A Senate Committee has handed down its final report into the issue of increasing disruption in Australian school classrooms, calling for a major inquiry into declining academic standards.
The report detailed how disruptive classrooms are leading to lower student achievement, pointing to the PISA 2022 results which found that Australia ranks below-average in classroom orderliness when compared to fellow OECD countries.
The authors of the report, led by Senator Matt O’Sullivan, backs the Australian Education Research Organisation’s (AERO) Engaged Classrooms project, which calls for a ground up approach to classroom management, including a ‘Behaviour Curriculum’ to help young people understand their school’s behavioural expectations and values.
“The committee is hopeful that [AERO’s] resources will help teachers to practically apply the best evidence-based teaching strategies in their classrooms,” the wrote.
The committee also recommended that Australia’s education system look at how high-performing countries are achieving better results than our own, including the extent to which the experience of these countries can inform Australian schools.
Another key recommendation was another inquiry into declining academic standards in Australian schools, with the terms of referencing including students’ proficiency in literacy and numeracy and the experience of principals, teachers, and parents in meeting the challenge of raising academic standards.
The authors of the report said the inquiry should also look at what support can be provided to teachers and what improvements could be made to the Australian Curriculum to raise academic standards in Australian schools.
‘No solutions for disengaged students’
The Greens, who opposed the Senate Inquiry from the outset, said it had “ended with a whimper” and “provided no solutions to the systemic social and economic problems that lead to student disengagement.”
“So-called ‘disruption’ in the classroom is the inevitable end-point of declining material conditions and decades of under-investment in health, education and other public social services and social supports,” Greens spokesperson on Education (Primary & Secondary), Senator Penny Allman-Payne said.
“Governments set these kids up to fail, and then scratch their heads when that’s exactly what happens.”
Allman-Payne said that instead of exploring ways to address poverty, housing insecurity, poor mental health, hunger and under-resourced schools, the Inquiry has largely ignored the presented evidence and pointed the finger at teachers and pedagogy.
“Pseudo-scientific behaviour management is no remedy for entrenched social and economic disadvantage.”
However, Shadow Minister for Education, Senator Sarah Henderson, welcomed the report, which she said offered “critical insights” into how spiralling behaviour in and out of the classroom is impacting on the learning outcomes of Australian students.
“Students cannot learn in a disruptive environment, and hardworking teachers must have the training and the resources to excel in the classroom, including the resources and the training to manage poor classroom behaviour,” she said.
“On that score, teaching courses offered by Australian universities—not all, but on the whole—leave new teachers unprepared and lacking knowledge in evidence based teaching methods or the science of learning—so our universities must bear a big part of the blame.”
Senator Henderson said the irony is that “university academics training student teachers don’t need a teaching degree to do their job.”
“I strongly endorse the committee’s recommendation in its final report to hold an inquiry into declining academic standards, including examining students’ proficiency in literacy and numeracy and the experience of principals, teachers and parents in meeting the challenge of raising academic standards.”