Programme 1.3 Early learning and schools support

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National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education

The National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education supports the delivery of preschool programmes regardless of setting. The objective of the 2015 National Partnership extension is to provide universal access to quality early childhood education programmes for all children in the year before full-time school for 600 hours per year, delivered by a qualified early childhood teacher who meets National Quality Framework requirements. The agreement also has a continued focus on improved participation by vulnerable and disadvantaged children and children living in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Australian Early Development Census

The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a population measure of children’s development before their first year of full-time school. The AEDC helps governments at all levels, as well as community organisations and early childhood services, to monitor progress, consider emerging trends and inform early childhood policy and planning across education, health and community services.

The AEDC has been conducted every three years since 2009. The third collection window occurred between 4 May and 31 July 2015 and will collect data on over 290,000 of the more than 310,000 children in their first year of full-time schooling across the country to inform the Australian, state, territory and local governments, schools, and early childhood education and care providers.

Australian Government response to the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group

The Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group was established in February 2014 to provide advice on how teacher education can be improved to better prepare new teachers with the practical skills needed for the classroom. The Advisory Group's report, Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers, was released on 13 February 2015, along with the Government's response to its recommendations.

The Government has accepted most of the recommendations in the report and believes they are practical and achievable with the potential to make a real impact on the quality of teaching and student outcomes in schools.

The Government’s response addresses five key areas for improvement in initial teacher education: stronger quality assurance of teacher education courses, rigorous selection for entry to teacher education courses, improved and structured practical experience for teacher education students, robust assessment of graduates to ensure classroom readiness and national research and workforce planning capabilities.

In the 2015–16 Budget, the Government provided funding to support implementation of the response, including work towards introduction of a national literacy and numeracy test which will commence in 2015 and be implemented nationally from 2016. The Government has asked the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership to take the lead on the majority of work arising from the response.

Teach for Australia

The Teach for Australia programme was established to introduce employment-based pathways into the teaching profession and attract high-calibre graduates who may otherwise not have considered a teaching career. On completion of their two-year placement, participants are awarded a postgraduate qualification. Reflecting the Government's commitment to ongoing support for this programme, a new contract for a further three intakes of participants was signed in 2014.

Teach Next

The Teach Next programme provided an employment-based pathway into teaching for skilled and experienced professionals who were seeking a career change into the profession. The programme ceased after all participants completed in December 2014.

Grants and Awards

Grants and Awards funding is used to support a number of initiatives. In 2014–15 a total of $771,000 was provided to parent bodies: the Australian Council of State School Organisations, the Australian Parents Council and the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association, and to the Family School and Community Partnerships Bureau to support parent engagement in education and provide a conduit for parents to influence education policy.

Review of the Australian Curriculum

The Government undertook a review to evaluate the robustness, independence and balance of the Australian Curriculum in 2014. In October 2014, the Government released the review’s final report and an initial response to its recommendations. All state and territory education ministers have agreed to refer the themes outlined in the Government’s initial response to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which is developing advice for the Education Council to implement changes to address the key themes of overcrowding, rebalancing content, parent engagement, and accessibility of the curriculum, especially for students with disability.

Review of ACARA

A review of ACARA is being conducted by the department to assess the appropriateness of ACARA’s ongoing role and functions against the aims and objectives described in its charter. It will also examine ACARA’s structure, governance, delivery and processes.

The review is being conducted as required by Section 44 of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act 2008.

Improving the uptake of foreign languages

A number of measures are being implemented to improve languages education, which reflects the importance of understanding foreign languages for Australia’s economic future and social cohesion.

  • ACARA is being funded to produce curricula for Auslan, Hindi, Turkish and Classical languages, finalising the full suite of languages included in the Australian Curriculum: Languages. Publication is expected in December 2016.
  • The ELLA trial aims to determine the effectiveness of providing preschool children with early exposure to a language other than English through online learning programmes. By June 2015, three out of a total of seven apps in five languages had been launched and were being trialled with more than 1600 children across 41 preschool services.
  • Research has been undertaken by the Asia Education Foundation to investigate ways of improving foreign language education for senior secondary students.

Restoring the focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics

A workforce skilled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is critical to the nation’s innovative capacity and, as a result, the national economy. The department is implementing a number of STEM initiatives, including a $12 million package announced under the Government’s Industry, Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda. This includes Coding across the Curriculum, Mathematics by Inquiry, a trial of a Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) style school, and more summer schools for science and mathematics which focus on female, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and disadvantaged students.

Flexible Literacy in Remote Primary Schools

The Flexible Literacy in Remote Primary Schools programme supports implementation of the Direct Instruction and Explicit Direct Instruction teaching pedagogies to improve student outcomes and increase teacher skills in remote primary schools. These teaching approaches are particularly beneficial for students who are struggling to master basic literacy. Participating schools are required to have a whole-school approach to literacy, a whole-school attendance strategy and parental and community support for the programme.

Training for over 300 teachers, principals, teacher aides and coaches has been provided by Good to Great Schools Australia as part of initiating programme delivery in 33 participating schools at the start of the 2015 school year, with programme coaches making follow up visits to each school.

Parliament and Civics Education Rebate

The Parliament and Civics Education Rebate (PACER) assists students’ civics and citizenship education at national democratic, historical and cultural institutions. PACER has provided over $38 million in rebates for over 800,000 students on more than 16,000 school visits since it commenced in 2006–07. The rebate ranges from $20 to $260, depending on distance from Canberra, for students in Years 4–12. It is provided as a contribution to assist with travel costs, not to cover them in full. No eligible school has been declined access to rebates under the PACER programme.

In 2014–15, funding of $5.03 million was paid or committed to 1960 schools for 105,835 students.

