EDUCATION AMENDMENT (RECORD OF SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT) BILL 2012
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Dr GEOFF LEE
(Parramatta) [4.09 p.m.]: It is a pleasure to support the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012. At the outset I inform the House that the views I express are my personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Liberal-Nationals Government. Earlier I referred to the importance of education to young people. I previously operated a landscaping business and employed young people in landscape trades. I know from experience it is important to recognise that young people of 16 or 17 years of age, who are able to obtain employment at that age, can undertake apprenticeships, so it is important to encourage young people who have found employment to take up opportunities to acquire a trade qualification. It has been my experience that young people who undertake a trade apprenticeship at 16 years of age complete their apprenticeship in four years. By the time they are 20 years old, they graduate as fully qualified tradesmen in landscape, carpentry or plumbing. It is widely recognised that some young people are more suited to a trade career than other types of endeavour. For example, plumbers can become quite wealthy.
Mr Anthony Roberts:
I've never met a poor one.
Dr GEOFF LEE:
I acknowledge the Minister's interjection. I have never met a poor plumber either, so perhaps it is a case of our anecdotal experience confirming a truism. It is very disappointing that the Opposition does not care about education for young people and the future of Australia. It is very interesting that people learn in different ways. Our future education system must cater to a variety of methods of learning—such as experiential learning which derives from experience, learning by reading, or group discussion—and provide different pathways or mechanisms that best suit different people. Sometimes learning in a school environment is not the best way for some people to learn, and learning a trade by attending TAFE and undertaking an apprenticeship—part-time studying and part-time work—is better for them.
While the traditional approach to teaching and learning still exists, the methods by which people learn have been enlarged. While being the teacher in front of a class and conducting face-to-face interaction still exists—the sage on the stage, as we used to describe it at the university—the online environment provides wider opportunities by which educational institutions can deliver their message. It is estimated that in the future 30 per cent of learning will be conducted online. But the way in which I envisage the future of education is that there will be a blended approach to teaching and learning that will include face-to-face or online learning environments. With various educational environments in existence, people will be able to select the channel most suited to them, which will include workplace learning in formal and informal settings. Research shows that most learning occurs in informal settings rather than in a classroom.
The bill recognises that learning is not begun and concluded at school. I encourage everybody, not just young people, to take up opportunities for lifelong learning whereby they can enter the system or leave at any time. I think lifelong learning will be the way of the future. The Americans demonstrate that very well through their college system which allows students to attend university or revert to TAFE or the vocational education and training [VET] system, or enter the vocational education and training system and switch to the university. There is fantastic potential by which to provide seamless transition among different educational environments, such as high school, the vocational education and training sector and the tertiary sector, and opportunities are not limited by age. Education is not just for young people but for everybody. We as a government must provide pathways and encourage people to enter and exit different educational institutions from time to time when it suits them.
A lot of my research has focused on the role of teaching. The traditional assumption is that the teacher or lecturer is the holder of all the knowledge, but the modern student is being taught to understand and apply critical thinking. Bloom's Taxonomy on higher order thinking and critical skills shows how good teachers should encourage the development of higher order thinking skills. As I stated earlier, people who change their careers three or four times during their lifetime will be well served by having been taught critical analysis and higher-level skills. Critical thinking recognises that the teacher becomes not only a provider of information but a person who facilitates student learning. I conclude my remarks by recognising that a teacher's contribution to student attainment represents approximately 30 per cent of the students' results. We should congratulate our hardworking teachers and principals in our public and independent schools. I appreciate having had this opportunity to speak during the debate. I commend the bill to the House.
Ms TANIA MIHAILUK
(Bankstown) [4.15 p.m.]: At the outset of my contribution to debate on the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012, I state that the New South Wales Opposition will not oppose the bill. Again we have the extraordinary situation of a Minister introducing a bill that builds on the work of his predecessor—in this case, the former member for Balmain—yet being unable to bring himself to acknowledge that fact. This bill represents the end point of a process that began under the previous Government. The former Labor Government recognised the need to phase out the School Certificate and replace it with an appropriate award. The former Government also increased the school leaving age to 17—an achievement that the Minister mentioned as though it happened in a vacuum.
While it may not suit the Government's propaganda about a broken State to admit that it agrees with much of the former Labor Government's legislative agenda, that is not a reason to fail to give credit where it is due. It is also interesting that the Minister has chosen to introduce this legislation now, given that the Minister has hit parents at public preschools with exorbitant fees and recently left disabled children stranded on the side of the road. It will be interesting to see if the Minster can competently oversee the implementation of this legislation. I wish him luck in this endeavour. However, it seems that we might be seeing a modicum of maturity from the Government. In the Minister's agreement in principle speech, he stated, "New South Wales has an outstanding education system …".
Unless the Minister believes he has turned the tables in less than a year in office, it seems that the Minister is admitting finally that Labor got it right. Bankstown consistently has one of the highest birth rates in New South Wales, so it should come as no surprise that my electorate has a large number of schools. Bankstown schools represent the diversity of our community and include public, private and Catholic systemic schools. Sadly, several of the schools in my electorate rely on demountable classrooms. In the last financial year I requested replacement of the demountable buildings. Unfortunately, that will become all the more difficult due to the Government's cuts to the Demountable Replacement Program.
