Curriculum in Australian schools is on the agenda for educators and, unsurprisingly, well-intentioned people beyond our schools. Curriculum is ‘a course of study’ (Oxford Dictionary) or more broadly defined as ‘the totality of student experiences that occurs in the educational process’ (Wikipedia). As we know, everyone went to school and many hold an opinion about what should be happening in our schools. Some may present themselves as being a school education ‘expert’. True, community knowledge is helpful but, possibly at times, a hindrance to a more productive discussion.
From what I can see, the focus schools bring to 21st century learning, skills and knowledge is being challenged by dated practices and old knowledge, maybe found in a 1980s textbook or resulting from one’s experiences of school days long gone. It worked in the past, so why not now? In this article, I’ll look at the key drivers influencing our thinking, and the thinking of educators worldwide, in designing and implementing a curriculum for the students of today and, maybe, the students yet to come.
I’d guess you have noticed the impact of the digital revolution. Australians love technology and digital tools or gadgets. We are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. We are more likely to Google it or look up Wikipedia for information than grab the Encyclopedia Britannica collecting dust on our shelf (if, indeed, it is still there). We just might remember information we learnt at school. But I doubt it. Teaching in primary schools is moving away from the idea that textbooks and teachers know it all, to accessing information 24/7 via the internet. Wouldn’t we say that technology, and the need for students to learn how to operate in a digital world, need to be reflected in the school curriculum?
While so much knowledge is now readily accessible, what knowledge is worth knowing? What is it that students will need for their working lives and as members of the society post-school? This has been the challenge for the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to capture in the Australian curriculum. The initial attempt created an overload and was too subject-based. It missed the mark in reflecting the reality of the primary school curriculum today. While the content was identified, the key focus was on the demonstration of the Achievement Standards and Capabilities. It’s what I call showing what you can do with what you know. This balance between knowledge (content) and skills (capabilities) is the tension now facing schools and is a further ‘driver’ for a school to manage.
The Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) is working with ACARA to ensure that the curriculum reflects the learning design in schools but also allows for modifications at the school and, importantly, the classroom levels. This task is, of course, impacted by each state and territory wanting to retain influence and control of the curriculum for their jurisdiction. It is time to accept the move to an Australian curriculum where common principles of design provide a framework of knowledge and skills for all schools to implement, with the school determining its school-based content within its own context.
Leading curriculum is a key responsibility for principals; it requires a whole-school approach. However, if the curriculum is well-designed, resourced appropriately, implemented through high quality teaching and learning, and effectively assessed, then the ‘reward is seeing the opportunities opening for students and watching them achieve and grow in ways that otherwise might not have been possible’ (Ryan, 2015, p.95). The primary school curriculum should, then, expand minds by learning from what we know today to learning what we need for tomorrow.
The Australian Curriculum Review has been completed and recommendations identified to address concerns raised by a number of stakeholders, including APPA. We await the decision of the Education Council on the final document. APPA strongly supports the notion that school principals and their community are in the best position to make decisions on the curriculum for their students, based on the Australian Curriculum.
The reality is that things have changed in schools to reflect the change in society. This is a necessary part of the evolution in education. We can still reassure parents and others that the basic skills are still a major part of the curriculum and are still being taught, though possibly quite differently to the way they experienced. Ultimately, the focus is on ensuring that all children gain the knowledge, skills and capabilities needed to be successful contributors to society in the 21st century.
Ryan, P. (2015). ‘Leadership in Education Learning from Experience’, Halstead Press, Ultimo.
APPA has identified, and is working with, a unique resource that raises the bar on the quality of teaching and learning within our primary schools. It’s a resource that addresses the need for curriculum to be contemporary and engaging, accessible and flexible and bring high expectations to the classroom. Called MAPPEN, it is now available for schools at: http://getmappen.com/info/ and APPA is very pleased to be building a partnership with leading experts in curriculum design and teaching practice.
I recently attended the MAPPEN launch in Melbourne. The developers are highly experienced teachers and consultants who understand the challenges of developing contemporary curriculum for primary schools. The resource is available to schools across Australia and the take-up has been fantastic. A number of schools presented at the launch and are very pleased with the value of their investment. This return on investment has seen more focus on the learning and teaching, and the engagement of children in their learning has been outstanding.
