapidly since the last comprehensive review in 1989 and we must ensure the curriculum is as strong as it can be,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“We want to ensure our students have every opportunity with the skills needed for the jobs of the future.”

The review would draw on the expertise of teachers, Mr Stokes said.

nsw school curriculum review

The education minister and premier are pictured earlier this year. Photo: AAP

Geoff Masters, CEO of the Australian Council for Educational Research, will lead the NSW review.

The Gonski report, commissioned by the federal government, called for a greater focus on literacy and numeracy in early education and an urgent inquiry into the teaching and assessment of year 11 and 12 students.

It also recommended ensuring every student makes a year’s progress every year.

The review panel recommended moving “from a year-based curriculum to a curriculum expressed as learning progressions independent of year or age.”

It said this should be the case for literacy and numeracy in primary school to ensure “the core foundations for learning are developed by all children by the age of eight.”

Prof Masters said the recommendation would be “a major change in our approach to schooling.”

“But it has the potential to support teachers’ current efforts to establish where individuals are in their learning, to meet students’ differing learning needs and to ensure that every student is appropriately challenged. On balance, it may be the change we need to lift performance in schools,” he explained in a column for Teacher Magazine last week.

“Instead of packing the curriculum into year levels, wherever possible the curriculum would be presented as a sequence of increasing proficiency levels in a subject.”

The NSW review could consider, for example, whether students who have achieved expectations for the year’s curriculum should be able to continue progressing in their learning, rather than be stalled.

Labor’s shadow education minister, Jihad Dib, said it was about time the state government considered curriculum reform.

Mr Dib, a former high school principal, said the review would have little impact unless it involved and supported teachers.

“The Berejiklian government has had opportunities many times over the last eight years to do something meaningful for schools – and did nothing more than patchwork tinkering with the syllabus,” he said on Sunday.

“The NSW government has been rolling out changes to the syllabus regularly – without any clear idea of what is actually needed.”

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham welcomed the move “to axe the extraneous” and “ensure every school subject focuses on its core content”.

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