Mr Andrew Gee:
Point of order: This is all very interesting, but it has nothing to do with the legislation that is before the House.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! What is the member's point of order?
Mr Andrew Gee:
Relevance and returning to the leave of the bill.
Mr Nathan Rees:
To the point of order: The member for Orange has only just entered the Chamber whereas we listened intently to the member for Parramatta. Any member in the Chamber would concede that the remarks that are the subject of the point of order are roughly equivalent to the remarks made by the member for Parramatta.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! I am sure the member for Bankstown will return to the leave of the bill and complete her contribution.
Ms TANIA MIHAILUK:
I understand that without dedicated funding from the program the replacement of demountables will have to be taken from existing capital works budgets. I condemn the Government for this decision, which will primarily affect those schools already at a disadvantage. I take this opportunity to praise the great work of teachers in Bankstown and New South Wales. Teaching is a difficult and often thankless task, and our teachers receive nowhere near the pay they deserve, nor will they under the O'Farrell Government. It is truly a privilege for me to represent teachers in my area and throughout our great State. The bill seeks to replace the former School Certificate with a Record of School Achievement for those students who leave school prior to completing their Higher School Certificate.
I understand there is some concern within the teaching sector about motivating those students who decide not to complete year 12. Many teachers have expressed that there is little to inspire those students who reach year 10 and know they will not complete year 12. It is important that we provide students with diverse opportunities and incentives to reach their full potential. I know that the Record of School Achievement will attempt to capture extracurricular activities such as community service, language studies, part-time employment and onsite work experience. Schedule 1 part 18 states:
The record may include any other information relating to the student's activities while at school as the Board thinks appropriate.
Many students do not perform particularly well academically but contribute to their school community, their school life and also to the broader community. Both sides of politics recognise the importance of a rounded education that can include everything from music, sport and languages to technical trade skills in addition to the standard streams of mathematics and English. It is encouraging that those students who go above and beyond their studies in other ways will have their hard work recognised and I commend that feature of this proposal. I note that the bill allocates a great deal of decision making to the Board of Studies regarding, for example, determining the learning areas to be covered by the Record of School Achievement as set out in schedule 1 item . While it is important that such matters are left to the experts I also encourage the Minister to ensure that adequate review processes are put in place to ensure that the Record of School Achievement is appropriately matched to the particular achievements and the extracurricular activities that particular schools may be able to achieve. I particularly welcome new section 98 (6) in schedule 1 item , which states:
The Board may provide special records of achievement to students with intellectual disabilities who undertake formal courses of study even though the courses are not undertaken for a recognised certificate.
As a lifelong advocate for disability services I welcome any initiative that acknowledges the hard work that intellectually disabled students do. It is important that these students know that their work is important and that they receive formal acknowledgement of their studies. I put on the record the fact that an external examination has been replaced by internal processes. This is something we should be cautious about. Governments of both persuasions have long recognised the need for external and independent testing for school students. While the Opposition is not opposed to this change, it is something I would recommend the Government review carefully over the coming years as there is the potential for abuse. The Opposition does not oppose this bill but we expect that the proposed examination system will be reviewed and scrutinised over the coming years and we call on the Government to confirm this.
Mr GLENN BROOKES
(East Hills) [4.20 p.m.]: I have never made a secret of the fact that I was not an overachiever at school. In fact, I was not an achiever at all. I did not like school and I left quite early with nothing to show for anything I did while I was there. When I went to school, there were no counsellors or access to work experience. Back then, academics determined what would be taught and how it would be taught. Any reviews of the educational system were an internal affair and the thought of seeking the opinions of stakeholders, such as employers and students, would have been laughed at. Year after year thousands of children sat the same exams and received either a School Certificate or a Higher School Certificate. There was no recognition of a student's non-academic endeavours and they were given no credit for their achievements if they left school early. That was my experience at school and while by and large, I have no regrets, perhaps if what is available now was available then my experience and the experience of many other students may have been quite different.
It is on that basis that I welcome the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012 with open arms. This bill will herald a new era of education in which students are not only encouraged to be all they can be, but in which their achievements will be both valued and recognised. Although as parents we all have high hopes for our children, the reality is that not everyone is cut out to be a brain surgeon. While some kids are academically inclined, others are more hands on. It is, therefore, very pleasing to see that the underpinning philosophy of the bill is the recognition that a child's achievement at school can be measured effectively through both formal examinations as well as other forms of assessment.
The Record of Achievement, which will be awarded to students when they leave school, will reflect accomplishments and not just how well they did on the final exam. It will be very useful and helpful. I can remember when I was a kid that my dad taught me how to paint, how to use a screwdriver, how to bang in a nail and so on. Dad and I built billy carts together and I still remember what he taught me while we put things together. Parents today are too busy to spend that sort of time with their kids and hence those types of skills are not passed on. If, at the very least, the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012 provides school students with the opportunity to learn these fundamental trade skills, then more has been achieved than I think a lot of people here can probably imagine.