MAPPEN incorporates the Australian curriculum, is integrated across subject content and capabilities, and covers kindergarten to year 6. The resource has assessment options and provides a range of teaching and learning processes and strategies. The units connect the classroom to the community and to the global world. One considerable benefit is that teachers are relieved of the time-consuming task of planning and writing integrated units.
Teachers can focus efforts on teaching, learning and assessment activities, and gain from the professional learning embedded in each unit.
If your school is looking for a source of rich, classroom-ready curriculum content that supports whole-of-school teaching around three-dimensional, real world concepts, rather than flat, one-dimensional themes, then I suggest you visit the MAPPEN website today.Dennis Yarrington
Locally made ethical school wear
Through their own procurement policies local schools have the power to support an ethical Australian clothing industry and help prevent the exploitation of workers. There are local school wear manufacturers who are committed to making clothes locally the right way.
Ethical Clothing Australia is responsible for accrediting local clothing and footwear manufacturers to ensure that their workers are receiving their legal wages and entitlements, and working in decent conditions.
To find out more contact Ethical Clothing Australia to ask how we can assist your school to source ethically accredited school wear.
Written by internationally recognised school and early education experts, Your Child's First Year at School: Getting off to a good start, is highly valued as a home and school resource which provides excellent advice to parents, teachers and all interested in giving children the best possible start at school. Order at:
PR1ME Mathematics—based on the world’s best practice used in Singapore PR1ME has been developed by Scholastic in collaboration with the Ministry of Education in Singapore.
How does it work? PR1ME: explicitly and systematically teaches the problem solving processes and strategies; uses consistent and carefully structured pedagogy; takes a carefully scaffolded, deep-dive into conceptual development; actively involves students in metacognition; and provides professional learning for teachers.
For 40 years, Scholastic Australia has been partnering with schools across the country to give kids access to books they want to read through Clubs and Fairs. In 2012, Scholastic gave Australian schools over $11 million worth of Scholastic Rewards. To find out how you can spend Scholastic Rewards on resources and save your budget, visit
This article is sponsored by Hear and Learn.
Achieving best practice auditory learning is a challenge. We know the intelligibility of a teachers voice varies; the further a child is from a teacher, the harder it is to comprehend instruction.
And for children, the challenge is unique. They have less experience with the words adults use so giving them everything clearly gives them a better chance of responding with confidence.
New teaching methods and evolving student populations, and new building designs, has created an upswing in schools adopting technology help with these challenges. And create edge.
Arnolds Creek and Mary MacKillop Primary Schools in Melbourne have adopted the newest Hear and Learn technology called Flexcat. There are more than 6000 Australian classrooms where Hear and Learn technology operates.
All teachers in all classrooms use Hear and Learn technology at Arnolds Creek Primary School in Melton, Melbourne. Principal Frank Pawlowicz explains “Hear and Learn technology involves teachers wearing cableless microphones to allow all consonant and vowel sounds to be broadcast gently and evenly throughout every part of our traditional classrooms, and in our larger agile spaces. All of our teachers use the Hear and Learn equipment all the time given they report higher attention rates of all children, a calmer environment in their learning spaces and better teacher welfare especially in terms of voice care”.Click here to learn more and secure your free Flexcat Trial
“In the past, I thought of any technology like this as being relevant only to children with impaired hearing. We now know that creating an environment where it sounds like our teachers are standing next to every child benefits all students and creates a truly inclusive school” said Frank.
“A cornerstone of our teaching at Arnolds Creek is Differentiated Learning. We use the Hear and Learn Flexcat to help with this. Teachers can broadcast to the whole group one second, then flick to speak to only one table of children. So, in our agile spaces, a teacher can be at the far end of our rooms and talk directly to a table 20 metres away. No talking over the top of other children. And, teachers can listen in on children to monitor their behavior. It has revolutionized how we teach and has allowed our teachers to do their job better.”
