The Canberra Liberals are calling for an independent review of the ACT's public school system in the face of bullying, falling academic results and a lack of evidence-based policies and practices.
Opposition education spokesman Jeremy Hanson said Canberra's education system was failing students and needed a complete overhaul.
"The government's been in for 21 years now and I think when you look at the evidence of what's happening in the education system across academic results, the maintenance of schools, school governance, equity and school cultures, it's clear what the government has been doing and is doing isn't working," he said.
Dr Karen Macpherson, a former lecturer and current education advisor to Mr Hanson, said she held grave concerns about the direction set in the ACT Education Directorate's Future of Education Strategy.
Mr Hanson engaged Dr Macpherson to examine issues in the ACT education system and put forward a strategy to address them.
She said the current strategy meant some children could fall behind in the critical early years.
"It is focusing on inquiry-based learning, which is one of the best learning tools there are.
"The problem is that you never use it with young children because they're not ready for it."
She said young children didn't have the mental maturity to make daily choices about where they sat, how the classroom was arranged and what and how they learned.
Dr Macpherson said only a small percentage of students were suited to a multi-age, open-plan classroom as dictated by the Education Directorate's new school design brief.
"Most children need guidance. Children don't do very well in multi-age classrooms because it's easier for bullying to happen, it's easier for the younger children to get lost in the transition, that sort of thing.
"And in a purely practical way in open-plan classrooms it's hard for teachers to hear the children and vice versa."
"We should and can be doing better. There are lots of evidence-based techniques that work far better than the ones that underpin future of education strategy so that is why, yes, it's only a few years old but the results are already showing it's not working and it was entirely predictable."
The Canberra Liberals' strategy points to five recent independent reports that concluded that ACT government schools were underperforming compared to students of similar backgrounds in other parts of Australia. The various reports calculate that ACT students are between two and 16 months behind in their learning.
Mr Hanson said the school system should be driven by evidence rather than ideology.
"If there are new trends and new techniques that can be adopted in the appropriate setting, then we encourage it, we support it ... But to do that to the exclusion of what has been a successful model of education for decades, it's a sort of revolutionary approach but it's unnecessary and we simply don't support it."
He said there could be scope to standardise aspects of school administration and policies to reduce the burden on school principals and improve equity and consistency across the system.
"It's not that we want to disempower principals and teachers, quite the reverse. We just want to make sure that they're focused on what they do best which is leading schools, and teaching children, and take more of the governance administration away from the schools," he said.
"The vision is to bring out the best in every child, regardless of their background or ability so it's not just kids that are struggling, it's about the kids that are excelling."
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