As an employer, the last thing I ask a young person who is seeking work at my factory is to take a look at their examination results. Quite frankly, I am not interested in knowing if they can spell "hammer"; I want to know if they can actually use a hammer. The Record of School Achievement, which will be created under this bill, recognises that school-awarded grades are the best way of communicating to employers like me a student's achievements in a practical and understandable manner. The Record of School Achievement will allow employers like me to more confidently determine if a young fellow seeking employment has the fundamental skills that can be built upon to turn that person into the tradesman of tomorrow.
But more importantly, the Record of School Achievement will motivate students to do the best they can in all aspects of their schooling because they will know that all of their endeavours will be recognised. Those students will feel more engaged and more empowered because they will know that they will benefit directly from what they have done at school when they take their first big steps into the world of employment. The Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012 is the result of extensive consultation that is reflective of the needs of our modern children within this modern society. The Minister for Education deserves a pat on the back for introducing this bill and I commend it to the House.
Ms ANNA WATSON
(Shellharbour) [4.29 p.m.]: I contribute to the debate on the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012. I support the amending bill. I find it appropriate that the School Certificate is replaced with a Record of School Achievement, which will be a record of results and all achievements attained by a student who leaves school prior to completing the Higher School Certificate. We all know that the initial review was undertaken by the previous Labor Government, and I commend it on the initiative that has resulted in the introduction of this bill. Clearly, this bill represents a more modernised and more relevant document for all students. It will assist employers to determine more effectively the suitability of apprentices and/or positions based on areas of student achievement and success.
While the Board of Studies will continue to moderate grades, schools will be able to set tests and examine students in a school-based environment. The Board of Studies will have the task of keeping more extensive records of students' achievements while they remain at school. This will enable the board to produce transcripts for students who have commenced but not finished years 11 or 12. This will ensure great peace of mind for students, parents and teachers. My electorate has many dedicated, hardworking and highly skilled teachers in State, private and Catholic schools. These teachers now will be required to undertake further work to ensure that these student records are accurate and up to date. No doubt this will place added pressure on teachers, who already undertake hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime because, put simply, they care. They care about the teenagers who are not gifted academically, they actively investigate the special gifts and talents of each student, and they offer guidance to our young adults who are not sure which path in life to pursue.
It must be remembered that these students are often confused and frustrated, especially in such a competitive environment in regional areas where jobs are few and far between. On behalf of the Shellharbour electorate I place on record the fantastic jobs our teachers do. Over the summer break I attended many high school graduations. The common theme was that of a dedicated and hardworking team of teachers and teachers' aides, who, in my view, have one of the most responsible positions in our communities: to educate and guide our children and prepare them for life outside school. A teacher can have a lifelong and lasting effect on a student. I experienced this firsthand because I was lucky enough to have such a teacher at St Patrick's High School, Sutherland. Mrs Edwards was my English teacher and she certainly changed my life and the way I viewed life. I do not think she knew she had that effect, but teachers sometimes have profound impacts on a child's thoughts. However, what will this Government do with the cost savings resulting from Labor's review in government? How will this bill affect students with disabilities? Will the Government take action to remove the unfair, uncaring and un-Australian cap on our teachers' wages?
Mr Paul Toole:
Point of order: My point of order is relevance. The member has completely forgotten what bill she is debating. She was brainwashed last year with other facts.
The DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr Thomas George):
Order! I have heard enough on the point of order. The member for Shellharbour was straying outside the leave of the bill. I remind her to return to the leave of the bill.
Ms ANNA WATSON:
Furthermore, I am concerned, as are others on this side of the House, at the level of support the Government will provide to teachers to implement this reform in our education system. I cannot imagine those opposite taking a point of order on that fair question. It is important also to highlight and recognise the many contributing factors to the educational outcomes for our students: the individual, the school itself and other outside contributions. School performance also is measured against student outcome measures, which include student participation in and engagement with schools, their views of their academic performance, as well as school retention, completion rates and academic results.
Of all the variables under a school's control, the single most decisive factor in student achievement is excellent teaching, about which I have already spoken. It is astonishing what great teachers can do for their students. Unfortunately, compared to countries that outperform us in education, we do very little to measure, develop and reward excellent teaching. We expect teachers to be effective without giving them appropriate feedback and incentives. We also have to identify our great teachers, find them, learn about what makes them so effective and transfer those skills to others so more students can benefit from top teachers and high achievement.
Mr PAUL TOOLE
(Bathurst—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.35 p.m.]: It must be difficult for the Opposition to listen to the hard work the Government is doing and the reforms it is putting in place. We have good Ministers on this side, something for which those opposite do not have a good track record when they were in government. The Minister for Fair Trading is doing tremendous work in his area. The Minister for Education is travelling the State visiting our schools and making sure that he listens to the community, including rural and regional communities, and making necessary changes and reforms. Our Ministers are modern-age Ministers. We are not living in the Dark Ages as happened in the past. We have a Government that is seeking reforms. That is why I support the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012.