At Mary MacKillop Primary in Narre Warren, Melbourne, teachers also use Flexcat. Teachers Tamara and Margaret explain “We are using the Flex Cat (clarity and amplifying aid) in our classroom everyday. We use it to run and manage Literacy groups and independent learning times. It is beneficial because we can monitor and check the progress of students at any time and they can communicate with us without having to wander around the room or wait in a line. It also allows us to listen into their conversations (that can be interesting) checking to see if they are on task or need further prompts and assistance.”
Hear and Learn will be at STAND 71 at the APPA 2015 conference in Hobart.CLICK TO LEARN MORE AND SECURE YOUR FREE TRIAL
Camp Australia delivers after school care solutions, building on the educational experience of school communities. As the nation’s leading after school care provider Camp Australia has partnered with school communities for 25 years, adding value by delivering high quality care, well-trained staff, systems and support. Find out how Camp Australia will add value to your school community at
KidsMatter Primary is a proven mental health and wellbeing framework for primary schools. It provides expert knowledge, tools and support to help schools grow healthy young minds and care for children’s mental health. KidsMatter is backed by the expertise of Principals Australia Institute, beyondblue and the Australian Psychological Society.
Academy Photography are proud sponsors of the Australian Primary Principals Association. Academy Photography services include school photography, yearbooks, complete printing and educational solutions using latest technologies.
Call 1800 816 224 for your SPECIAL OFFER as an APPA member.
Catholic Super has been providing outstanding superannuation and retirement services to members and employers for more than 40 years. As a leading industry super fund that anyone can join, we offer award-winning superannuation and pension products, long-term superior investment performance, a broad range of investment options and competitive fees.
Describe your current school, its students, the demographics of your school community, and any special challenges and/or strengths.
I am the principal of Mount Carmel College, a kindergarten to year 10 school located in Sandy Bay, Hobart. The College enrols boys and girls from kindergarten to grade 2 and our girls’ only environment from grade 3 to year 10 allows us to cater for girls’ education. The size of the College is approximately 560 students. I began my principalship here in January 2014 and I absolutely love it. It is the best job in the world!
How many years have you been a school leader?
I began my education career in Geelong, Victoria, where I held a number of different leadership roles, primarily in the areas of student wellbeing and pastoral care. I then undertook an adventure moving to Launceston, Tasmania, where I was deputy principal: pastoral care, for five years. One Saturday morning, I noticed an ad in the paper for the principal of Mount Carmel, and although such a role had not been part of my career plan, I felt an immediate sense of connection. I had a strong feeling that I needed to apply. So now, here I am, in the most wonderful community of people.
NEW resilience and wellbeing program
Dusty and Friends is a great resource for learning and building resilience in children. Game ON highlights the importance of being calm and prompts children to see how consequences result from actions. A popular resource in Early Stage 1- Stage 1 classrooms, children identify and relate to different characters. The program aligns with the Australian Curriculum and works well for Stage 3 in a peer support model. Available for immediate download through the School For Living website.
(continued from previous page)
What motivated you to become a school leader (and when)?
I’ve been inspired in my teaching journey by some amazing role models, and through those people I’ve learned how much influence - good or bad - a teacher or leader can have. When I was based in the classroom, I wanted to be the best teacher I could possibly be; I think that’s a journey that you never stop travelling- there is always more to learn and improve upon.
I’ve always been passionate about the link between wellbeing and learning and I did my Masters of Education as a research thesis in the area of student welfare. That passion led to positions of responsibility, and again, I saw evidence of the potential for influence in areas such as positive education. I’ve been so lucky to have had a range of energising positions, especially my current role. It was never a planned pathway but I suppose you could say that I enabled myself to be in a position to accept opportunities as they were presented. For me, leadership means being part of a community, and being in a position to empower other members of the team to work to their strengths. I also think it is important as a leader to maintain my own profile as a lifelong learner. I am reaching the final stages of my doctorate in the area of cyberbullying, which is another area I’m passionate about.
As a new principal, what was the most useful lesson you ever learned from a more experienced principal colleague?
When anyone starts at a new school or in a new role, they obviously have fresh ideas and see lots of potential for change, and that was the case for me. Make a big list and then lock it in your bottom drawer and don’t look at it again for six months. Instead, spend the time forming connections with your community and getting to know what makes the place tick. It’s great advice (although sometimes not absolutely practical, depending on the needs).
