ACT News

Joy Burch welcomes review to national curriculum and new ministry

ACT Education Minister Joy Burch is a strong supporter of the Australian curriculum.
ACT Education Minister Joy Burch is a strong supporter of the Australian curriculum. 

ACT Education Minister Joy Burch has welcomed the referral of changes to the national school curriculum to the peak learning and assessment body but questioned possible implementations in time for the 2016 school year. 

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne chaired a meeting of his state and territory counterparts in Canberra on Friday, coming as Ms Burch became the territory's first female Minister for Police and Emergency services.

As part of a reshuffle announced by Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Ms Burch will also retain portfolios including gaming and racing and multicultural affairs. 

The meeting saw education ministers delay for at least four months their decision on improvements to the national school curriculum, which an expert review found was cluttered and placed too much focus on Aboriginal heritage and the Asian century.

Under the agreement, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority will report to ministers at their next meeting, likely to be in Canberra in early March.

Mr Pyne welcomed the referral and possible changes, including improvement to the primary school curriculum, calling the decision a "victory for practical, common-sense reform".

Ms Burch said the curriculum review and a national partnership funding agreement for pre-school education were the major items on the agenda. 

She said the meeting had decided to "work around the edges" of the curriculum, following the review by Abbott government appointees Kevin Donnelly and Ken Wiltshire.

Widely seen as politically motivated, the review found cross-curriculum priorities including sustainability, Australia's engagement with Asia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage, were being over-taught . 

The findings called for greater focus on the Western cannon and Australia's Judeo-Christian heritage. It also recommended a more explicit focus on literacy and numeracy in early years education. 

"At every council meeting you will have different views from different ministers but ministers accept that when we come to curriculum, the experts for that is ACARA and that is the right place for further advice to come back to us from," Ms Burch said.

"There was solid support to maintain an Australian curriculum. Here in the ACT we've been very strong supporters and early adopters of the Australian curriculum so I am definitely on record of wanting to keep it into play but every system needs review." 

Ms Burch said Mr Pyne's preferred timeline of term one 2016 could be too ambitious.

"We will see what the advice is and what impact that will have on timelines but, as I have said before, I think it is ambitious to have any serious, significant change for 2016 but if we're committed to the curriculum every minister will do [their] best to work through any necessary changes." 

In her new portfolio area, Ms Burch will prioritise briefings and on the ground visit with police officers and emergency crews. She praised Mr Barr's process in establishing the new frontbench after Katy Gallagher's resignation. 

"Our police and emergency services are well trained, they're very prepared and very skilled. I know they serve our community well," she said. 

Further changes are expected in early 2015 as a new sixth minister is appointed by Mr Barr.