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National School Reform Agreement

Interim report

This interim report was released on 14 September 2022. It reviews how well national policy initiatives by the Australian, State and Territory Governments have achieved the objectives and outcomes set out in the Agreement and makes recommendations to inform the design of the next school reform agreement.

You are invited to examine the interim report and to make written submissions by Friday 21 October 2022.

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The final report is expected to be handed to the Australian Government by 31 December 2022.

Download the overview

Download the interim report

  • Key points
  • Media release
  • Contents
  • This review examines Governments’ initiatives to lift student outcomes under the National School Reform Agreement (NSRA).
    • The Commission has been asked to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of the national reform initiatives in the NSRA and to make recommendations for the design of the next agreement.
    • Public interest in schools reform has increased over the life of the NSRA, spurred in part by concerns that, despite the large increase in public funding since 2018, student outcomes have stagnated.
  • Although some initiatives have been delivered, others appear stalled.
    • Governments appear to have lost their collective commitment to delivering a national unique student identifier (USI) and the formative assessment tool.
    • Despite mounting concerns about teacher shortages, little progress seems to have been made in developing the data and evidence needed for an effective national workforce strategy.
  • Realising the ambitions of the NSRA will require Governments to resolve some thorny issues:
    • agreeing on the design and privacy protections of the USI. If parties cannot deliver a national USI, they should, at a minimum, explain why the project has failed
    • developing the national online formative assessment tool in a way that allows jurisdictions to adapt it to their specific needs and preferences (including integrating content and features from existing state-based tools)
    • developing a national model of the teacher workforce to identify future risks and guide workforce planning.
  • The next intergovernmental agreement should focus on a small number of reforms that will directly lift student outcomes. Governments should select reforms that are best delivered through a co-ordinated national approach to help sustain long-term commitment by all parties. Contenders include:
    • enabling quality teaching: Governments need to create the time, support and resources for effective teaching. Priorities could include reducing high workloads and out-of-field teaching, professional development at critical points (such as induction and support for early career teachers) and fostering best practice teaching through networks, collaboration and technology
    • making minimum standards the minimum: all jurisdictions need to find effective ways to assist the 5 to 9 per cent of students struggling to meet minimum standards
    • tailored strategies for students from each priority equity cohort. Many students in the NSRA’s priority equity cohorts and students in other cohorts (such as students in out-of-home care or with English as an additional language or dialect) face significant challenges. New approaches, developed and implemented in consultation with students, parents and communities, are needed
    • supporting wellbeing to support learning. Many children and young people suffer from poor wellbeing because of experiences in and outside their schools. Schools and teachers need more support to help students overcome these circumstances and achieve their potential.
  • Addressing these challenges will require a mix of co-ordinated national effort and flexible state-based programs tailored to individual and local needs. Jurisdictions’ need for flexibility should be recognised but tied to more transparency and accountability for results. The next agreement should be tight in its commitments and its reporting of performance, but not bind Governments to one-size-fits-all solutions.
    • The community could reasonably expect to see an improvement in student outcomes over the course of the next five years — funding will remain at all-time highs, current initiatives will have had time to mature, and a new generation of reforms will be underway.

Media requests

Michelle Cross, A/g Media Director – 0403 174 696 / 03 9653 2244 / media@pc.gov.au

Reforms needed to lift student outcomes

To lift student outcomes the Commonwealth and States and Territories need to forge a new agreement focused on driving effective change in our schools and classrooms.

Releasing its interim report reviewing the National School Reform Agreement (NSRA), the Productivity Commission said the next agreement should place greater weight on overall student wellbeing, improving equity and quality teaching.

“The NSRA was a promising start and shows the commitment of jurisdictions to work together. It has put in place some important foundational elements, such as establishing the Australian Education Research Organisation, but more still needs to be done to deliver on the ambition of the agreement,” Commissioner Natalie Siegel-Brown said.

“Our interim report proposes governments concentrate on three areas where we believe their working together will make the greatest difference.”

“While a student's wellbeing is often influenced by what is happening outside the school gates, poor wellbeing can be exacerbated by a lack of awareness on the part of teachers and school leaders,” Ms Siegel-Brown said. “Research shows wellbeing influences a student's ability to engage and learn.

