The Directorate delivers high quality, accessible education, care and training to all children, young people and adults in the ACT so that they learn, thrive and are equipped to lead fulfilling, productive and responsible lives.
We have high expectations of ourselves, and of our students. We aim to deliver increased participation and success in education and training at every level for every student. We are setting ambitious targets so that our students are competitive with the best in the world and our education and training system is highly regarded locally, nationally and internationally.
The National Education Reform Agreement will be a key element in setting our directions for school education over the next six years. In partnership with the Australian Government, under the Agreement the ACT Government has articulated a number of significant reforms and ambitious targets to improve education outcomes for all students, regardless of background or the school they attend.
We value the role of stakeholders in shaping the future of education and training in the ACT. We will continue to find ways to enable the involvement of all stakeholders - students, parents and families, teachers, school leaders, non-government organisations, registered training organisations, education and care providers, tertiary education organisations and the community - to design and implement an integrated system for learners. We will continue to listen to feedback that our stakeholders provide about education and training needs and issues, and to incorporate this feedback into our decision making. To meet the needs from the National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform the new ACT Vocational Education and Training Administration Records System (AVETARS), was developed to support greater transparency through enhanced data and reporting.
The Directorate's new responsibility for early education and care services provides new opportunities for improved educational transitions and co-location of new and existing services.
The Directorate also recognises the new opportunities arising from the creation of the Ministry of Higher Education. The increased focus on the importance to the ACT of the higher education sector, and the linkages with school education and training, will continue to strengthen the ability of the ACT Government to ensure meaningful and successful transitions for our students. In May 2013 StudyCanberra was announced, a partnership between ACT tertiary education providers, the ACT Government and the business community to capitalise on the substantial economic and social benefits of education and training in the ACT.
The Directorate's 2014-17 Strategic Plan will outline the priorities for the work we will undertake in each of four focus areas:
- quality learning
- inspirational teaching and leadership
- high expectations, high performance
- business innovation and improvement.
Strategic and operational initiatives to be pursued in 2013-14 include:
- providing quality early childhood education and care consistent with national and local legislation and frameworks
- further developing school networks to foster collaboration between schools and sectors with a focus on identifying and sharing best practice
- recruiting, developing and retaining quality teachers in our classrooms
- implementing the Australian Curriculum
- raising standards in literacy and numeracy in all schools
- further developing provision of vocational education and training in schools to better align with student, school and employer requirements
- ensuring each school has a plan for year on year improvement, with annual plans and reports in alignment with the School Improvement Framework
- strengthening principal responsibility, delegations and accountabilities, including for the use of resources, in improving student outcomes
- providing safe, supportive and engaging schools consistent with the National Safe Schools Framework
- implementing the Disability Standards for Education to provide reasonable adjustments for students with a disability to access the curriculum
- closing the learning achievement gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and other students
- encouraging excellence and meeting the needs of high performing students
- strengthening and supporting engagement with parents and the community
- increasing qualifications and skill levels in the ACT through reforming the vocational education and training system to enhance productivity.
Likely trends and changes in the operating environment
The most significant change in the operating environment is the signing by the ACT Government of the National Education Reform Agreement. Over the next six years, the Directorate will implement the reforms outlined in the Agreement within the vision of high quality education for all students. The Agreement contains reform initiatives under the priority areas of Quality learning; Quality teaching; Empowered school leadership; Meeting student need; and Transparency and accountability – priorities that are closely aligned with the Directorate's strategic directions.
Strong population growth, greenfield developments, urban infill and renewed interest in public education will continue to increase demand on public schooling. In 2013, enrolments in ACT schools increased by 1.9 percent (1,289 students) compared with 2012. For public schools, the increase in enrolments was 2.0 percent. Population growth in the ACT continues to exceed growth nationally, with growth of 2.3 percent in the ACT in the twelve months ended 31 December 2012. This was above the national growth rate for the same period of 1.8 percent and greater than the growth rate in the ACT for the previous twelve months, of 1.8 percent.
Figure A4.1: Population growth, ACT and Australia, 2002 to 2012 (percent)
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Demographic Statistics, December 2012 (Cat. No. 3101.0)
Assessment of significant risks and issues facing the Directorate in the future
National reform agenda
The Directorate has an extensive and ambitious national reform agenda to deliver in future years. The National Education Reform Agreement for school education, the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development in the training sector, and the National Quality Framework on Early Childhood Education and Care, as well as associated national partnerships, will require significant leadership and focus over 2013-14 and beyond. Our vision for the ACT to lead the nation in educational outcomes, to enable meaningful and successful transitions and to ensure well-being for all children and young people is achievable. It will be achieved by strong leadership across the Directorate, and by ensuring we continue to have high quality staff who share our values and commitment.
