Enabling legislation and functions
ACARA is an independent statutory authority and a corporate Commonwealth entity established under Section 5 of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act (the ACARA Act) on 8 December 2008.
The ACARA Act outlines the authority’s functions, which are to:
- develop and administer a national school curriculum, including curriculum content and achievement standards, for school subjects specified by the Education Council’s charter for ACARA
- develop and administer national assessments
- collect, manage and analyse student assessment data and other data relating to schools and comparative school performance
- facilitate information-sharing arrangements between Australian government bodies in relation to collection, management and analysis of school data
- publish information relating to school education, including information relating to comparative school performance
- provide school curriculum resource services, education research services and other related services
- provide information, resources, support and guidance to the teaching profession, and perform other related functions.
There were no changes to ACARA’s enabling legislation in 2019–20.
Directions and reporting
Section 7 (3) of the ACARA Act requires ACARA to perform its functions and exercise its powers in line with the Charter set by the ministerial council. ACARA’s strategic directions are set by its Charter and any other written instructions from the Education Council. ACARA reports to the ministerial council on progress against its Charter each year. ACARA reports to the federal Minister for Finance and the federal Minister for Education about requirements under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (the PGPA Act).
The Australian Government Minister for Education (the Minister) is the responsible minister for ACARA. During this reporting period, the Minister for Education was the Hon Dan Tehan MP.
ACARA’s governance framework provides the structure for informed decision-making, risk management and accountability. The framework has its foundation in the ACARA Act, which establishes a 13-member governing body. The ACARA Board (the Board) includes a chair, a deputy chair and other members nominated by states, territories, the Independent Schools Council of Australia (now known as Independent Schools Australia) and the National Catholic Education Commission. Each member is appointed by the Minister by written instrument, with the agreement of the ministerial council.
Among other responsibilities, ACARA Board members are required to disclose to their fellow directors any material personal interest they may have in matters relating to the affairs of the authority. Information about procurement undertaken by ACARA is tabled at each meeting so that Board members can disclose potential or actual conflicts. A record of all disclosures is maintained by ACARA.
The Board is accountable to the Parliament of Australia through the Minister. The Board is responsible for ensuring the proper and efficient performance of ACARA and is the accountable authority under the PGPA Act.
Further information about the Board, including membership, can be seen at 3.2 The Board.
ACARA must undertake its work in accordance with any directions given to it by the ministerial council and in accordance with the Charter, which is agreed to by the ministerial council. In progressing its work, ACARA collaborates with the Schools Policy Group, the Data Strategy Group and the NAPLAN Online Steering Committee, which, in turn, report to the Australian Education Senior Officials Committee. ACARA’s CEO is the Senior Responsible Officer for NAPLAN Online and is the Chair of the NAPLAN Online Steering Committee.
ACARA’s advisory structure allows for input and advice from key stakeholder groups and experts. This advice assists the executive in making recommendations to the ACARA Board and to the Education Council. It also supports ACARA in achieving the objectives of its Charter in a consultative and collaborative way.
An overview of ACARA’s advisory groups in 2019–20 can be seen on the following pages.
Chief Executive Officer
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is responsible for the operations of ACARA and is accountable to the ACARA Board. The CEO consults the Board on matters of strategic significance and provides information necessary for the Board members to fulfil their governance responsibilities.
For the financial year to 30 June 2020, ACARA’s CEO was Mr David de Carvalho.
Executive Leadership Team
The Executive Leadership Team is a standing committee that supports the CEO in managing the day-to-day administration of ACARA. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the performance of ACARA in achieving the outcomes of the Portfolio Budget Statements; in fulfilling the mission, purposes and objectives outlined in ACARA’s Corporate Plan 2019–20; in allocating resources; and in managing enterprise-wide risks, legislative compliance, stakeholder relations and corporate governance. In 2019–20, the Executive Leadership Team met fortnightly.
ACARA is supported by an advisory structure made up of reference, advisory and specialist groups that provide input and expertise across ACARA’s work priorities.
ACARA has two key reference groups that ensure jurisdictions and a range of stakeholder organisations have regular and meaningful opportunities to provide advice and feedback to ACARA. Members represent the high-level views of their jurisdiction or organisation and, as far as practicable, communicate information back to their jurisdiction or organisation.