“We must do more to prevent students from falling behind and help those who are struggling to catch up with their peers. Unfortunately, we persistently fall short of the ideal of an equitable education for all students. Every year, between 5 and 9 per cent of Australian students do not meet year-level expectations in either literacy or numeracy. Low educational performance needs a different approach.

“Despite commitment to addressing the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with disability and students from regional, rural and remote areas, governments are yet to demonstrate results in improving equity.

“Students’ learning needs and educational aspirations are diverse, reflecting differences in their life experiences, the education outcomes they value, their learning and wellbeing outcomes, and the nature of adjustment and supports they may require. The barriers these students encounter in engagement and inclusion must be addressed to make real progress. This extends to some cohorts of students not recognised by the Agreement, such as students in Out of Home Care.

“The most influential in-school factor that impacts student outcomes is teacher effectiveness.

“Ideas we are testing to improve teaching quality include giving teachers more time to teach. At the moment our teachers are overly burdened with low-value tasks and they spend less time teaching than their international counterparts,” Ms Siegel-Brown explained. “Reducing teacher workload would also increase the time they have to prepare for lessons and undertake professional development.

“School leaders are second only to teachers in fostering a positive learning environment. Australia needs to ensure it has a sustainable pipeline of future school leaders.

“We have an opportunity with the next agreement to drive real improvements on the ground. Getting our education system up to an A-grade will require a long-term coordinated approach while allowing for local solutions.”

The Commission is now seeking input to inform its final report. Submissions close on 21 October 2022.

To provide comment or for a full copy of Review of the National School Reform Agreement, please visit the Commission’s website: www.pc.gov.au

Media requests

Michelle Cross, A/g Media Director – 0403 174 696 / 03 9653 2244 / media@pc.gov.au

  • Preliminaries: Cover, Copyright, Opportunity for comment, Terms of reference, Disclosure of interests, Contents and Foreword
  • Overview – including key points
  • Recommendations and findings
  • 1. About this review
    • 1.1 What has this review been asked to do?
    • 1.2 Why do education outcomes matter?
    • 1.3 What has been happening to student outcomes?
    • 1.4 What factors influence student outcomes?
    • 1.5 What will be covered in this report?
  • 2. High‑level assessment of the National Policy Initiatives
    • 2.1 Have the National Policy Initiatives contributed to better outcomes?
    • 2.2 What should be the focus of the next agreement?
  • 3. Lifting outcomes for all students
    • 3.1 What does equity in schooling mean?
    • 3.2 Is schooling ensuring all students are learning the basics in literacy and numeracy?
    • 3.3 Have governments addressed the learning needs of students belonging to priority equity cohorts?
    • 3.4 What role could the next intergovernmental agreement play in addressing inequity in education?
  • 4. Student wellbeing
    • 4.1 Why focus on student wellbeing?
    • 4.2 How are governments supporting wellbeing in schools?
    • 4.3 What role could the next intergovernmental agreement play in supporting wellbeing?
  • 5. Supporting teachers
    • 5.1 Teacher effectiveness — what is it, what drives it and why does it matter
    • 5.2 Shortages undermine teacher effectiveness
    • 5.3 Reducing teacher workload pressures
    • 5.4 Fostering and drawing on teaching expertise
    • 5.5 Evidence‑based practices help drive better student outcomes
  • 6. School leadership
    • 6.1 Why is school leadership important?
    • 6.2 What are the emerging pressures on school leaders?
    • 6.3 Is the pipeline of future leaders sustainable?
    • 6.4 What role could the next agreement play in supporting the pipeline of leaders?
  • 7. The National Measurement Framework
    • 7.1 Assessing NSRA performance reporting arrangements
    • 7.2 Improvements to national performance reporting on schooling
  • A Public Consultation
  • B Trends in student outcomes
  • C National Policy Initiatives: background and assessments
  • D Estimates of teacher effectiveness
  • Abbreviations
  • References

Printed copies

Printed copies of this report can be purchased from Canprint Communications.

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