The object of this bill is to amend the Education Act 1990 to provide for a new school credential for those students who leave school prior to attaining their Higher School Certificate by replacing the School Certificate with a Record of School Achievement. In 2011 the Government announced the abolition of the School Certificate, which has existed since 1965. The Government announced also that for students choosing to leave school before completing their Higher School Certificate, the School Certificate would be replaced by a broader record of achievement. It is less common now for students to leave school at the end of year 10 to seek work or start apprenticeships. For those students not completing their Higher School Certificate it was a natural exit point from their school education.
For many people, completing years 11 and 12 and obtaining a Higher School Certificate was considered important only if a student wanted to enter university. Much has changed over the past 45 years. Many more students want to remain at school to complete their Higher School Certificate. As a community, we encouraged that trend by increasing the school leaving age, setting national targets for school retention, and introducing more and varied Higher School Certificate courses. Some students still want to leave school before receiving their Higher School Certificate. Around 18 per cent of students who complete year 10 do not go on to receive their Higher School Certificate.
Students who decide to leave school during years 11 or 12 deserve a record of their school achievements presented appropriately for the twenty-first century and which is meaningful for them and prospective employers. The Minister has introduced these necessary reforms not just from the schools' point of view but because our communities called for them. The Minister spoke to business leaders and school teachers and involved various stakeholders in the process. I congratulate the Minister on making this significant change to secondary schooling for more than a decade.
This new credential is both meaningful and modern to our communities and to the students. It is a reflection of recent changes in our education system and prepares students for the many challenges they will face. We need to rethink the traditional organisational structures that we have seen in schooling. This is not to be done in isolation. It places greater emphasis on the education community rather than sitting at different levels or different categories. It will replace the outdated School Certificate test. The credential will reflect the demands of students, employers and the broader community. Upper secondary schooling is now undertaken by the majority of students and learning becomes a life-long career.
I congratulate the Minister for the extensive consultation that has occurred with educators, employers and the community. I am pleased that the bill represents the most significant change in New South Wales secondary schools in more than a decade. The record of school achievement is very important because before students complete the Higher School Certificate they can receive a formal credential that captures what they have completed at school. It will provide information about vocational courses they have undertaken. If they have completed a first aid course, been involved in the Duke of Edinburgh awards or have non-academic achievements it will be recorded on the Record of School Achievement. This is something that the students, parents, employers and training providers all want. It is commonsense. It is good to be sitting on this side of the Chamber with a commonsense Government. These measures will ensure that the Record of School Achievement will provide meaningful information to students, families, future educators and employers.
The bill also provides for consequential and transitional provisions. It provides that students who complete year 10 in 2012 will be the first group who may be eligible for the new Record of School Achievement and will be the first cohort of students eligible for transcripts of study for courses undertaken in year 11 in 2013 and year 12 in 2014. New South Wales school students should see that their learning is ongoing and something they take with them throughout life. Today the New South Wales education system, the Minister and the Government prepare students for industries and jobs that do not yet exist by providing them with the skills to access changing knowledge into the future.
The Minister said recently that New South Wales does have an outstanding education system. I know when he visits electorates he always praises the hard work of the teaching fraternity. The Minister is earning respect in regional and rural communities and is welcome to visit my electorate at any time. The Minister is delivering for the people of this State. I am proud to be part of a Government that is implementing historic reforms like this one. We have listened to the business community, students and schools across every sector. The Government is proud to introduce the new reform and we look to the Record of School Achievement being offered for the very first time this year. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ANDREW GEE
(Orange) [4.43 p.m.]: I too support the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012 and will make a brief contribution to the debate. Before I commence that contribution I note the presence of the Minister for Fair Trading in the House and thank him for the trail-blazing tour he recently undertook into the Central West. If an old chalkie like the member for Bathurst supports this bill then you know it has to be good. I support this bill because it creates a new, meaningful and modern credential—the Record of School Achievement. Unlike the old School Certificate the Record of School Achievement will not be awarded at a specific point in time but when a student leaves school. It has that element of flexibility in it.
One of the outstanding features of this new credential is that if students do not reach their goals the first time around in year 10 they can stay on at school and resit the literacy and numeracy components of the test. Students will have two opportunities to do so every year. This means that students will be able to leave school knowing that they have the qualification that they need to help them meet their own aspirations and goals. Unlike the old School Certificate this credential is not a one-shot deal; it will effectively give students more options. If they want to stay on and improve on their original score they have that option twice per year. I applaud the flexibility incorporated into this new credential.
Another outstanding feature of the Record of School Achievement is that it will record extracurricular activities which for a prospective employer can be just as important as academic results. Before Christmas I visited the Canobolas Rural Technology High School where awards were presented to the State Emergency Service cadets. A number of students were undergoing that program. That is the sort of extracurricular activity that will be recorded on this new credential. The Record of School Achievement is a modern credential and it is a flexible credential. I congratulate the Minister for Education on bringing this bill to the House and for his foresight and energy in making sure this important reform has become a reality. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr LEE EVANS
(Heathcote) [4.46 p.m.]: The Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012 represents the most significant change in the New South Wales secondary schooling system in over a decade. It replaces a credential that was first introduced in 1965 and I believe that the change it will bring is well overdue. Secondary school systems here and around the world are undergoing historic transformations and this bill ensures that the New South Wales education system continues to reflect these changes, demands and expectations. In 2009 changes were made to the Education Act that required all students in New South Wales to complete year 10 as a minimum and continue in school until the age of 17. Alternative criteria could be undertaken if a student chose to complete approved full-time education training or paid work for at least 25-hours a week, or a combination of both. However, the number of students leaving the education system after year 10 is decreasing and the Government must respond to this trend.
