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Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011
02-11-2011 11:51 AM
House of Reps
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Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011
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The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Schools assistance AMENDMENT Bill 2011
(Circulated by authority of the Minister for School Education,
Early Childhood and Youth, The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP)
schools assistance AMENDMENT BILL 2011
Section 22 of the Schools Assistance Act 2008 (‘the Act’) provides that a funding agreement for a non-systemic school, or an approved school system, must implement the national curriculum prescribed by regulations for primary or secondary education, or both, as applicable and this requirement must be satisfied on or before 31 January 2012.
The Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011 (‘the Bill’) will amend the Act to repeal the current implementation date of 31 January 2012 and substitute a new provision enabling a standing regulation to prescribe the national curriculum and associated implementation timeframes.
To allow for future additions and revisions to the national curriculum (as a result of the phased approach to its development and the iterative nature of curriculum development), the regulation will prescribe as the national curriculum, any new version of the Australian Curriculum authorised by the Council of Australian Governments’ Standing Council for School Education and Early Childhood (‘the Standing Council’), formerly known as the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA). The implementation timeframes will be prescribed as those agreed by the Standing Council.
The amendment will provide a more certain legal framework for the non-government sector in which to implement the national curriculum and provide greater administrative efficiency for prescribing the phased introduction of the Australia Curriculum.
Funding for non-government schools under the Schools Assistance Act Special Appropriations is currently provided for in the Forward Estimates for 2012-13 ($8,191,853,000), 2013-14 ($8,844,805,000) and 2014-15 ($9,546,824,000).
Funds are provided via financial assistance to education authorities. If Section 22 and other provisions of the Act are not satisfied, for example a school has failed to implement the national curriculum by a prescribed timeframe, the Australian Government could require the repayment of funds, reduce the amounts to be paid, or delay making payments to an authority under section 27 of the Act.
schools assistance AMENDMENT BILL 2011
NOTES ON CLAUSES
Clause 1 - Short title
Provides for the Act to be cited as the Schools Assistance Amendment Act 2011 .
Clause 2 - Commencement
Provides for the Act to commence on the day after it receives the Royal Assent .
Clause 3 - Schedule(s)
Provides that each Act that is specified in a Schedule is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable items in the Schedule and that any other item in a Schedule has effect according to its terms.
For ease of description, this explanatory memorandum uses the following abbreviation:
‘ACARA’ means the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.
‘the Act’ means the Schools Assistance Act 2008 ;
‘the LI Act’ means the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 .
Schedule 1— Amendments
Schools Assistance Act 2008
Item 1 - Section 22
Section 22 of the Act sets out the requirement that all relevant authorities for a non-systemic school or an approved school system must ensure that each school implements the national curriculum prescribed by the regulations. Item 1 would repeal section 22 of the Act in its entirety and insert a new section 22.
Currently subsection 22(1) of the Act provides that a funding agreement for a non-systemic school, or an approved school system, must require the relevant authority for the school or system to ensure that the school (or each school in the system) implements the national curriculum prescribed by the regulations for primary education or secondary education (or both, as applicable); and subsection 22(2) of the Act provides that the requirement to implement the national curriculum must be satisfied on or before 31 January 2012.
At the time of the Act’s drafting in 2008, an implementation deadline of 31 January 2012 was anticipated for the development and rollout of the national curriculum across the school sector. Given the phased approach to developing the national curriculum, the extent of consultations undertaken in its development, and the need for flexibility in implementation, a legislative amendment is necessary to better accommodate this phased curriculum development and implementation process.
Development of the national curriculum (known as the Australian Curriculum) is being overseen by ACARA. ACARA is a statutory authority established under the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority Act 2008 . Among its functions, ACARA is responsible for the development and administration of a national curriculum, including curriculum content and achievement standards.
Phase one of ACARA’s work involved development of the Australian Curriculum in the initial learning areas of English, mathematics, science and history covering Foundation  to Year 10 (‘F-10’). Following substantial public consultation for this first phase, the Australian Curriculum was endorsed by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) at its meeting of 8 December 2010. ACARA’s development of the phase one curriculum for the senior secondary years (Years 11-12) is continuing.
Phase two of the Australian Curriculum, covering the learning areas of languages, geography and the arts is currently under development.
ACARA is continuing to advise ministers on the approach to the development of phase three of the Australian Curriculum. Phase three focuses on the remaining learning areas identified in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians that were agreed by MCEECDYA in 2008. These learning areas include health and physical education, information and communications technology and design and technology, economics, business and civics and citizenship.