Closing the gap
A continuing issue for the ACT, and for all education jurisdictions in Australia, is to lift the performance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Improving education outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is a focus of both local initiatives and the national reform agenda. Nationally, 'Closing the Gap' targets have been set in literacy and numeracy, year 12 completion and the completion of vocational education and training qualifications.
To support the outcome and attainment goals being achieved, the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students needs to be equitable with other students. In two important areas – attendance and retention – a gap in engagement remains.
Figure A4.2: Attendance rates of ACT public school students, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, by level of schooling, 2012
Source: Planning and Performance Branch
Figure A4.3: Apparent retention rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and nonAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in ACT public schools, 2007 to 2012
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Schools Australia, Table 64a
Sustaining smart schools
The Directorate has worked over a number of years to ensure that ACT public schools, and public school students, are equipped with a level of access to information and communication technology (ICT) that supports quality learning and teaching. This goal has been achieved through the provision of devices (including computers, tablets and laptops), infrastructure (for example, servers, wireless access points and display units such as interactive whiteboards) and software to all public schools.
Maintaining a current and reliable ICT infrastructure in our schools will:
- increase the number of students graduating from ACT Public Schools with relevant, contemporary ICT skills
- increase the number of users of Australian Digital Curriculum content
- increase the quantity of Australian Digital Curriculum content used across schools
- increase the number of devices in utilisation across the network to support learning and teaching
- improve student attainment in national and international ICT and 21st century skills testing.
The Directorate received funding in the 2013-14 ACT Budget to maintain and replace existing ICT infrastructure and devices. The Directorate continues to strengthen its governance of ICT through the ICT Working Group to provide greater oversight and strategic alignment of ICT to achieving business priorities.
The increased availability of external internet-based services to schools has highlighted challenges in sharing student and school data online. The Directorate has balanced user expectations for access to services with the privacy and security requirements through the provision of appropriate systems and timely advice to schools.
During 2012-13 ACT public schools moved to the initial phase of the central ICT network, SchoolsNET. SchoolsNET amalgamates the previous separate student networks and the single teacher network onto a single education network for all schools. SchoolsNET will improve the reliability and access to ICT across all schools and is the culmination of ICT investments since 2006-07. Full implementation of SchoolsNET will occur for the start of the 2014 school year.
SchoolsNET will be the largest ICT network in the ACT Government with over 40,000 users, and 18,000 devices spread over 87 locations. It will include:
- device ratios of 1:1 interactive whiteboards for all primary school classrooms K-6
- 1:6 ratio of computers to students in years kindergarten to 6
- 1:1 ratio of computers to students in years 9 to 12
- high speed fibre to all schools kindergarten to year 12
- ICT infrastructure upgrades (cabling, switches and wireless in all schools)
- a library management system for all schools
- learning management system and web conferencing
- year 12 online reporting system.
ACT and surrounding New South Wales
The ACT and NSW Governments have a close relationship as a result of unique cross-border circumstances. The physical location of the ACT in the centre of the south-eastern NSW region creates strong community interest for residents who live, work and access services, including education, on a daily basis in a cross-border setting.
Regional collaboration by the ACT and NSW Governments facilitates joint planning for sustainable regional growth, optimising future economic prospects and meeting the needs of the community.
In December 2011, the ACT and NSW Governments signed the ACT-NSW Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Regional Collaboration. The MoU strengthens collaboration between the two jurisdictions to optimise regional outcomes and service delivery to the ACT and surrounding NSW region. Closer collaboration will allow for a regional approach in the areas of health, education, transport, emergency services, justice, tourism, planning and economic development.
The ACT and NSW Governments agreed that the priority actions are integrated service planning, initially focusing on the health and education sectors.
The Directorate and the NSW Department of Education and Communities met in 2012 to discuss opportunities in relation to the MoU. With legislated responsibilities for student attendance, both jurisdictions are seeking to understand cross border movement of students and shared opportunities for student engagement. There are also efficiencies to be gained by the jurisdictions working together to improve planning for new schools and the expansion of existing schools, as well as more coordinated transport for students.
A similar engagement is underway in the provision of vocational education and training services in the ACT and the surrounding NSW region. In November 2012, Technical and Further Education (TAFE) NSW Illawarra Institute and the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) formalised their working relationship through the signing of a MoU.
The CIT/TAFE MoU covers a range of mutually beneficial activities. Collaboration in the planning of education and training includes developing new models of delivery, the identifying of training gaps and opportunities, identifying opportunities for obtaining joint funding, developing a common dialogue for the public provision of education and training to mitigate regional competitive pressures and collaborating on public relations and media opportunities.