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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Developments in Queensland school education

Special report

The Queensland Government has announced a range of reforms to school education. Some of the initiatives are part of the recently announced second phase of Queensland's Smart State strategy, and all the current innovations exemplify the Smart State approach. This report is sourced from media releases 11–17 April 2005 by Anna Bligh MP, Queensland Minister for Education and Minister for the Arts, and from Education Queensland documents hyperlinked in the text.

Smarter Standards for the compulsory years

A new Queensland Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting (QCAR) Framework is to be introduced for Years P–10.

The new framework will define the essential curriculum and assist schools as they continue to provide other curricula appropriate to local needs. It will be based on the eight key learning area syllabuses – The Arts, English, Health and Physical Education, Languages other than English, Mathematics, Science, Studies of Society and the Environment, and Technology – as well as other curriculum materials. However, it will also address concerns raised by teachers and the community about the amount of material that has to be covered in the compulsory years, which is hindering in-depth learning. The framework will not add to teacher workload or dictate how to teach. In fact, it will make teachers' work clearer and easier.

The framework sets standards of achievement for students. It will establish rigorous comparable assessment against these standards at three key points (yet to be determined) in the P–10 years. This move will result in consistent teacher judgements of student achievement. Teachers will be able to draw on a bank of assessment tools linked to the essential curriculum and standards. The assessment bank will complement, rather than replace, school-devised assessment. By providing more comprehensive and comparable data on school performance the new assessment will support school and system-level planning.

There will also be a comparable framework for reporting student achievement against the set standards. Parents will receive easy-to-read reports, outlining how well their children are performing and whether this performance is above, below or level with the expectations for their year level.

The new framework has been developed through a partnership between the Department of Education and the Arts, the Queensland Catholic Education Commission, the Association for Independent Schools Queensland, Education Queensland and the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA). The QSA will implement the new system in consultation with its co-stakeholders as well as with teachers, principals, parent groups, employers and groups representing higher education, unions, Indigenous communities, special needs, and rural and remote schools. 

The changes will be implemented in 2008 after a two-year, $8.25 million trial.

Two groups have been established to progress policy. The Policy Steering Committee provides advice to the Minister for Education and the Arts. It includes the chief executive officers of the Catholic, Independent and state education sectors and the Queensland Studies Authority. The Expert Advisory Group, comprising leading academics and expert practitioners, has been established to support the Policy Steering Committee. This group provides independent advice on the intellectual rigour of the policy direction for the framework, particularly theoretical and technical issues.

Historic reforms for new Senior Certificate

Coinciding with the Smart State changes, the Queensland Government has unveiled historic, sweeping reforms to senior schooling, with the introduction of a new Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE).

The new qualification will recognise a much broader range of achievements by students, including TAFE courses, school-based apprenticeships, university subjects, job readiness programs and structured work experience. At the same time, students will have to meet strict standards to obtain the new qualification.

Students' achievement will be measured through a system of credits. A student will need to obtain 20 credits to qualify for the degree, at least 12 of which must come from the core courses of study. The remaining eight credits can come from a combination of core courses and courses such as vocational education, work experience, university subjects or recognised certificates in such areas as music, sport or drama. The credits are 'banked' with the QSA, which will keep students' learning accounts open until they have participated in enough courses of study, training or work to receive the QCE. Students who don't achieve sufficient credit points to be awarded the QCE at the end of Year 12 will still be able to gain the certificate at a later date. Only studies that are quality assured by the QSA will count towards the certificate. The QSA will continually monitor the credit allocation process to ensure credits are assigned in a fair and equitable fashion and reflect the amount of work involved and the standard expected.

For the first time, students will be required to achieve a significant amount of learning at a set standard and to demonstrate minimum standards of literacy and numeracy. The QCE will be a guarantee of a student's accomplishments to employers, TAFE and universities and will act as a passport from school to further education, training and work. It will also be a meaningful and worthwhile certificate for students who don't want to continue on to tertiary studies.