Each phase of the Australian Curriculum will have its own implementation timeframe, agreed by the Council of Australian Governments’ Standing Council for School Education and Early Childhood (‘the Standing Council’), formerly known as MCEECDYA . For example, a three-year implementation window has been agreed for the phase one F-10 Australian Curriculum , commencing in 2011 with substantial implementation by the end of 2013. This recognises that flexibility in implementation will be needed to give state and territory education authorities time to address the particular issues that may arise in each jurisdiction.
Implementation timeframes for the phase one senior secondary Australian Curriculum are yet to be determined by the Standing Council, as are final implementation timeframes for phases two and three. The phased approach to curriculum development may mean that different implementation timeframes are decided for individual subject areas within these remaining phases.
Given the iterative nature of curriculum development, updates to the Australian Curriculum will also be required from time to time. Updates to the Australian Curriculum may be either minor (involving simple editing or formatting changes) or major (the introduction of a new learning area or changes to curriculum content). The first major update to the Australian Curriculum is expected late in 2011, following validation of achievement standards and any associated adjustments to the phase one F-10 Australian Curriculum in the four initial learning areas. All major changes to the Australian Curriculum will require the authorisation of the Standing Council.
Section 22(1) of the Act as it currently stands, prescribes a single date for implementation of the national curriculum. Given the phased approach to development of the Australian Curriculum, this provision dealing with the implementation timeframe of the national curriculum is no longer appropriate. Furthermore, the Act does not efficiently accommodate the need for future additions and revisions to the national curriculum, which are an accepted part of curriculum development processes.
As a result, the Act as it stands does not provide a mechanism for effectively maintaining the content of the national curriculum or managing differential implementation timeframes as each new phase of the development of the Australian Curriculum is completed. The amendment to be made by Item 1 is intended to overcome these deficiencies.
New subsection 22(1) would provide that the requirement to implement the national curriculum must be satisfied in accordance with the regulations. Under the proposed amendment, approval or authorisation by the Standing Council becomes the mechanism through which new phases of the national curriculum and their associated implementation timeframes are prescribed for implementation by schools.
Specifically, this amendment would:
· remove the existing requirement for non-government schools to implement the national curriculum on or before 31 January 2012;
· provide greater flexibility in the implementation of each new phase of the national curriculum by allowing the regulations to prescribe the curriculum implementation timeframes authorised by the Standing Council ; and
· allow curriculum implementation timeframes for non-government schools to be efficiently and effectively aligned with those for government schools.
New subsection 22(2) would allow the regulations to incorporate as the national curriculum, any new version of the Australian Curriculum authorised by the Standing Council. Under the LI Act, unless a contrary intention appears, subsection 14(2) of the LI Act prohibits a legislative instrument (such as the regulation permitted to be made under section 22 of the Act) from making provision in relation to a matter by applying, adopting or incorporating any matter contained in any other instrument or other writing as in force or existing from time to time. New subsection 22(2) would allow a ‘contrary intention’ to be shown, thereby allowing each new version of the Australian Curriculum authorised by the Standing Council from time to time, to be the authoritative national curriculum prescribed under the Act.
Incorporation of the content of the national curriculum by reference to the Australian Curriculum approved by the Standing Council is considered appropriate for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the Australian Curriculum approved by the Standing Council represents the culmination of ACARA’s extensive curriculum development process, which draws upon the curriculum expertise of the states and territories, examples of good practice from a range of educationally high-performing countries, as well as the knowledge of subject matter experts and those with expertise in stages of schooling and equity and diversity. Prior to approval by the Standing Council, the curriculum is also subject to broad public consultation.
Secondly, approval from the Standing Council will be a necessary precondition to prescribing any new version of the national curriculum and its associated implementation timeframe, given the responsibility of states and territories for the curriculum that is taught in schools.
Lastly, as each new version of the national curriculum is approved by the Standing Council, it will be made available on a website dedicated to the publication of the national curriculum.
This new arrangement would provide a more certain legal framework for the non-government sector in which to implement the national curriculum and provide greater administrative efficiency for prescribing the phased introduction of the Australia Curriculum.
 Foundation refers to the year before Year 1, known variously as Kindergarten (NSW/ACT), Preparatory (QLD/VIC/TAS), Pre-primary (WA), Transition (NT) and Reception (SA).