The data shows that just 18 per cent of students who complete year 10 do not complete the Higher School Certificate. These students are more likely to be male, Aboriginal, from government schools and from country areas. That is precisely why it is sensible and necessary to abolish external School Certificate testing. The Record of School Achievement [RoSA] recognises the learning during senior secondary schooling in a way that will be far more meaningful to our students and community. The first year 10 students to benefit from this new structure will enter the Record of School Achievement in 2012. They will no longer be required to sit for five external tests set by the Board of Studies. The Record of School Achievement will report A to E grades for year 10 and 11 courses that result from school assessment programs. The board will enhance its moderation arrangements to support quality teachers, judgement and ensure that grades are comparable and consistent across the State.
Importantly, the Record of School Achievement will be awarded to eligible students when they leave school even if they are in the middle of year 11 or year 12. Students can continue to accumulate evidence of learning right up until their last day of school. Those students benefiting from the new scheme will have the most accurate record of academic experience that has ever been available. This means that teachers will be teaching the full curriculum that is available in year 10, and not just teaching what is required for the School Certificate test. It also means that year 10 students can study to prepare themselves for year 11, year 12 and beyond, rather than just studying to pass the School Certificate examination. This is something that students, parents, employers and training providers have been requesting for a long time. Too many students have left school with incomplete academic records and nothing that they feel comfortable showing prospective employers. Many of these students have worked extremely hard while taking on extracurricular activities only to leave without formal recognition before the end of year 12.
The Record of School Achievement will support the goal of increasing student retention; provide an official recognition of learning to all students, regardless of when they leave school; will be comparable statewide; and recognise not just academic but all school achievements up to the point that students leave. This last point is enormously important as many students do not shine in an academic sense. These students should be recognised for their diversity of efforts and learning and they should be clearly identifiable by future prospective employers. The Record of School Achievement will provide an electronic record of achievements that students can use at any time and it will use assessment by teachers in schools, moderated by the Board of Studies, to ensure reliability and fairness of grades.
The wide consultation undertaken to develop this bill has ensured that these concerns are balanced with the need to encourage students to stay at school for the Higher School Certificate, while still offering this more meaningful credential for those who do not. This consultation includes meetings with key stakeholder groups, separate meetings with more than 500 principals, teachers, students, parents and community members at nine venues across the State and more than 450 responses to an online survey. This year the Board of Studies will trial an online tool by which students can record their extracurricular achievements. It will provide the capacity to record vocational courses and experiences, leadership achievements such as the Duke of Edinburgh's Award or a first-aid course.
The Record of School Achievement will also include optional tests focussed on the literacy and numeracy skills required by school-leavers for employment and further education. The major forces behind this change are the rise of youth unemployment in the 1970s and 1980s, technical change and its impact on structural occupation and employment, globalisation and the emergence of a knowledge-based society. Education authorities and individual school communities have responded in a variety of ways with innovative changes to curriculum, assessment and structure. These have broadened access to their senior qualifications and create credible pathways for this more diverse student group. One example of these innovations is being enthusiastically embraced at Engadine High School, in my electorate of Heathcote.
I am speaking of the Re-engineering Australia Foundation's Fl in Schools program. This multidisciplinary challenge requires teams of three to five students from years 7 to 12 to design, test, manufacture and race miniature C02
powered Formula 1 cars at speeds up to 80 kilometres per hour. Its purpose is to provide exciting educational programs through active learning of science, maths and technology. Programs like this engage students in otherwise difficult to access principles of physics and engineering, and I am sure that this one has inspired a whole new generation of valuable professionals. The abolition of the School Certificate will send a clear message to our students and change the perception of the completion of year 10. Whereas it previously represented the end of mandatory schooling the new credential will be seen as a pathway to employment and to the senior years of school.
Our students need to view their education as something that will continue throughout their lives and they must be flexible learners, able to cope with change. If an opportunity arises that draws students away from school before year 12, students should not be made to feel as though their education is permanently unfinished. The current system prepares students for industries and jobs that do not exist, by providing them with the skills to access changing knowledge in the future. Technologies, economies and jobs markets are changing so rapidly that training students for the world as it is today is to leave them woefully unprepared. The Record of School Achievement will better prepare our students for the challenges and changes that they will face in life after school. It emphasises the continuation of learning by doing away with the rigid lines between levels and the perception of a firm finishing point at the end of year 10.
I am extremely proud of this bill because it recognises that there is no one path to education and there is no one path to becoming a valuable member of the workforce. Any parent will understand that every child is different. They have different interests, strengths, weaknesses and ideas for their own futures. This new system will work with those differences rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all approach. I congratulate the Minister on this amendment and for the overwhelmingly positive reception it has received. Presidents of both the Secondary Principles Council and the Board of Studies have roundly applauded these changes, and have requested many of them for years. This is a true example of listening to the demands and expertise of the teaching community and delivering. I am certain that successive classes of New South Wales students will thank the Minister for years to come.
