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Director-General’s Reflection

Photo of the Director-General, Natalie Howson

I am pleased to present this report on the activities and achievements of the ACT Education Directorate for the financial year 2015-16. Having been appointed Director-General on 27 June 2016, it is fitting that I first recognise the outstanding contribution of my predecessor, Diane Joseph, and her talented team in the Directorate and in schools throughout the ACT.

Since I started my role I have been impressed by the work our people are doing, and I am proud of the children and young people I have met on my visits to schools. There is so much to celebrate and also much more we can do to ensure the realisation of our vision, expressed in our 2014-17 Strategic Plan - Education Capital: Leading the Nation, that every child, young person and adult in the ACT will benefit from a high quality, accessible education, childcare and training system. We want the children and young people attending ACT Public Schools to attain the best possible start in their lives. I know this ambition exists across the government and non-government sectors and that we enjoy a collaborative education approach with all our stakeholders.

The 2015 - 16 reporting period reflects a number of significant beginnings for education in the ACT, as well as ongoing achievements in areas of our traditional strengths.

The early years of development for children are critical to their outcomes later in life. Universal access to preschool prepares our children well for school. Our regulatory role under the Education and Care Services National Law includes the assessment and rating of services against the National Quality Standard, along with an annual audit program. In 2016, the Directorate commenced a review of the delivery of early childhood education and care services in the ACT. The review focus was on the cost of and access to services, and on the qualifications of workers in the sector.

The five strategies through which we set out to achieve our vision are:

  1. Quality learning - the ACT has a tradition of high levels of achievement in student performance in both literacy and numeracy. These standards have plateaued in recent years and lifting performance in the future will depend on the systematic approach to ensuring highly effective teachers and the consistent delivery of evidence based teaching practices;
  2. Inspirational teaching and leadership - inspirational teaching begins with inspired teachers. Our focus is on the quality of our teacher recruits, the strength of our teacher coaching and mentoring, and on the support we provide to our school leaders;
  3. High expectations and high performance - our schools are for all, and with that comes high expectations for all and the implementation of practices to ensure that we meet the learning needs of every student;
  4. Connecting with families and the community - schools and the communities they are embedded in are indivisible. As a part of the community schools need to be accessible and welcoming partners to the families that trust us to work with their children and young people;
  5. Business innovation and improvement - the speed with which communities in the ACT are adopting technology and new processes in their everyday lives puts the onus on us to ensure that our business systems match progress elsewhere, contribute to the effectiveness of teachers and other staff, and to the experience of children and young people in our schools and their families.

This report highlights many achievements relevant to these five strategies and presents available performance data.

We launched our third Reconciliation Action Plan in May 2016, which has a central purpose of engaging all employees in the creation of an organisational culture, enriched by the diversity and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, strengths and cultures through our common values.

Responsibility for vocational education and training was transferred to the Economic Development Directorate on 22 January 2016. The change in administrative arrangements recognises the close relationship between vocational training and the needs of the ACT economy, and we look forward to maintaining our strong working relationships with this important part of the ACT education system.

This year has been important for celebrating our successes, understanding our strengths and defining how we will address our challenges. One of those challenges is that student outcomes measured using National Assessment Tools have plateaued and yet the performances of students in other jurisdictions are demonstrating gains. While the performances of our students remain amongst the best in the country, it is important to examine why we are not seeing the gains other jurisdictions are experiencing.

Looking forward in 2016-17, one immediate priority will be to support the new government after the upcoming elections in mid-October to focus on improving outcomes for our students. We will also continue working towards greater collaboration across the ACT Government to ensure individuals and families have the capability to fully participate in a strong, healthy, safe, and inclusive community.

I look forward to strengthening our partnership with our early childhood, vocational education and school communities and all those organisations that work tirelessly to ensure the Education Directorate offers quality education for all our children and young people.

In conclusion, our achievements are due to the dedication and commitment of our teachers, school leaders, principals, administration and support personnel, as well as the policy, program, specialist, and finance and administration officers of the Directorate. I would like to thank and acknowledge all of the people who make the Education Directorate so successful.

Natalie Howson

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