Still lessons to be learned to improve student outcomes

The Productivity Commission's Review of the National School Reform Agreement (NSRA) recommends redesigning the agreement to focus more attention on lifting students' academic results and supporting students' wellbeing.

"Governments have boosted funding for schools and are implementing reforms to lift student outcomes. However, so far, this effort has had little impact on literacy and numeracy results. In the next agreement, the Commission recommends governments commit to firm targets to lift students' results - targets do not guarantee success but they create a clear direction for reform and make governments accountable," Commissioner Natalie Siegel-Brown said.

"Each year, almost 90,000 students do not meet minimum standards for reading or numeracy in NAPLAN. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students in outer regional and remote Australia, and students of parents with low educational attainment are three times more likely to fall behind than other students. The Commission recommends that each state and territory should set a target to reduce the share of students who are falling behind," Ms Siegel-Brown said.

The current agreement sets goals to lift the outcomes of students from 'priority equity cohorts' - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students living in regional, rural and remote locations, students with disability and students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds - but a lack of data and reporting means jurisdictions are not accountable. The Commission recommends that, under the next agreement, governments fill the data gaps, outline their programs to lift students' results and report annually on progress.

To ensure Australia has a high quality, high equity education system the next agreement must focus on addressing the different educational needs of particular cohorts, in addition to effective teaching and school leadership and supporting student wellbeing.

"Effective teaching is the single most influential 'in-school' factor for creating an effective learning environment. Compared to many countries, our teachers work longer hours but have less time for activities that make a real difference in the classroom. Teacher shortages also mean we are asking many teachers to teach subjects they are not trained to teach," Ms Siegel-Brown said.

"Governments have announced reforms to address these issues. The Commission is suggesting further reforms, which could help ease these pressures on teachers."

"Many students experience challenges to their wellbeing and can have difficulty engaging at school. We recommend the next intergovernmental agreement recognise wellbeing as a priority and governments take steps to support all schools to adopt effective wellbeing strategies," Ms Siegel-Brown said.

For a full copy of the Review of the National School Reform Agreement report, please visit the Commission's website:

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