The new senior qualification evolved through extensive community consultation at meetings held across Queensland. Parents, teachers and employers gave clear feedback that the new qualification should require a significant amount of learning to a satisfactory level.

Students will continue to receive a record of studies in Years 11 and 12, now to be called the Senior Statement, even if they do not qualify for the QCE.

The first students to be awarded the QCE will be starting Year 10 in 2006 and graduating in 2008.

Smart Classrooms

The new phase of the Smart State reforms will see $56 million invested over four years in computer technology in Queensland's state school classrooms. Teachers in the public system will be given 1,500 new computers. At the same time there will be more computer technology funding for non-government schools. The investment will provide access to web-based learning materials from anywhere, at any time. The initiative will start in 2006 and will be completed by the end of 2007.

Smart Classrooms will encourage electronic interaction between parents, teachers and students and will increase teachers' uptake of technology. Students will be able to communicate with each other across classes and schools in Queensland as well as interstate and internationally. Parents will have 24/7 electronic access to their child's work, progress and achievements as well as to details such as absences and assessment dates. Teachers will have access to teaching resources, academic results, enrolments and attendance information around the clock. Schools will have access to more wide-ranging technical support, with the establishment of an enhanced central help desk for technical support and increased training for teachers.

New academies

The government will establish two Smart Academies, one for Science, Mathematics and Technology and one for the Creative Arts, for Queensland's best and brightest senior high school students. Each academy will enrol, on merit, up to 450 students, who will be able to complete a senior certificate, fast track studies, study university subjects, or work with industry to combine career-based and university-level studies.

Each academy will cater for up to 450 students. They will begin in 2007 for Year 10 and 11 students and in 2008 for Year 12 students. The arts academy will have a structure similar to New York's legendary Juilliard School, made famous by the 1980s film Fame, and will aim to produce the next generation of Queensland cultural pioneers. At the Science, Mathematics and Technology academy students will study these key disciplines alongside other subjects including humanities and the arts.

The academies will draw on high quality, enthusiastic staff from the teaching profession, industry and universities.

In developing the academies, the government will build on close relationships with such arts organisations as the Queensland Ballet, Queensland Orchestra and Opera Queensland as well as with industry partners such as Boeing, Comalco, Riveria Marine, BHP and other major mining companies. These relationships will include work training placements and internships to boost students' future employment prospects.

The $46 million four-year investment will include $35 million in construction costs.

Vocational education and training

In coming weeks the Queensland Government will release a green paper for the public to comment on a comprehensive review of the Vocational Education and Training system. Issues to be addressed include the need to raise the skills profile of Queensland's population, the modernisation and reform of the apprenticeship system, and a revised role for TAFE institutes.

The Next Step survey of Year 12 school leavers

This year, up to 40,000 students who completed Year 12 in 2004 will be asked to take part in a landmark survey designed to help the State Government better prepare high school graduates for the future. Next Step focuses on employment, study and life choices of Year 12 graduates. Summary reports will be sent to each school detailing the career or further education paths their former students have taken.

Vocational education and training providers, universities and industry will also have access to the results to help with their planning processes.

The survey is part of a range of improvements endorsed by the Queensland Government last year under its Schools Reporting reforms. It also complements the Government's Education and Training Reforms for the Future initiatives, which are assisting young people to find the learning or earning path that suits them and helps build the Smart State.


Anna Bligh MP, Queensland Minister for Education and Minister for the Arts, will be speaking at the Curriculum Corporation 2005 Conference on the topic of 'National perspectives on curriculum, assessment and reporting: the new agenda'.

Key Learning Areas

The Arts
Studies of Society and Environment
Health and Physical Education

Subject Headings

VET (Vocational Education and Training)
Transitions in schooling
State schools
Secondary education
Science teaching
School partnerships
Compulsory education
Senior secondary education
Performing arts
Mathematics teaching
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Gifted and talented (GAT) children
Educational planning
Educational certificates
Education policy
Curriculum planning
Computer-based training
Arts in education