Mr KEVIN ANDERSON
(Tamworth) [4.55 p.m.]: I am pleased to speak in this debate on the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012. I am delighted to be supporting this amendment. This is yet another commonsense legislative amendment introduced since March last year. Our constituents kept saying in the lead-up to the election: We want some commonsense put back into the discussion and in the way we do things. In this amendment the Minister for Education, the Hon. Adrian Piccoli, who is in the House this afternoon, has again demonstrated a grassroots commonsense approach to the delivery of good services to people not only in regional New South Wales—including in the Tamworth electorate—but right across the State. This Minister understands what happens at grassroots. He understands what happens at schools that have 25 or 26 students with one or two teachers. This Minister understands the situation with bigger schools, those with 800, or 1,200 or more than 1,500 students. So I am proud to be supporting this bill.
I firmly believe that we need to provide for our students the opportunity to go down the career paths that they choose. If they do not want to continue on to year 12, they should not have to do so. Not everyone wants to go to university, or to push on to the end of year 12, or be a rocket scientist. I know for a fact that many in my electorate are considering trades and other work opportunities. Some are looking to be aircraft mechanics, plumbers, electricians and a range of trade school opportunities. TAFE in my area is booming in providing education and job-ready pathways for students who want to leave school at year 10. The Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012 allows them to do that because historical data will be on electronic database that they can access and use at any time.
The Record of School Achievement will use assessments by teachers in schools, moderated by the Board of Studies New South Wales to ensure reliability and fairness of grade. So everything that students have done until they leave school will be assessed; there will be a school record of what they have done. As the Record of School Achievement says, it will be a credential for students leaving school prior to receiving their Higher School Certificate. New South Wales school students should see their learning as continuing throughout their lives. Today, the New South Wales education system prepares students for industries and jobs that do not yet exist. Students who are now preparing in years 10 through to year 12 may change careers four or five times in their working lives before they retire at the retiring age in 30 years time, whatever it may be then.
We need to provide them with the flexibility and the pathways to achieve what they would like to achieve. We should not put them all in the same box and say they must do X or Y. This will give them the opportunity to leave school after year 10, if they want, and pursue a trade. If they leave school at year 10 and pursue a trade and in 15 years time decide they decide to go to university and get a diploma or a degree there is no reason why they cannot do that. We are making it easier for people to return to study because their electronic record of achievements will be online for use at any time. The Minister for Education and the Government are taking a commonsense approach.
The Record of School Achievement is a credential that prepares our students to face the world. It recognises that their learning is ongoing and that there is no finishing point. People do not reach a date when they have to stop learning, down tools and close the books. Life continues, and we continue to learn every day. Trying to learn something new every day is a good philosophy to live by. The Record of School Achievement, or ROSA—no doubt named after the member for Blue Mountains—is ready to roll to give students the opportunity to finish year 10 and go on to do a trade. Much has changed since 1965, and students want access to up-to-date information on their school achievements when they need it. This is an excellent amendment that demonstrates the common sense of this Government. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ANDREW ROHAN
(Smithfield) [5.01 p.m.]: I am pleased to support the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2012. I would like to thank the previous speakers in this debate. Education is the most important area of government; it is the area of government responsible for the quality of our future leaders. I note the comments of my good friend and colleague the member for Fairfield, who I understand failed an entire class in his previous life as a teacher at Freeman Catholic College. I say to him: kudos for highlighting the financial benefits of this bill. The money saved by the passage of this bill can be spent in other areas of education. But I digress.
I congratulate the Hon. Adrian Piccoli, the Minister for Education, on introducing the bill. The Minister has certainly hit the ground running since the election in March, with a number of innovative reforms including the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy as well as this bill. This bill, which will end the School Certificate examination, should have been introduced many years ago. Many other bills should have been introduced also but the previous Government was too focused on who their next leader would be to do anything else—such as introduce legislation to benefit the State. I will not go into the details of the School Certificate and why it is relevant to students, as the other members who have spoken before me have discussed those aspects at length.
Currently, students must continue their studies past year 10 until they turn 17 years of age. Most student's turn 17 when they are in year 11 or year 12. At present a student who leaves school in year 11 or year 12 prior to sitting their Higher School Certificate examinations leaves only with their School Certificate, which is moderated by the Board of Studies equally across the State, and their school report, which is moderated by the school and applies only to the school. The issue that arises is clear: the most recent externally recognised certification the student has is one that they completed one or two years before they left school at a time when most students are much less mature and much less focused on their studies. Their most recent results, which would more accurately reflect their knowledge and experience, are their school reports, which, unfortunately for the student, are not moderated or externally recognised. How can prospective employers fairly assess students who seek employment if they base their assessments on results that are two years old?
