Secretary’s overview

The 2014–15 year saw the formation of the new Department of Education and Training, with a vision to provide opportunity through learning, and a strong focus on building jobs and opportunities through education, skills and training.

The department is responsible for national policies and programmes that help Australians access quality early learning, school education, higher education, vocational education and training, and international education and research.

We play a key role in delivering a lifetime of learning for all Australians. Our department helps to build a stronger more productive economy and stronger communities, offering education and training opportunities that lead to a more equitable society.

The department supported the Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, the Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon Scott Ryan in their delivery of the Government’s education and training agenda.

In 2014–15 we achieved strongly against our four goals:

Support quality early learning and schooling

Following broad consultation, the department assisted in the preparation of the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning, the most comprehensive review of the child care system in a quarter of a century. This underpinned the later policy development for the Government’s landmark Child Care Assistance Package, announced in the 2015–16 Budget.

The department provided young children with more learning opportunities, through access to 600 hours of quality early childhood education in the year before they enter full time schooling.

Under the Students First agenda, policies and programmes were implemented to address the four areas that make a difference to student outcomes in schools: high-quality teaching; parent engagement in a child’s learning; greater autonomy for schools; and a strong national curriculum.

Our department helped deliver the Government’s response to the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers, including a focus on improving initial teacher education and supporting teacher graduates to be ‘classroom ready’.

We also delivered initiatives to strengthen the Australian Curriculum, with a particular focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to ensure all students have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed and compete in a global market.

Excel through knowledge

In higher education, we worked on initiatives to progress the Government’s higher education reform agenda to enhance competition, improve quality and expand opportunity and choice for all students.

This included a focus on making sure Australia’s education system is world-class and ready to harness the many opportunities offered by international education and links. The Government’s Draft National Strategy for International Education provided a focus for this work.

In August 2015, preliminary figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that Australia’s international education services sector had reached a record high of $18.1 billion in 2014–15. This reflects just why international education has been placed at the heart of the nation’s future prosperity as part of the Draft National Strategy for International Education.

We also achieved much in the research space in 2014–15. In particular, we supported the Government’s vision to translate our research success into an economic boost, as part of the Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research initiative. We also continued to encourage world-class research collaboration through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).

Build skills and capability

The department helped deliver an ambitious agenda to reform vocational education and training (VET) to get the best results for students, and for Australian businesses looking for skilled workers.

This included a new training package development model, which is expected to be introduced from 2016, to make sure training keeps up to pace with the needs of modern businesses and encourages competition and excellence in training providers, giving students more choice.

We also helped deliver new measures to protect students from unscrupulous training providers—with new standards that ensure providers are responsible for the quality of services delivered by third parties, and support for the Australian Skills Quality Authority to regulate the sector and secure the quality and integrity of our training system.

Enable business areas

During 2014–15, our people have continued to be dedicated to achieving our goals. We also offered opportunities for our people to build their knowledge and capabilities through learning and development, and internal and external mobility opportunities. Our mobility programme was particularly successful, with many of our people taking the chance to work in other areas, to broaden their skills and to bring their skills to other teams.

The 2014–15 our department went through some machinery of government changes, which meant we said a fond farewell to our childcare people, who moved to the Department of Social Services, while we welcomed new people to our department when training was added to our education responsibilities. I am so pleased with how everyone has come together to deliver on our goal of creating opportunity through learning. We also continued to build on our strong working relationship with the Shared Services Centre to deliver many key services and corporate functions efficiently.

Another important focus in our department is making sure Indigenous business is everyone’s business. We continued to deliver on this commitment, developing and delivering education policies and programmes by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, respecting their cultures and building the cultural capability of our people.

Our Reconciliation Action Plan stands as a formal commitment and call to action for our people to further reconciliation and improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Our Indigenous Leader, Kevin Brahim, also continued to work throughout 2014–15 to ensure our department is regarded as an employer of choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and that the expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees is supported and valued in all departmental business.

I thank everyone for their ongoing efforts to continue to create opportunity through learning and look forward to working with all Education and Training people in 2015–16.

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