F–12 Curriculum Reference Group
The F–12 Curriculum Reference Group gives high-level expert advice to the ACARA executive in support of strategic initiatives that enhance the development, implementation and improvement of the Australian Curriculum. Members of this group bring a range of jurisdictional perspectives that reflect national, state and territory priorities. The group has representatives from each state and territory and federal government, nominated by the relevant member of the Australian Education Senior Officials Committee (AESOC), one nominee from the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), and one nominee from the Independent Schools Council of Australia.
National Assessment, Data, Analysis and Reporting Reference Group
The National Assessment, Data, Analysis and Reporting Reference Group (NADAR) provides ACARA’s executive with high-level advice on the appropriateness, opportunities and potential risks associated with the work proposed and undertaken by ACARA within the scope of its remit. The group ensures that jurisdictions and organisations have regular and meaningful opportunities to provide advice and feedback to ACARA on its assessment and reporting work program. The group has representatives from all departments of education, test administration authorities (where these are separate from the department), the Catholic and independent school sectors and other relevant stakeholders.
Advisory groups provide expert advice and development input throughout the year. Membership is granted through a nomination process by jurisdictions and organisations and/or based on expertise in a particular field.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group provides ACARA with expert guidance and advice about the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures in the Australian Curriculum. It also advises ACARA on the protocols and cultural sensitivities that need to be considered by ACARA business units as ACARA proceeds with its curriculum, assessment and reporting programs. The Group comprises individuals with demonstrated expertise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and community engagement.
Measurement Advisory Group
The Measurement Advisory Group provides ACARA’s executive with expert and independent educational measurement and assessment advice and input for the National Assessment Program (NAP) and the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). It also provides input into all other assessment and educational measurement activities defined by ACARA's Charter, work plan and priorities. The group comprises of nationally and/or internationally recognised independent experts in the field of educational measurement.
National Testing Working Group
The National Testing Working Group is a forum for information-sharing and collaboration among ACARA, testing authorities and stakeholders about NAPLAN. The group provides advice on operational processes and products of NAPLAN, test development and national operational policy, and administration and reporting activities; and provides quality assurance to achieve high-quality tests in a nationally consistent framework. The group has representatives from all test administration authorities, and the Catholic and independent school sectors.
Students with Disability Advisory Group
The Students with Disability Advisory Group provides ACARA with high-level advice and expertise regarding the needs of students with disability in relation to ACARA’s curriculum, assessment and reporting programs. The group has representatives from each state and territory and federal government education department or curriculum authority, the National Catholic Education Commission, the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA), the Australian Association of Special Education, Children and Young People with Disability Australia, and peak national principals’ associations. The advisory group also includes two individuals with relevant research expertise in the area of students with disability.
Specialist groups provide expert advice and development input on an as-needs basis. Many are time-bound, formed for a specific purpose and retired at the end of a project. Membership is granted through a nomination process by jurisdictions and organisations and/or is based on expertise in a particular field.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Taskforce
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Taskforce was established to oversee a project to strengthen the representation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures cross-curriculum priority in the Australian Curriculum. The group consists of three ACARA Board members and four members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group.
Finance Data Working Group
The Finance Data Working Group gives advice and assistance to ACARA’s executive on ACARA’s national responsibilities associated with financial reporting on schooling and Australia’s schools. This helps ACARA in the collection and reporting of school finance data for My School. The group has representatives from all departments of education, the Catholic and independent school sectors and other relevant stakeholders.
Marking Quality Team
The Marking Quality Team participates in the development and review of NAPLAN writing prompts. Members develop consensus scores for the training and control materials used to ensure national consistency of marking for the NAPLAN writing tests. The group also advises on required changes to marking guide exemplars. Members attend training on delivering a common marker training package to the state and territory markers in their jurisdiction. The group also advises on required changes to marking guide exemplars. The Marking Quality Team works closely with the National Testing Working Group. The group has representatives from all departments of education, the Catholic and independent school sectors.
NAP sample assessment learning area working groups
NAP sample assessment learning area working groups give ACARA advice about proposed assessment materials from curriculum, psychometric and equity perspectives for their learning area. They examine draft assessment instruments to make sure these instruments are of appropriate difficulty and are valid, free of bias and accessible to all participating students.
