Schools Changing curriculum is workload

There was once a time when teachers and school leaders were expected by the Department to engage with their school community to discuss the curriculum – one that directly met the needs of their students – but were not allowed to choose the colour of the carpet in their schools. Since the introduction of the Victorian Curriculum Standards Framework in 1995, and every version of the state curriculum since, the opposite has increasingly been the case.

Fast forward to April 2022, when a revised Australian Curriculum was endorsed by education ministers nationwide, with the profession barely involved. A national curriculum was first adopted in 2010, with the development of the latest version (the ninth) used as a political plaything by culture-warring Liberal ministers Alan Tudge and Stuart Roberts. Victoria had advocated for changes, particularly regarding Mathematics, and to avoid the marginalisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures.

What we are expected to teach, and how and when we teach it, are questions that we rightly expect meaningful engagement on. Instead, we are too often served up changes within timeframes that suit politicians, not the profession or our students.  

Keeping teachers out of key discussions about curriculum changes only serves to undermine the profession’s status and professional autonomy. If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu, as they say – and this has led to some leaving the profession. What we are expected to teach, and how and when we teach it, are questions that we rightly expect meaningful engagement on. Instead, we are too often served up changes within timeframes that suit politicians, not the profession or our students.  

The workload impacts of curriculum change are significant, even when minor changes are required. The current revision of the Victorian Curriculum, in light of national reforms, is an opportunity to manage this impact in the interests of the profession and in the context of workload strain caused by teacher shortages.

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority is currently co-ordinating 26 panels made up of 400 practicing teachers, academics and researchers to provide feedback on revisions to content that would align it to the Australian Curriculum. Their focus includes the balance between skills and knowledge in problem solving in Mathematics; teaching phonics in F-2; and the teaching of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures.  

Last year, the AEU Joint Primary and Secondary Council called for the Andrews government and the Department to ensure that the implementation of any changes be staged in a way that recognises the significant workloads of teachers, and that they are provided with the resources they need. Once proposed changes are finalised and then published, it would be unreasonable for the Department to expect implementation in 2024 without enough time and resources being made available.

And for schools struggling with teacher shortages, that timeframe may not be possible at all.

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