This bill creates a Record of School Achievement—a recognised certification moderated, regulated and provided by the Board of Studies based on the student's academic results in years 10, 11 and 12, which is given to students if they leave school prior to sitting their Higher School Certificate examinations. The Record of School Achievement will mean that the education the student received in year 11 and year 12 can still be officially recognised. The Record of School Achievement, which can assess year 10, 11 and 12 students, will make the School Certificate, which solely assesses year 10 students, redundant. The examinations that would be conducted for the School Certificate would be conducted like regular end-of-year examinations. This brings with it a number of advantages. In order to maintain fairness and impartiality, the School Certificate is an external examination conducted by the Board of Studies and, as a result, external assessors are brought in to manage the exams. As well as these external assessors, markers are required to mark the School Certificate examination. Assessors and markers are paid by the Government.
Under the Record of School Achievement, internal school examinations that are managed and marked by schoolteachers—who are already employed—will be used. Whilst the object of this bill is not to save money, we cannot ignore the financial benefits. The money saved by the passage of this bill can be spent on other areas within the education department, which in turn will benefit the education of students across out State—an area grossly neglected by the previous Government. In conclusion, the bill will bring about a new certification system that will have numerous benefits for students leaving school to enter the workforce, as well as benefits for the Board of Studies and broader benefits for the wider education system. I therefore commend the bill to the House.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI
(Murrumbidgee—Minister for Education) [5.07 p.m.], in reply: I thank all members who have made contributions to the debate on this very important legislation, the Education Amendment (Record of School Achievement) Bill 2011, which continues the process of reforming education in New South Wales. As I have said previously, I am very proud of the reform process that the Liberal-Nationals Government has undertaken in the past 12 months and of what we will do in the next several years. This is part of a broader reform process, starting with early childhood education and going right through the school years and into vocational education and training and the university sector. The bill will amend the Education Act to introduce a new credential that is vital in preparing students for the twenty-first century.
School Certificate exams have been somewhat redundant for a number of years and interested stakeholders have made the case both to this Government and to the former Government for its replacement and upgrading. I am pleased to be part of a government that has listened to stakeholders and acted on those requests. The Record of School Achievement is a reflection of recent changes in our education system, particularly the increase in the school leaving age, introduced by the previous Government and supported by the Liberals and The Nationals. The Record of School Achievement better reflects the modern working environment and will show the extensive record of a student's achievements.
It is becoming increasingly common for students to combine education, work and training as a pathway to full-time employment so it is important for this to be shown in the Record of School Achievement. We want students to see themselves as lifelong learners who are able to engage with their communities and develop the range of skills necessary for success in the workplace. The real value of the Record of School Achievement is to recognise all the abilities of a student, not simply academic achievements. Whilst academic achievements are significant, we want a credential that will reflect all of a student's abilities. As has been said in the various contributions and in my previous speeches on this bill, those achievements around volunteering, sport and other things that make a student a well-rounded person are the kinds of activities that are relevant for employers.
The other day in a radio interview I was asked what these changes will mean for a student who continues to fail the numerary and literacy tests that we are proposing for next year. We want a credential that will also pick up the other attributes of the student in that example. They may not have performed well academically but they may have done a lot of volunteering, completed their lifesaving certificate or taken part in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award program. An employer will want to see that. The employer will see that, although the student has not performed well academically, they have not been sitting on their backside watching television all day; they have been out doing other things. As an employer, there is some attraction in knowing what a student is capable of, that they have initiative and a bit of get up and go. Employers often complain that those are difficult things to find these days.
This credential will acknowledge all the things that make a student a well-rounded person, which is information that is relevant to an employer. In many ways, the student who does not do well academically will be best served by the Record of School Achievement. The Record of School Achievement will support the goal of increasing student retention. The feedback I have had from principals, parents and teachers is that students saw the School Certificate as an endpoint. They thought they would just do the exams and then leave. Stopping year 10 being seen as an endpoint by students creates an opportunity for them to see the benefits of staying on for years 11 and 12. As public policy makers, our ultimate desire is to get every student to stay in education for as long as they can—certainly to the completion of year 12. Anything we can do to remove the incentive to leave early must be supported.
The Record of School Achievement provides an official recognition of learning for those students who leave school prior to receiving their Higher School Certificate. As a result of the increased leaving age, a lot of students want to finish in year 10 but are not able to leave school at that time and might therefore attend school until the end of year 11. Under the previous system none of the work a student had done in year 11 prior to the Higher School Certificate was recognised. Under the Record of School Achievement all of a student's performance and achievements in year 11 or to halfway through year 12 will be recognised. The Record of School Achievement will be available when a student completes year 10 if that student wants to leave school to go on to further study or to work. I am sure some year 10 students will not be too happy about that.
One of the advantages of introducing this new credential and stopping the School Certificate exam is that it gets rid of a period of approximately four weeks after the exam and before the end of the year. All members who have been to end-of-year high school presentations know that students in years 7, 8, 9 and possibly year 11 attend but students in year 10 and year 12 have already left. Year 10 used to have that few weeks snipped off the end of it. My understanding is students were not able to start the year 11 program whilst they were still officially in year 10. By stopping the exam, year 10 will continue until the last day of school for the year. As I said, that may be a bit disappointing for some year 10 students but there will be substantial benefits for their education and for the stability of the school.