Civics and citizenship education

The National Schools Constitutional Convention, National History Challenge and Simpson Prize contribute to a richer civics and citizenship education for young Australians, helping them to become active and informed citizens.

  • The National Schools Constitutional Convention brings around 120 students from state and territory conventions to Canberra each year to discuss constitutional issues. With a focus on the Magna Carta in the year of its 800th anniversary, the theme for 2015 was 'Checks and balances: do we need an Australian Bill of Rights?'
  • Almost 7000 primary and secondary school students took part in the 2014 National History Challenge. Winners attended a national presentation ceremony in Parliament House.

Victorian delegate, Alexandra de Lacy from Our Lady of Sion College, Box Hill, and Senator the Hon Scott Ryan, Parliamentary Secretary
Photo: Victorian delegate, Alexandra de Lacy from Our Lady of Sion College, Box Hill, and Senator the Hon Scott Ryan, Parliamentary Secretary

Agriculture in Education

The Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Minister for Education and Training, with students from Stradbroke School, South Australia, at the launch of Agriculture in Educationcurriculum resources on 18 May 2015
Photo: The Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Minister for Education and Training, with students from Stradbroke School, South Australia, at the launch of Agriculture in Education curriculum resources on 18 May 2015

The Agriculture in Education initiative is providing online resources to help teachers better understand food and fibre production, giving students an opportunity to understand agriculture’s contribution to the Australian economy. Over 80 high-quality digital learning resources developed through phase one of the initiative and aligned to the Australian Curriculum are freely available to schools through the Scootle website.

Helping Children with Autism - Positive Partnerships

The Positive Partnerships programme is the education component of the Helping Children with Autism package, building partnerships between schools and families to help improve the educational outcomes of students with autism spectrum disorder. As well as providing professional development for teachers and school leaders, it also offers workshops and information sessions to assist parents and carers of school-age students with autism to work with their school.

During 2014, Positive Partnerships provided parent and carer training to 2017 parents and carers across Australia. The programme piloted 16 'Get Togethers' that were workshops designed specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It also piloted a modified version of the parent/carer workshop in five culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD) in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, as well as creating a CALD resource pack. Professional development training was provided to 1161 teachers, school leaders and other school staff. In addition, 40 webinars were delivered to 324 participants across Australia as well as ongoing support provided online through the Positive Partnerships website.

National School Chaplaincy Programme

The National School Chaplaincy Programme supports the emotional wellbeing of students through the provision of pastoral care services and strategies. The programme commenced in 2015, and over 3000 schools have been selected to receive funding for the 2015 school year. The programme is funded by the Commonwealth and delivered by the states and territories through a project agreement under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations.

Under the project agreement, each state and territory is responsible for inviting all schools in their jurisdiction to apply to participate in the programme. Jurisdictions are also required to form a cross-sector panel (consisting of government, Catholic and independent school representatives) to select and prioritise schools for funding in their jurisdiction. Schools which have been prioritised for funding are eligible to receive up to $20,000 each year (or up to $24,000 if the school is in a remote or very remote location). Participation by schools and students is voluntary.

National Assessment Reform

The National Assessment Reform initiative provides funding for the development and ongoing maintenance of the platform that will deliver national assessments online, including the National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). The platform will first be used to conduct the National Assessment Program—Civics and Citizenship sample assessment in 2016, with NAPLAN assessments being available for use by schools from 2017 onwards. The Education Council has committed to all schools undertaking NAPLAN online by 2019.

Moving NAPLAN online will transform national testing, giving teachers and parents faster and more accurate information regarding student performance by tailoring individual tests to match each student's ability. As a result, NAPLAN online will provide even greater opportunities for teachers to help students develop the crucial skills of literacy and numeracy.

Performance Information

Table 3: Programme 1.3 Early Learning and Schools Support performance information
Deliverables Estimate Actual
Parliament and Civics Education Rebate
Number of schools visiting Canberra under PACER 2,155 1,960 a
Helping Children with Autism package
Number of teachers and other school staff attending professional development courses 450 1,161
Number of parents and carers attending workshops and information sessions 1,800 2,017
National School Chaplaincy Programme b
Number of schools receiving support for chaplaincy services 3,000 3,070
Early Learning Languages Australia trial
Online foreign language learning in preschool programmes trialled in 2015 Programme commenced Programme commenced with 41 services participating

a Number of schools paid or committed to by 30 June 2015. Final figure may vary slightly as schools acquit.

b Programme came into effect on 1 January 2015.

Key Performance Indicators Estimate Actual a
Universal Access to Early Childhood Education National Partnership
Percentage of all children enrolled in preschool 95% 100% b
Percentage of Indigenous children enrolled in preschool 95% 79.76% b c
Percentage of Indigenous children enrolled in preschool in remote areas 95% 86.28 % d
Percentage of children enrolled in an early childhood education programme that is available for at least 15 hours a week 95% 83.71 % b

a Actual figures are based on data derived from the 2014 National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection published by the ABS in March 2015, Preschool Education Australia, 2014 (cat. no. 4240.0).

b Data may include some children aged five years who were also counted in the National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection for 2013. Proportions are calculated using two different sources of data. As such, significant data comparability issues can emerge and in some cases result in estimates greater than 100 per cent of the population. Where this has occurred, figures have been capped for presentation purposes.

c The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population count is subject to a number of issues that limit its accuracy, including variable levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification and inaccuracies at fine levels of disaggregation.

d Data for National Indigenous Reform Agreement reporting purposes is based on population projections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples based on the 2011 Census published by the ABS 2014, Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2001 to 2026 (cat. no. 3238.0). Data excludes some children aged five years who were also counted in the National Early Childhood Education and Care Collection for 2013.

Note: Data for 2015 will be available in March 2016.

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