What makes you smile at work?
Almost everything! In my first year at Mount Carmel, a parent said to me, ‘You’re always smiling’ and my response was, ‘There’s so much to be happy about.’ I love seeing the community alive with energy; I love students stopping to say ‘hello’ or to show me their work. It’s really satisfying being a part of the journey of a young person’s education.
We have some big dreams here. There are things we want to achieve as a College community and those goals are invigorating. At Mount Carmel, we are leaders in the field of science and engineering; our arts offerings are broad. We offer challenges in sport and leadership, and we have a strong commitment to social justice initiatives. As a school, there are a number of focus projects underway, particularly in the development of a middle years philosophy and pedagogy, and in terms of positive education. I respond well to challenge and being on a journey towards excellence in education, together with others who share this commitment, is absolutely energising.
In managing your staff, what are your most valuable skills and beliefs?
I believe that teachers and other school staff are some of the most important adult role models in students’ lives, so they are a school’s most vital resource. We need to build the capacity of each member of staff to have the most positive influence on learning and wellbeing possible. I think creating opportunities for staff to work collaboratively, share best practice, bounce ideas off one another and be inspired is vitally important.
(continued from previous page)
What was the toughest day you ever had as a school leader?
Because you are dealing with people, every single day is different. That’s what I love about this job. It is never boring. But it does bring you face-to-face with all aspects of life - the joys, the sorrows, the achievements and the losses. I’ve had several parents in tears in my office because things are not working out for them. I’ve had staff members share their personal challenges with me, which is an enormous privilege. I’ve seen students struggle through hardship or in recognition of the fact that they have made a mistake (however, the flip side of that is that you also have the opportunity to see them move through the hardship to a new beginning). I can’t pinpoint one specific day being harder than others, because there is something wonderful in every day, no matter what happens.
What tips would you give new school leaders about staying positive and keeping their energy levels high?
It’s easy to have high energy and positivity when everything is going well. However, being a principal can be a lonely job when things go wrong. I would recommend building up a strong professional network so you can debrief on the tricky matters, or engaging a mentor to guide you through challenges. Of course, maintaining an ‘outside’ life is vitally important – good family support, some hobbies and ways to relax are essential. One thing that always lifts my spirits on the trickiest days is a quick visit to the primary classrooms, especially kinder or prep. It’s an instant magic quick fix for the tough times!
If you could name just one thing that kept you going to school every day, even on the really difficult days, what would that be?
The bright, ‘Good morning Mrs Ryan’ welcomes of 560 students does it for me.
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
Connected Leader Copyright ©. Australian Primary Principals Association 2015. This whole publication, created as a deliberately selected compilation of internet-based resources, may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA).
Connected Leader is an official publication of the Australian Primary Principals Association. In close collaboration with APPA, Connected Leader is designed, produced and edited, specifically for APPA members, by Debra J. Crouch, Managing Director of Vivid Word and Image design, to enhance the professional learning of Australian primary school leaders.
The opinions expressed in any of the internet-based resources accessed by links from Connected Leader, belong entirely to those who created those resources, and do not necessarily represent official APPA views and policies. At times, links to some resources may be deliberately selected to reflect the wide range of views held by Australian primary school leaders, and the views therein may be subject to debate in some sections of the education community. Readers are advised that, in the interests of brevity, not all of the available personal opinions or information about a particular event, development, issue or policy direction may be published in resources made available through links in Connected Leader. Interested readers who require more comprehensive information, or who seek the opinions of all stakeholders, are advised to directly contact the institution/s or persons cited in the resource/s or conduct their own private research.
Neither APPA, Debra J. Crouch nor Vivid Word and Image Design can guarantee, or take responsibility for, the accuracy or otherwise of any of the information and/or views contained in any of the internet-based resources accessed by links from Connected Leader, or from subsequent webpages accessed via links within (or in material/text following) those suggested resources. The duration of all links cannot be guaranteed by APPA or VIVID Word and Image Design. Nor do these two parties accept responsibility for any loss or damages arising from statements or opinions contained in any published article or advertisement.