Minister acknowledges children are being left behind in their educational journey

February 2023

Minister Jason Clare has acknowledged that children are being left behind in their educational journey, and that more students are disengaged from their studies than ever before.

ACSSO has been asked to contribute to inquiries into school refusal, as the number of students who won’t, or can’t, attend school are also increasing.

There are a myriad of reasons behind each of these three issues, but undeniably, the one which remains constant is the lack of family engagement practices within schools. There are over five decades of research and evidence which show that true family engagement reduces or erases issues of absenteeism and school refusal, and increases social, wellbeing, behavioural, and academic outcomes for students. Which in turn leads to a happier teaching environment, which would help alleviate the teacher shortage issue all schools are currently facing. Therefore, we feel it is imperative that the Federal Department consults with ACSSO when determining what is needed to immediately improve the educational experience and outcomes for all students attending our nation’s government schools. Particularly those who are currently falling behind their peers.

More inquiries which do not address this area are bound to miss the mark – as have so many strategies of the past.

Engaging in a partnership with families is not difficult, and can easily be embedded into a school’s everyday practices with minimal effort. But the results and changes it will bring are significant. Knowing families allows teachers to better interact with, and engage, their students. And having the support and respect of teachers allows parents to better support the school, and their child’s educational outcomes.

Minister Clare recently said that ten years ago the difference in the reading level of a child from a poor family, and a child from a wealthy family was 1 year in primary school. It’s now two. And it is only getting worse.

The Gonski report findings were based on statistics such as these, and had the potential to eradicate that difference. Instead, governments kept throwing money into the wrong places, taking advice from the wrong people, and refusing to implement the equity funding model recommended by the Review. So it is no surprise at all that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are falling further behind, with little indication that the situation is likely to improve anytime soon.

As the Minister looks to set the strategies of the next National School Reform Agreement, we implore him to consult with ALL the stakeholders in this space: school leaders, teachers, support staff, students and parents. Each of these stakeholders bring different experiences and knowledge to the table, and are all equally valuable. To leave any group out will be to the detriment of the Agreement, and will likely have the Productivity Commission again saying the Agreement hasn’t had any real effect, and is still moving too slowly. Government cannot keep failing our children.

Another area attracting a lot of media attention right now is the cost of schooling. Even within the government school sector, costs vary greatly. It is our belief that a quality education at a government schools should be accessible to everyone, and provided without cost to families. ACSSO is currently conducting a survey of parents about the costs of sending their children back to school this year, and we would appreciate you spending a few minutes completing the survey so that we have statistics at hand when meeting with the Minister and Department

Sharron Healy
February 2023





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