Local Schools, Local Decisions evaluation

This report was originally published 18 December 2020.

Image: Local Schools, Local Decisions final evaluation report

Summary

Introduction

In 2012, the NSW Department of Education launched the Local Schools, Local Decisions (LSLD) education reform. LSLD aimed to give NSW public schools more authority to make local decisions to best meet the needs of their students.

The reform focused on five interrelated reform areas: making decisions, managing resources, staffing schools, working locally and reducing red tape. In 2014, a new needs-based approach to school funding through the Resource Allocation Model (RAM) was added to the LSLD reform.

The Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) commenced an evaluation of LSLD in 2016. CESE’s final evaluation report is an outcome evaluation aiming to answer three evaluation questions:

  • What has been the combined impact of LSLD and RAM funding on school and student outcomes?
  • How have schools spent the additional funding they have received since the implementation of LSLD (including RAM and other funding)?
  • What has been the impact of LSLD on school management and local decision-making practices?

Findings and conclusions

The report’s key findings are that:

  • Since the introduction of LSLD, there has been no substantial improvement in NAPLAN Reading and Numeracy results, HSC completion and performance have worsened, and Tell Them From Me student wellbeing outcomes have either not changed or have worsened.
  • It is not possible to use current system finance data to identify exactly how schools spent their funding. The LSLD policy documentation did not explicitly ask schools to demonstrate how changes they made under LSLD, or funding decisions they made with RAM funding, improved student outcomes, nor to report on that improvement.
  • LSLD had a positive impact on schools’ ability to make local, context-specific decisions. However, the administrative burden for schools increased during LSLD.

The report concludes that the department should:

  • Ensure that schools are accountable for their decision-making by requiring and supporting schools to report through the school planning tools.
  • Provide further guidance for schools on effective ways to improve school and student outcomes by continuing to identify what is already known about ‘what works best’ for school leadership and decision-making, and cataloguing and providing guidance on ways that schools should spend their funding in the most effective ways.
  • Ensure policies have clear aims and mechanisms to achieve success in terms of outcomes, and that evaluation is a part of needs-based policy development in future.
  • Develop and support effective financial and administrative management by ensuring that changes to processes and system tools are appropriately piloted, managed and coordinated, and school staff are provided with targeted training.
  • Ensure that financial reporting systems allow the department to track expenditure to the level of detail required to ensure student outcomes are being targeted.

Related reports

The interim evaluation report was published in 2018.

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