‘We need excellence and equity’: Teachers and parents reveal what Australian schools need most

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Teacher workloads have been identified as the biggest barrier to lifting student outcomes in a national survey, which will help inform a review into making the Australian education system fairer.

The survey was tabled at the first meeting of the National School Reform Agreement Ministerial Reference Group, made up of teachers, principals, students and key education stakeholders in Canberra on Friday morning.

Nearly three-quarters of teachers who responded to the survey said their workload was a major barrier in their jobs. Credit: iStock

Of the almost 25,000 educators, parents, guardians and students who responded to the survey, 74 per cent said teacher workloads needed to be addressed.

The survey also revealed only two in five teachers agreed their school could easily attract staff, with government schools and schools in regional areas reporting particular concern.

Classroom disruption was highlighted as a barrier by 35 per cent of parents, while 41 per cent of students wanted schools to address their individual needs and 62 per cent of teachers said support to help students with complex and diverse needs would make a difference.

Despite the challenges, 78 per cent of students said teachers were still providing them with the encouragement they needed, and 69 per cent said school made them feel welcome.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the union was calling for all public schools to be fully funded by 2028 to lift the one-on-one support children receive in the classroom and give teachers the time and resources to meet the needs of every child.

“Right now, 98 per cent of public schools are funded below the Schooling Resource Standard, which is the minimum amount governments have agreed is required to meet the needs of all students,” she said.

“The underfunding of public schools means one in every 10 public school students is effectively not funded.

“Funding them will change lives. It will enable schools to provide more one-on-one support for students, provide small group tutoring to those at risk of falling behind, give teachers more support in the classroom and more time to prepare high-quality lessons.”

She said unsustainable workloads were leading to a growing exodus of teachers from schools and making it harder for teachers to meet the growing and diverse needs of their students.

Funding for public education was “an investment in our national prosperity.”

“When we get it right, we can make our education system more equitable and break the unacceptable link between disadvantage and poor outcomes in education,” she said.

“We need excellence and equity in our education system and that can only be achieved when all public schools are resourced to the Schooling Resource Standard.”

Education Minister Jason Clare said the federal government was calling on individuals and organisations to have their say on what reforms are needed to build a better and fairer education system.

“We are committed to working with state and territory governments to get every school on a path to 100 per cent of its fair funding level,” he said.

“Funding is critical, but so is what it does. That’s why we want to hear what practical reforms are needed to help students who fall behind and help more students finish high school.”

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