No.21-14, 12 November 2014 | Download as PDF

Reclaim the Profession: Halt further implementation of new learning areas in the Australian Curriculum

At its meeting on Monday 10 November, QTU Executive determined to conduct a ballot for the QTU to issue a directive to halt the implementation of any new learning areas within the Australian Curriculum. This followed lengthy discussions of the impact of the implementation of the Australian Curriculum on workload at State Council on 1 November 2014.

QTU Executive made this decision in light of the current uncertainty surrounding the Australian Curriculum, growing concerns regarding teacher workload, an overcrowding of the curriculum and the need to consolidate the implementation of Phase 1 (English, Maths, Science and History) in Queensland schools.

Consequently, QTU members will be asked to vote on the following:

That in the absence of satisfactory commitments from the Minister of Education to halt the further implementation (including familiarisation) of the Australian Curriculum, the QTU issue a directive to all members to cease immediately any further implementation of any new learning areas within the Australian Curriculum.

The ballot will be conducted from Wednesday 12 November 2014 and close on Wednesday 3 December 2014. At the close of the ballot, should the appropriate commitments not be received from the Minister and the ballot is carried, the QTU will issue the directive to all members.

The ballot question refers to the halting of implementation of any new curriculum areas. It is important to note that in this instance “implementation” can be understood to mean familiarisation, planning, teaching and/or reporting on any new learning areas.

While conducting the ballot, the QTU will be seeking commitments from the Minister that he will immediately halt the implementation (including familiarisation) of any new learning areas for the Australian Curriculum.

Teacher workload

Members identified both workload and the implementation of the Australian Curriculum as key bargaining priorities in the ballot conducted last term. Despite efforts made by the QTU to negotiate a reasonable implementation timeline with the department, schools and members continue to be placed under pressure to be early adopters of the Australian Curriculum.

The QTU lobbied hard for 2015 to be a familiarisation year, due to the workload associated with the move of year 7 students to secondary schools. Consequently, the department recommends that in 2015:

  1. no more than two new P–10 learning areas are implemented simultaneously by any one teacher (this may involve more than two new subjects within a learning area) 
  2. principals should be mindful of school capacity and teacher workload when deciding on familiarisation time for Health and Physical Education, The Arts and Technologies. 

However, despite these recommendations it appears that pressure continues to be placed on schools to implement Phase 2 and 3 subjects of the Australian Curriculum in 2015. The subjects in Phase 2 and 3 of the Australian Curriculum include:

  • P-10 The Arts 
  • Economics and Business
  • Civics and Citizenship
  • Geography
  • Health and Physical Education
  • Technologies

Members have clearly articulated that, where they are already required to implement and modify programs to accommodate the four Phase 1 learning areas, they need time to consolidate the work that has been occurring before proceeding with either the familiarisation or implementation of new learning areas.

Additionally, the introduction of new learning areas adds to the overcrowding of the curriculum. Many schools are engaging in five week data cycles, and teachers report that in order to complete the required collation of data within a five week unit, the curriculum needs to be compressed. Introducing further learning areas that will require similar adjustment will result in further overcrowding of the curriculum, particularly for primary and special school teachers.

The government needs to remember that when introducing a new curriculum, all teachers in Queensland need time to plan and develop resources. The QTU recognises that the department provides a resource bank in the form of C2C, however these support materials also need to be modified to meet the learning needs of students in most schools. Additionally, while secondary schools may have teachers that specialise in one or two curriculum areas, the continued introduction of new learning areas especially impacts on the workload of primary and special school teachers who deliver all learning areas (with the exception of the specialist areas of LOTE, Music and PE) and teachers in rural and remote schools who are required to deliver across the junior/secondary curriculum.

Uncertainty surrounding the Australian Curriculum

The QTU has been approached by members seeking its position in relation to the Donnelly/Wiltshire Review of the National Curriculum. Currently, neither the QTU nor the Australian Education Union (AEU) has any formal position in relation to the review.

While members may be interested in discussing the review recommendations, it should be noted that the reviewers could not agree on the preferred model for the future. There should be no changes to curriculum offerings in schools for 2015 on the basis of either of these models until such time as there has been formal advice received from the Department of Education and the QCAA.

The QTU has written to the Minister for Education to affirm that we are committed to working in partnership with the government to ensure that any changes to future curriculum implementation are timely, manageable, sufficiently resourced, and the subject of consultation with key stakeholders. However, the government has not yet issued a response to the review.

Strong ballot return vital

Members expressed through branch meetings, workplace meetings and the identification of bargaining priorities last term that workload and the implementation of the Australian Curriculum are significant issues. Consequently, following lengthy debate at State Council on 1 November and QTU Executive on 10 November, it was determined that the only way to address these issues was to cease any further implementation of new areas of the Australian Curriculum.

It is important that as many members as possible participate in this ballot. In order for the government to reconsider the early adoption of Phase 2 and 3 of the Australian Curriculum, members need to send a clear message that, in the best interest of students and teachers, the pace needs to be slowed.

This will afford schools and members the time to consolidate the implementation of those subjects in Phase 1 of the Australian Curriculum – Maths, English, Science and History – and provide time for the consideration of the recommendations from the Review of the Australian Curriculum. Consequently, halting the implementation of any new areas of the Australian Curriculum should go some way to addressing some workload concerns raised by members.

Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary,Queensland Teachers' Union,  Milton,Q.4064