On behalf of the ACARA Board, I am pleased to present our annual report for 2019–20.
The last 12 months have been far from ordinary for everyone, including ACARA, and for our work program. The effects of the global pandemic have presented a series of challenges both strategically and operationally, particularly for education and schooling. Inversely, they have also offered some new opportunities, including a more flexible approach to how our workforce operates.
I would like to particularly acknowledge the extraordinary work of our teachers, without any previous experience to draw on, in swiftly, expertly and efficiently transitioning the classroom to ‘remote’ learning. The efforts of our teachers have been nothing short of remarkable. And never has the call on parents and carers in supporting their children’s learning been so great. On behalf of ACARA, I extend my thanks to our teachers and students for your patience and commitment.
The impact of the pandemic on schooling led to education ministers determining that NAPLAN would not be undertaken in 2020. This decision recognised that the wellbeing of students and continuity of education has to be the first priority of school leaders, teachers and support staff.
Ministers also agreed to extend the timeline for full transition to NAPLAN Online from 2021 to 2022. Together, as we transition and plan for a post-COVID world, ACARA’s vision – to inspire improvement in the learning of all young Australians through world-class curriculum, assessment and reporting – is of fundamental importance. This was reiterated in December 2019, with the release of the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration by Australia’s education ministers.
The goals in the Declaration confirm that high-quality education is essential not only for individuals to flourish, but to make our communities stronger and more resilient, and our economy robust and competitive.
The Mparntwe Declaration reinforces the importance of literacy and numeracy mastery in the early years of school as foundations for future learning. It also commits to ensuring the development of creative and critical thinking skills, key features of the Australian Curriculum.
The terms of reference for a review of the Australian Curriculum were released in June 2020, with the review scope underpinned and informed by an extensive program of research undertaken by ACARA. The review will be a focus of ACARA’s work over the next two years as we work extensively with stakeholders, and particularly teachers, in ensuring our students continue to have access to a world-class curriculum.
Despite the challenges we have all encountered in this financial year, a great deal of work has continued and progressed in ACARA’s portfolio. ACARA continued work with partners – Education Services Australia (ESA) and the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) – on the national education priority of online formative assessment.
While education ministers determined that NAPLAN would not proceed this year, given the impacts of COVID-19, we continue to focus on, and work towards, a successful transition of all schools to an online NAPLAN assessment by 2022.
I would like to acknowledge the leadership provided by education ministers as members of Education Council and thank the ACARA management and staff for their untiring work in adapting and implementing an ever-evolving work program with deep commitment to supporting the best possible education for our students. Many thanks, too, to my fellow Board members and all our stakeholders for their considerable efforts and dedication this year.