The 2012-13 year has been a significant period for education and training in the ACT, and for Australia. In May 2013 the ACT Government signed the National Education Reform Agreement with the Australian Government. The agreement incorporates the National Plan for School Improvement and facilitates the implementation of national and local initiatives to improve educational outcomes for children and young people.
In addition to this important milestone for school education, the ACT continues to work with the Australian Government in a number of key reform areas covering early childhood education (the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access and the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care), teacher quality (the National Partnership Agreement on Improving Teacher Quality) and vocational education and training (the National Partnership on Skills Reform). Our progress in implementing reform in early childhood education and care, schools and vocational education and training is outlined in this Annual Report 2012-13.
In moving forward with our important reform agenda, I will shortly be releasing our new strategic plan. The plan will outline our vision for the next four years, and the strategies to ensure that the ACT leads the nation in educational achievement and outcomes for our children and young people.
Following the ACT election in 2012, there was a change in ministerial arrangements with the appointment of Ms Joy Burch MLA as Minister for Education and Training, replacing Dr Chris Bourke MLA. I would like to thank Dr Bourke for his support and leadership in the education and training portfolio. Minister Burch brings a wealth of experience to the education and training portfolio and her experiences in the community services portfolio will serve to strengthen our existing relationships with other government agencies to deliver quality education and support programs to the ACT community.
At the same time, the ACT Government established a new ministerial portfolio, for Higher Education. It is led by ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA. The new ministry reflects the importance of higher education to the ACT economy and for regional development.
In 2013 enrolments at ACT public schools grew. In February 2013, there were 40,879 students enrolled in 86 schools. There were 30,068 students in vocational education and training (VET) programs. It was pleasing to see a growing and vibrant education and training system, and one that continues to provide support in a wide variety of ways.
ACT students continued to be among the highest performing students in Australia, with mean scores placing our students top or equal top across 16 of the 20 areas tested in the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). Students in the ACT continued to excel in reading as the highest performing jurisdiction in Australia – a position we have held every year since 2008. Participation in assessment programs including the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) showed that our students continued to perform well in relation to other Australian and international students.
The ongoing support and encouragement for high performing students throughout the reporting period saw achievements in a range of areas, including science and languages, with students from our schools competing against other Australian students as well as against students from the Asian and South Pacific regions.
Throughout 2012-13 the Directorate continued implementation of strategies to support all students, particularly those students from low socio-economic and English as a second language or dialect backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and students with a disability. Strong relationships with parents and carers and other members of school communities through workshops and networks contributed to sharing of information and the development of responses for the children and young people in our schools.
The establishment in August 2012 of the Minister's Student Congress provided opportunities for students to network and develop their leadership skills. The overall aim of the Congress is to give students a voice in their education and to provide their point of view directly to the Minister. The Congress had its second meeting in May 2013 and has taken on the role of acting as a student reference group for major initiatives affecting ACT public schools.
In 2012, the Directorate commenced the first year of implementation of the teaching staff Enterprise Agreement. Under this agreement, classroom teachers in their first year of teaching had reduced teaching hours to allow for the provision of enhanced coaching and mentoring support. In 2013, the Directorate successfully completed the public service Enterprise Agreement 2011-2013 which covered all Directorate staff other than teachers.
The work commenced in the 2011-12 period of empowering local schools and continued throughout 2012-13. Empowerment is about further enabling principals to make informed decisions about the best use of available resources, support and infrastructure that will deliver the best outcomes for students. Ongoing work will continue in this area in 2013-14.
I would like to thank the staff of the Directorate, in our schools and central office for their innovation and hard work throughout 2012-13; evidenced by significant achievements during the year. I would also like to thank our Ministers – Joy Burch MLA, Chris Bourke MLA and Chief Minister Katy Gallagher MLA, for their leadership and vision.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge all our stakeholders, including students, families and carers, registered training organisations, education and care providers, other government agencies and higher education providers for the open and collaborative way in which they have worked with us in 2012-13 to ensure the best outcomes for our children and young people.