Strategic Plan 2018-2022 – November 2018 update from the Secretary

On Tuesday 20 November 2018, Secretary Mark Scott gave a department-wide update on the Strategic Plan 2018-2022. The recording and transcript are available here.

Video: Mark Scott presents an update on our Strategic Plan

Duration – 16:40

Video transcript

Mark Scott

Hello. I’m Mark Scott, Secretary of the NSW Department of Education and thank you for joining us for our special hook-up around the state today. We’re going to talk about this important reform that we’ve been working on, every student in our school being known, valued and cared for. I’m also going to give you a bit of an update on the year as it’s progressed and implementation of our strategic plan.

At the beginning, I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. Here in Sydney we’re on Gadigal land, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respect to Elders, past and present and future and extend that respect to all Aboriginal people watching this broadcast today. Like you, I’m thoroughly shocked that we’re in week six of Term 4. We’re in late November. The end of year is coming at us very, very quickly and we’ve had a very, very big year in NSW Education. At the onset of this seminar meeting today I just wanted to give you a sense of some of the highlights, some of the things that we’ve been working on this year, and the really good progress I think we’ve made to the implementation of our strategic plan.

We launched the strategic plan at the beginning of this year, and we’re 10 months in, and I’m struck, as I do visits to schools all around the state, just how significantly schools have embraced the fundamental challenge that we’ve bought to have students at the centre of our system and to ensure that every student in our school is known, valued and cared for, and that every student, every teacher, every leader, every school is improving every year. And we’re really going to focus on that every student known, valued and cared for in our seminar this morning.

A key part of our strategic plan is the values that we have in NSW Education. And you can see the most important thing that we can do is to be living these values, and you see them on the screen in front of you, excellence, equity, accountability, trust, integrity, service. The real challenge of values is not that you put them down on a piece of paper, that you actually live them. The thing about values is that they send a message of what is important around here, and I’ve been struck, as I’ve visited schools across the state, how schools are really embracing these values in their own way. It’s not important that they’re really written on the piece of paper, what’s important is what schools do with them. And so these values need to be more than words in a document, they should be lived every day in what we do.

I was out at Ajuga School in South Western Sydney, a specialist setting for us, highly complex students, and Leah Smileski is the new principal there and, in talking with her, I was just struck at how importantly she was viewing the values so that we could really, really focus on improving the outcomes and creating an environment of trust for students at that school. Our vision is to be one of the best education systems in the world, Australia’s finest education system, and that’s what our strategic plan really focuses on. And I’m struck, as I visit schools, how they are really focused on this work.

I spent some time down in Albury schools recently and I was struck at how many schools there were really focused on engaging a strategy of improvement and how reflective the principals and the leaders of those schools were in their practise, this collective efficacy of improving their effort on and on and again.

When it comes to every student, every teacher, every leader and every school improving every year, we’ve done a number of things this year to improve the supporting infrastructure around our schools. An important part has been the School Leadership Strategy. We created more directors of school leadership and trained them to really be providing strong support for school principals on the ground. This last week we started the training, the first intake we’ve had in our School Leadership Institute, training the next generation of school leaders in our Aspiring Principals Program. We’ve put extra money into schools to allow principals to relieve the burden somewhat, to lift some of the administrative burden off them so they can really be instructional leaders. There are lots of things we’re doing to focus on improving the standards in our schools. We’ve been talking about higher entry points for graduates of New South Wales universities to come in to work in the Department. We are the employer and we want to ensure that everyone who comes into our schools and who we recruit, that we are recruiting at the highest possible standards. Many of you will know, we’ve done a big review of our educational services area so we can be ensured that we have the right infrastructure that we are wrapping around schools, providing tailored support to schools in different contexts so we can prioritise teaching times on areas that you have identified as a priority for real improvement. We’re continuing to do this work to try and lift the burden off schools.

