2012: a year of great adventures, and of great change.

And so another year of Educational Adventures draws to a close. This past year contained some significant milestones for me personally, as well as changes on a geographic scale to the educational landscape.

My personal milestones included;

  • Undertaking a scholarship tour under the Premier’s Teachers Scholarship programme. I spent 5 weeks in London investigating the delivery of technical training in Theatre and the Arts. This tour (which I blogged about separately on an independent blog “An Australian VET Teacher in London”) provided a lot of insight into partnerships between educational institutions and training organisations in the West End, in order to enhance delivery of my own VET entertainment courses. While it is disappointing that I do not have a class for this course in 2013, I have been in communication with a number of venues and organisations that are interested in developing supportive programmes next year and beyond.
  • Completing a Diploma of Live Production. After several years of part time study (and the interruption to study caused by the closure of Julius’ Media College in Parramatta) I finally completed this diploma at Nirimba TAFE. This is the diploma level of the Certificate 3 course that is delivered as part of the VET Entertainment package in schools.
  • Continuing my Masters in Educational Psychology. For some strange reason I chose to do a management subject this semester instead of the core psychology subjects. The end result was a mark of 83, bringing my overall average down to 84! Overall a very strong result, but if I want to graduate with an HD average, then I’ll have to get some marks in the nineties in future subjects!
  • My first year in the substantive role of Head Teacher, English. This certainly has been a year for testing my skills in management and organisation, and while I have enjoyed the challenge, I also need to raise the bar on a few aspects of my own practise. “Lead by example’ is a good goal to have, but a very hard one to consistently meet!

On a related note, my wife also completed her Masters of Arts in English Literature, which saw her own adventure of 4 years finally draw to a close after the completion of a 12,000 word dissertation on the relationship between dominant political ideologies and the feudal settings of fantasy literature produced during different points in history.

While it is encouraging to reflect on some personal successes this year, the overall landscape of state and federal education has begun a process of very rapid and significant change.

  • The NSW Govt. announced the “Local Schools, Local Decisions” policy, which revolved around the decentralisation of state education and the abrogation of many responsibilities down to a regional level, or even down to the level of individual schools. The policy has been extremely controversial, with the government arguing that it was about introducing flexibility into schools and allowing schools to better meet the needs of their students, while teacher, unions and educational observers claimed that the policy was ultimately about cutting money out of the educational budget and devolving responsibilities over staffing to principals, thus undermining collective bargaining rights of teachers. The disagreement was bitter and protracted, and while the government ultimately gave up on the majority of provisions in the policy related to staffing of schools staffing, the introduction of the policy did coincide with what I believe is the single largest reduction of non-teaching positions in the history of NSW education.  Hundreds of regional support jobs were made redundant, with whole support units in curriculum, the arts, disabilities and welfare, all cut down to, at best, a small handful of staff. Even the departments own managerial staff were not safe, with district and regional directors positions cut by half (on average). The net result was an overall cut of 1.7 billion dollars from the NSW recurrent education budget over 4 years.
  • On the heels of LSLD, the NSW Government also introduced “Every Student, Every School”, a new welfare and support policy that was almost, but not entirely, as controversial as LSLD. Government PR says that the policy is intended to provide targeted support for the individual needs of every single student in every single classroom. The way this is achieved appears to be to cut funding for support staff in schools, putting greater emphasis on the classroom teacher to cater to the needs of the students in their class. Critics of the policy say that it is another example of the government expecting schools and teachers to do more, with fewer resources. The full impacts of this policy change have yet to be played out in schools, however the end of 2012 saw a large number of support staff dismissed from their roles in schools.
  • At a federal level, the first rounds of the National Curriculum are now in action. The slow process of implementation will see the k-10 curriculum for core subjects (English, Maths, Science, History, Geography) being implemented incrementally until 2015, and the year 11-12 and k-12 creative arts, industrial arts and other syllabuses still in negotiation.

Once again, the HSC results showed public schools leading the charge of achievement. At a time when the implementation of the Gonski report has generated a lot of discussion about private schools fees, the public system is already seeing a significant migration of students from private to public, and the possible perception that the private system is continuing in its failure to give parents their money’s worth may well see a further migration in 2013.

2012 has indeed been a big year, and it looks like 2013 is going to be no less tumultuous. Many adventures lie ahead in an ever changing landscape, and I look forward to telling more tales of educational escapades in the time ahead.

Until then, a Happy New Year to you all, and may you all find something new and interesting to learn about in 2013!

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