National Framework for Assessing English Language Proficiency Project Working Group
National Framework for Assessing English Language Proficiency Project Working Group first met in March 2020. The working group was established to provide advice on options for a nationally consistent approach to measuring and reporting on the English language proficiency levels of students for whom English is an additional language or dialect (EAL/D students). The group includes representatives from all education departments, and the Catholic and independent school sectors.
National Report on Schooling Working Group
The National Report on Schooling Working Group helps develop the planning framework/format for the annual National Report on Schooling in Australia and contributes to reviews of the draft report. The group has representatives from all departments of education, the Catholic and independent school sectors and other relevant stakeholders.
Online Accessibility Expert Advisory Group
The Online Accessibility Expert Advisory Group provides ACARA with advice and expertise on accessibility improvements on the online assessment platform. The group provides expert advice on options to provide more open access to NAPLAN tests, and advice and feedback on the development and implementation of the accessibility provisions on the platform. The group has representatives from all test administration authorities, and the Catholic and independent school sectors.
Research and Data Committee
The Research and Data Committee considers data requests for research from third parties (other than requests from education ministers) for unpublished or sensitive data. The Committee uses the framework set by the Data Access Protocols 2012, and the Principles and protocols for reporting on schooling in Australia 2009 to make its decisions.
The Committee comprises the chair of ACARA’s Measurement Advisory Group, from one to three members of the ACARA Board, the CEO or his delegate, a nominee of the Australian Education Senior Officials’ Committee, an independent expert in research and school data, and ACARA’s General Manager, Assessment and Reporting.
Senior Secondary Outcomes Working Group
Senior Secondary Outcomes Working Group provides advice on a nationally consistent dataset, using administrative sources of data, for reporting of attainment of senior secondary certificates of education (SSCEs) and Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) certifications. The group has representatives from education departments and senior secondary certifying authorities from all states and territories, the Catholic school sector, the Productivity Commission, and the Australasian Curriculum, Assessment and Certification Authorities (ACACA).
Student Attendance Data Working Group
The Student Attendance Data Working Group gives advice and assistance to ACARA’s national responsibilities associated with student attendance reporting. This helps ACARA in the collection and reporting of school attendance data for My School and national student attendance for the National Report on Schooling in Australia. The group has representatives from all departments of education, the Catholic and independent school sectors, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Productivity Commission.
In addition to its formal advisory structure, ACARA convenes a number of information-sharing groups that help disseminate messages and materials, identify potential issues and provide feedback on key topics.
Curriculum Directors Group
The Curriculum Directors Group facilitates information-sharing, collaboration and support for the Australian Curriculum between ACARA and representatives of state and territory curriculum and school authorities. Members are drawn from government, Catholic and independent school sectors across all jurisdictions, bringing to the group high-level curriculum implementation expertise.
NAP National Communications Group
The NAP National Communications Group helps facilitate implementation of the NAPLAN Online communications and engagement strategy and allows group members to be informed about ACARA’s NAP communications activities. The group comprises representatives from each jurisdiction and sector through nomination by the relevant organisation. The group acts as a conduit for coordinating communications and engagement activities concerning NAPLAN and NAPLAN Online within their organisation or jurisdiction.
National Peak Parents and Principals Forum
The National Peak Parents and Principal Forum facilitates dialogue, collaboration and support between ACARA, school principals and parents. It comprises the national peak parent and principal bodies that represent state-level members and constituents and cascades information down through their networks. Significant out-of-session collaboration occurs between ACARA and group members to distribute news and resources, cooperate on media initiatives and exchange advice on specific topics.
Accountability and reporting
ACARA has a range of mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in its operations. Key documents for 2019–20 included:
- ACARA Charter – endorsed by Education Council in November 2016, providing the Council’s strategic directions for ACARA
- ACARA Corporate Plan 2019–20 – a requirement of section 35 of the PGPA Act
- Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) – annual statements informing members of the Australian parliament on proposed allocation of resources to government outcomes and programs
- ACARA Quadrennial Work Plan 2017–18 to 2020–21 – endorsed by the Education Council in January 2018
- ACARA Annual Work Plan 2019–20 – a detailed work plan endorsed by the Education Council and against which progress is monitored and reported on
- ACARA Annual Report 2019–20 – provided to the Minister for Education for presentation to the Australian parliament, required by section 46 of the PGPA Act.