Stacey Quince, the principal out at Campbelltown is leading a task force for us, working closely with the Department so we can identify those points of irritation, those points of frustration, those areas that put an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on schools. We’re doing all we can to lift that burden, to free up time for leaders to lead and for teachers to teach, and this is a priority for us. A key to all this work is to ensure that we have high expectations for all students, no matter where they are. I was addressing a seminar out at Western Sydney University last week and I know this is a passion and a burden for our teachers and leaders in schools where students are from low socio-economic backgrounds. We know that the key is high expectations for all. That’s been a feature in our literacy and numeracy work, and we know that we have a commitment that all young people have a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy. We’ve worked on the state Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, providing extensive professional learning to introduce the new learning progressions, which will really be a way of us identifying where every student is at, paying close attention to what they can do, what they need to do and what the next step is in their learning so that every child in our system is an individual and every child in our system is being closely monitored to ensure that they are on a pathway to learning.

We’re rolling out Best Start Assessment tools for kindergarten and Year 7, and we’ve got a real focus on effective, professional learning for our kindergarten teachers to ensure that they have the deep knowledge required for how students learn to read and develop a wide range of strategies to keep students moving along in their learning. We know that student commitment and student engagement is a key for learning and we need students engaged and interested in all that they’re doing, and a key to that, of course, is the school curriculum. That’s why the government has launched a big review of the New South Wales curriculum being led by Professor Geoff Masters from the Australian Council for Educational Research, and I know that many of you around the state will have been able to tap into some of the seminars that Geoff has been running and working on. This is a once in a generation opportunity for us to think through what we best teach and how we best teach it, and your insights and contribution – I know through talking with Geoff – have already had a big impact on him. Real concerns about an overcrowded curriculum, the ability to let the curriculum breathe a bit and help teachers to have more flexibility in how they teach and also more opportunities for students to engage in real areas of interest for them. It’s going to be an important year next year for the curriculum review as Geoff’s findings land and we think through what the implications of that might be for the syllabus, for students, the way the HSC is conducted and how we go about assessing student achievement.

We’re continuing to do work on Education for a Changing World. The children who start with us in kindergarten next year, they’re going to leave our school system in 2032. As I often say, great teachers are slightly obsessed about the future and we understand the status quo is not an option for us because we’re not preparing children for a status quo world. And that’s why this Education for a Changing World focus that we have to think through how we best prepare students for that fast changing world, that’s absolutely vital for us. I encourage you to keep logging into the website and seeing the work that CESE is doing, continuing to scour the world for best practice, to look at best practice in our schools and our great reports out there, brochures and publications, podcasts as well, to put the information into your hands for what the evidence shows us works best in different school settings. Clear focus on student wellbeing, we just ran a big anti-bullying conference, as you know, and that continues to be a focus for us to create a safe environment in our schools where every student can flourish.

There’s been a lot of talk about education in the headlines, and I want to talk a little bit about some of those things, particularly as far as funding is concerned. You’ll see that what we have done is the NSW Government has signed up to the next Gonski plan.

You’ll have seen that there was this really pretty significant debate when the Commonwealth put extra money into non-government schools for needs-based funding. None of that money was available for public education, and so I was really pleased that the state government made a commitment for an extra $712 million for a New South Wales school equity program for government schools, and that money will begin to roll from 2020, an extra $71 million a year allocated for needs-based funding. I want to thank Leslie Loble and Martin Graham and the team from Ex-R for their extraordinary diligence in negotiating this big settlement, a number of different agreements needed to be signed. They not only provided leadership for us, but cleared a pathway around the rest of the country for a new funding deal that gives us funding security so we continue to invest in quality education, student-based reforms.

You’ll have seen the impact of government reforms again, particularly needs-based funding with that RAM allocation that you’ve just been informed about for next year, $1.18 billion in needs-based funding in 2019, and there are some significant increases in this funding year on year, $100 million of increased funding, including $30 million to support schools through the equity loading for socioeconomic background and $30 million extra for capital loading funding to all schools. And, also, very significantly, we’ve had big feedback on this, $10 million to support our very hardworking teaching principals out there, providing them with more money for relief as a special allocation. And that benefit will flow to nearly 500 teaching principals in our schools. Also, increased funding for the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, and continuation of that funding, that extra $50 million-plus now to support our principals to help relieve the administrative burden from them. Also, funding stability for our drought affected schools in many parts of New South Wales.

