Statements of Opportunity

Statement 1

Effective curriculum differentiation for students with different learning needs

Many students with different learning needs are not working at their age-expected stage within their classroom and school settings. This is particularly true for students with disability and additional learning needs. Teachers can struggle to support a student when they are working on outcomes that are very different to those of other students in their class. Providing explicit advice and support to teachers can help those teachers better manage the complexities of curriculum differentiation across a range of stages while also handling their existing workloads. Effective strategies support all students in the classroom.

Research questions

  • How do teachers best differentiate teaching and learning for students who are working towards syllabus outcomes below their age-expected stage in some areas?
  • What strategies, techniques, and expertise drawn on by teachers in these contexts lead to better outcomes for the children students they support?


  • Effective support for teachers that enables them to break down a range of syllabus outcomes such that they can cater to a wide range of students in one class/across a school.
  • Certainty that every student's needs are identified and directly targeted by effective differentiation of syllabus and curriculum.
  • Reduced workload on teachers in managing differentiation issues through evidence-based effective practice.
  • Translation of lessons learnt about curriculum differentiation for students with disability that strengthen outcomes for all students.

Statement 2

Building the evidence connecting physical and digital learning environments to student outcomes and wellbeing

School learning environments are highly variable across NSW, not only in terms of location and scale, but also in terms of the age of infrastructure. In 2020 and 2021, digital learning environments have had to rapidly scale across the state in order to support students learning from home. Supporting schools to improve, tailor, and adapt strong learning and wellbeing outcomes for their students, in line with their physical and digital infrastructure and capabilities, will help to deliver stronger outcomes for students and teachers across the state. An emerging issue is how best to support non-typical school settings, such as hospital schools or vertical schools, to deliver expected outcomes.

Research questions

  • How can the learning environment (physical and digital) support learning and teaching for specific school contexts?
  • How can we identify and replicate different elements of learning environments that have a strong positive impact on student outcomes and wellbeing across the schooling system?
  • How can digital technologies be used effectively in curriculum delivery, in student and school management and/or learning from home?


  • The development of educationally relevant measurement tools that can be used to assess effective learning environments.
  • Identification of effective practice linked to aspects of learning environments that could be replicated at scale.
  • The measurement of student capabilities that reflect the type of learning and teaching those environments are intended to facilitate (i.e., the general capabilities)

Statement 3

Subject selection and mathematics enrolment in NSW

Better understanding the factors behind mathematics subject selection in stage 5 and how these affect the ability of students to study stage 6 mathematics

Student decision-making about Stage 6 courses of study is affected by many factors, including prior attainment, interest and experience, teacher attitudes and school policies, and peer and family influences.

Attainment for students in Stage 5 determines whether a student is eligible to undertake higher level Stage 6 mathematics. This means that student learning and attainment during years 9 and 10 is likely to strongly impact whether a student will experience success as a first-year undergraduate in a STEM course, after they complete their HSC.

The Department has seen a decline in enrolment numbers of students choosing to undertake higher levels of maths in Stage 6 over the last 6 years: a 3% decrease in Mathematics Standard and a 4.5% decrease in extension 1. Enrolments in non-calculus mathematics have fallen 11% in the same period. Australia’s performance in international testing has declined, with recent research investigating several theories for this decline and finding little evidence to support common assumptions.

Attainment and subject selection in the HSC has flow on effects for students who wish to undertake further education or training, in particular for students who wish to work or study in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) related fields.

University undergraduate courses of study in STEM fields build on mathematical concepts and skills that are part of the Stage 5 curriculum. Many university undergraduate degrees and individual courses of study indicate that there is assumed knowledge of these courses, and indeed some universities apply adjustment factors to a student’s ATAR based on a student’s completion and attainment in HSC level maths and science courses. However, few universities mandate higher level maths as a pre-requisite.

Research questions

  • What are the most significant factors that determine subject selection for students at the end of Stage 5?
  • Are there factors that can be addressed at an earlier age that sets a student on the path of selecting higher level mathematics in stage 5/6?
  • More broadly, what are the factors that go into subject selection decision making for students, and how can the Department support more informed student choice?


  • Better understand the factors influencing student decision making for Stage 5 and 6 mathematics courses, in order to
  • Develop better support for students and teachers to enable students to make robust decisions about their future.
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