As I said, it will be a cumulative record, recognising a student's academic and other school achievements until the point at which they leave school, and it will be comparable statewide. I will address that issue shortly. I am proud to be part of a Government that is placing greater emphasis on continuity within the whole education system to year 12 and beyond rather than on different levels and categories. We all know that the completion of year 10 used to be seen as the finishing point or a signal for the end of mandatory schooling. As I said, we are removing that barrier to continuing on at school. The new credential should be seen as a pathway to employment and to the senior years of school and will reflect students' more rounded education, vocational courses and extracurricular activities. I am pleased to note that the changes in this bill reflect that the Record of School Achievement will not be awarded at a specific point in a student's schooling but rather when the student leaves school, providing eligibility requirements are met.
Some concerns were raised during the agreement in principle debate, one of which was around moderation and ensuring that there is consistency of results across the State. Students will be marked from A to E in each subject that they study. The question was whether an A in history at one school would equal an A in history at another school. The member for Marrickville and the member for Fairfield raised their concerns about that issue and I think the two schools that were compared were Bourke and Bondi. As I stated in my agreement in principle speech, the Act specifies that these will be in the learning areas and moderated in a manner determined by the Board of Studies so that an A in history awarded to a student in one school is consistent with an A in history in another.
The Board of Studies will use a number of moderation and monitoring strategies to assist consistency in the year 10 and year 11 grades of students from different schools. The board will support teachers in their understanding and application of statewide standards. More material will be added to the board's online assessment resource centre, which already contains thousands of graded work samples that show the expected standards. Moderation workshops will also be conducted, where groups of teachers can work together to develop their professional judgement of the standards represented by the grades. The board will monitor patterns of grade distribution over time. Schools will use their past experience and their knowledge of specific year groups according to the standards. The member for Marrickville had concerns that students should be proactively encouraged to request their credential. I am sure that all principals, teachers, parents and students will want a copy of their new credential that better reflects their rounded education.
The member for Balmain asked about the workload for schools and teachers. The Record of School Achievement has been designed to minimise the administrative requirements in schools. The board has advised schools that there will be no changes to their processes this year other than there being no external tests for year 10. In that regard I imagine there will be substantially less work for teachers. Teachers will be able to continue teaching until the end of the school year without the interruption of tests. The current crop of year 10 students will continue to study the same curriculum, which will be graded in the same way as in previous years. From next year, teachers will extend the practice of awarding grades according to statewide standards into year 11. This builds on a system that teachers are already familiar with. The Higher School Certificate will continue as it is. It is not affected by this legislation or by the Record of School Achievement. Resourcing implications for schools are always a key consideration in the board's decisions. Every effort will be made to maximise the student benefit from the Record of School Achievement while minimising the administrative burden on teachers and schools.
A question was asked about online testing supplementing other studies. Online literacy and numeracy tests will be voluntary and they provide additional information for employers. The students will also receive grades for the subjects they have studied, which will include English and mathematics. The test will be designed for students who are leaving school to attend TAFE or to join the workforce and are intended for school leavers only. The tests will be available in two windows of time—in the middle and at the end of the school year. The content that will be tested will be general and will be drawn from the whole curriculum. This means that teachers who teach according to the curriculum in all subjects are preparing students well for those tests.
The member for Balmain asked about ongoing consultation. The Board of Studies will continue to consult with the education community as the Record of School Achievement is developed and implemented. We will work closely with teachers, parents, students, school principals and the broader school sector. Obviously the Board of Studies is closely involved in the process. I take this opportunity to outline the background of some members of the Board of Studies so that members of Parliament will have an understanding of the breadth of expertise of that organisation. A number of board members are nominees of the Department of Education and Community and are senior executives—Leslie Loble, Greg Prior and Pam Christie. Professor Jo-Anne Reid is a nominee of the Vice-Chancellor's Committee. Two members are nominees of the Council of the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of New South Wales. One member of the board is the nominee of the Catholic Education Commission and another is a nominee of the Association of Independent Schools.
In addition, the board comprises one non-government school teacher who is nominated by the Independent Education Union, a nominee of the Council of Catholic School Parents and the New South Wales Parents' Council, two principals of government schools—one being a nominee of the New South Wales Primary Principals Association and the other being a nominee of the New South Wales Secondary Principals Council—two nominees of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, one person with knowledge and expertise in early childhood education, and an Aboriginal person with knowledge and expertise in the education of Aboriginal people. That person is the head of the Aboriginal Educational Consultative Group, Cindy Berwick. In addition, there are six ministerial nominees, who possess an educational background.
I think the most recent appointment to that position was Professor John Pegg, who is an education academic at the University of New England. Carol Taylor, who is the chief executive officer of the Board of Studies, is also a member. Obviously, the Board of Studies' representation is cross-sectoral. Pretty much every educational stakeholder group is represented. Consultation undertaken just by the board is very extensive, but in relation to individual matters such as the Record of School Achievement, the board consults intensively with particular stakeholder groups that have an interest in high school education. I commend the bill to the House. I thank members for their contributions to the debate. I am very proud to be involved in implementing this significant reform that is a number of years overdue. I am also very proud to be the Minister for Education who introduces such an important reform.
Question—That this bill be now agreed to in principle—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Passing of the Bill
Bill declared passed and transmitted to the Legislative Council with a message seeking its concurrence in the bill.