As we do all this work, we’re continuing to invest the biggest investment ever made by a Department of Education in development of school infrastructure. Over $6 billion worth of programming being planned as we go, $6 billion worth of new building programs, 170 new and upgraded schools. I was out at one in South Western Sydney, still quite a lot of work there to be done, but delivering that for day one, Term 1 next year, about 20 new projects launching at the beginning of the new year. And $747 million for maintenance expenditure, which has also been allocated as well as part of the budget.

Our commitment is to overcome educational disadvantage. This is what I was saying at Western Sydney University, we’ve got to be believers in this, that education is the passport to life’s opportunities. And we know, through the evidence in our schools, that even in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the state they are seeing extraordinary improvement in learning outcomes through the power of great teaching and through the power of great leadership. And we know if it can happen in some places, it can happen everywhere. That’s why we’re continuing to lift the funding available for low SES students through the RAM, we’re doing a very significant piece of work on supporting students with disability in our schools. We’ve got a significant population growth that’s coming through, but that is dwarfed by the increasing level of students assessed with disability in our schools and we want to make sure we can best support our most vulnerable students and our most complex learners with a clear strategy that respects inclusion, is committed to diversity and ensuring great opportunities for all.

Finally, and you’ll have heard me say this before as well, this all depends on our people. We can have great buildings and great curriculum and great infrastructure and technology but, finally, it all depends on our people. That’s what makes the real difference in our schools. It’s you and your colleagues who turn up to work every day. And I know that many of you had many other career options and life opportunities, but you are committed to young people, you are committed to education and you are committed to the future of our society and of our nation that education can bring. And that’s why we are really keen to make NSW Education a great place to work.

We really valued your feedback in the People Matter Survey, 46% of staff responded to that survey. That’s a very big number. And we showed an engagement score of 68%, which was 2% higher than the public sector average, so we’re travelling well, we’re improving, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We have teams who are at work trying to engage with staff to get your feedback, to think about what are the things that we can do to make this a better place to work and, particularly, for those of you working in schools to allow you to really focus on the students and really focus on their learning and really focus on their improvement every year.

We just know the power of collegial teams, and the most effective schools that I see when I’m travelling out there aren’t just schools with great principals and talented staff, but it’s the way that staff works together that really makes a difference, strong collegial teams committed with a strong purpose, this collective efficacy, they really know what they’re trying to do and they’re really focused on delivering a strategy that’s providing improvement for students everywhere. We all have responsibility to make this a great place to work. And, as I’ve often said, there are only two kinds of jobs in the Department of Education, those of you who are helping students learn every day, and those who have jobs like me, and our job is to help you be as effective as you can be. I can tell you, there’s a great team of people who are working in the corporate offices, and in our meetings and in our strategies we just continue to focus on how we support schools, how we support teachers, admin staff and school leaders to do their job more effectively.

As many of you know, this year we moved out of Bridge Street, some of us, to the new corporate offices in Paramatta, a new open-plan building that’s very collegial, very interactive in how it operates, and I hope many of you will get a chance to see that. I know that many schools have already come in and started using some of those facilities there as well. But the whole model of that building is, in a sense, to break down the hierarchy, break down the bureaucracy and just getting us working together in the support of schools.

That’s a summary of some of the things we’ve been doing this year, such a busy year. And I know it’s week six, I know these final few weeks of term are going to be very, very busy and very, very intense. I may not have the chance to talk with you all again, so I want to thank you for your efforts and thank you for your commitment and thank you for all your hard work, and I hope there’s a good break ahead for everyone on our staff to replenish and renew over summer as we line up for another big year in 2019.

End of transcript.

Continuing the conversation

Watch as Mark Scott, Murat Dizdar and the principals-in-residence continue the conversation to launch Every student is known, valued and cared for in our schools (staff only).

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