Issue 1
Friday, 27 November 2009

Towards an Australian Curriculum

A word from Dr Peter Hill, CEO, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

Welcome to the first edition of ACARA Update which aims to keep you informed about ACARA's work on the Australian curriculum, the National Assessment Program (NAP), and the forthcoming website.

The Australian curriculum is being developed through a collaborative partnership with all key stakeholders. Your participation during its development is vital. This newsletter provides information on plans for public consultation on the draft Australian curriculum for English, mathematics, science and history (K 10), starting in February 2010.

I strongly encourage your participation during the consultation process your constructive feedback will assist in ensuring a world-class, futures-oriented Australian curriculum for all Australian students.

This edition of ACARA Update outlines progress in developing Phase 1 of the Australian curriculum (English, mathematics, science and history). It also briefly describes the initial work for Phase 2 (geography, languages and the arts). Finally, ACARA's partner in Western Australia, the WA Curriculum Council, reports on a recent large-scale engagement activity.

Dr Peter Hill, CEO of ACARA

Consultation on draft K-10 curriculum in 2010

ACARA encourages involvement and participation of all stakeholders during this key stage of curriculum development.

Throughout 2009, a team of writers has drafted the Australian curriculum (K 10) for English, mathematics, science and history. ACARA will release the draft curriculum for these learning areas in mid February and seek public consultation to May 2010. Consultation on the senior years' curriculum is planned from April to June 2010.

The draft K-10 curriculum consists of content descriptions and achievement standards for each year level in each learning area, supported by content elaborations and some annotated work samples. The curriculum has been developed as a web-based document and uses web technologies to embed links, enabling multiple views and easy access. It will be published online through the ACARA website to facilitate the consultation process.

The consultation on the draft Australian curriculum is intended to obtain feedback on the following key questions.

Completion of an online survey

Teachers and other stakeholders in the broader education community will be able to review the curriculum and provide feedback online, including the completion of an online survey.

State/territory and national consultation forums

ACARA, together with state and territory education authorities, proposes to conduct two consultation forums during February and March 2010. Participants will include teachers, school leaders, students, professional associations, universities, teacher unions, parents, industry groups and education authority officers.

National forums

ACARA will convene forums in March 2010 with participants to include teachers, national professional associations, education and discipline academics, and stakeholders from the broad education community.

Short-term, intensive activities with teachers and schools using the draft curriculum materials

Schools nominated from each state and territory will be invited to participate in the development of teaching/learning programs from the draft Australian curriculum (K-10) within specific learning areas and at specific stages of schooling.

More information on each of the consultation processes can be accessed via the ACARA website

ACARA will analyse all submissions and feedback, and will report on the data gathered through consultation. The report will include recommendations for revisions to the draft curriculum, and will be posted on the ACARA website.

Developing the Australian curriculum for English, mathematics, science and history (Phase 1)

Curriculum for the English, mathematics, science and history – the first phase learning areas have been developed according to the stages described in ACARA’s Curriculum Development Process paper published in August 2009.

Curriculum development timelines for English, mathematics, science and history can be viewed on the ACARA website

The curriculum development process consists of four stages: shaping, writing, implementation, and evaluation and review.

Curriculum shaping

Curriculum development is guided by a shape paper for each learning area. The shape paper presents a broad outline of the curriculum K 12 and curriculum design advice for each learning area. The shape papers for English, mathematics, science and history were written by a lead writer with support from an advisory group. Following expert and public consultation, The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: English, Mathematics, Science and History documents were published in May 2009 (view publications).

Curriculum writing

Teams of writers supported by ACARA curriculum staff drafted the national curriculum materials from May 2009 for these four learning areas. ACARA’s Curriculum Design Paper and advice from the ACARA Board guide this process. Writers are also supported by learning area and cross learning area advisory panels, which comprise teachers, academics and curriculum experts from across the country.

Additional input has been sought through curriculum development workshops in each learning area and through engagement with key stakeholder groups nationally and in states and territories. Expertise has also been sought from cross learning area perspectives, including sustainability education, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and Asia education.

Writing teams have referred to national and international curriculum and assessment research, state and territory curriculum materials, and research on the first five general capabilities described within The Shape of the Australian Curriculum (PDF, 277kb) – literacy, numeracy, ICT, creativity and thinking skills.

The writing stage culminates in public consultation on the K 10 draft curriculum (February to May 2010), refinement in the light of consultation feedback, and subsequent publication (scheduled for August 2010).

Implementation stage

States and territories are currently developing plans for implementation of the Australian curriculum. These plans will take account of the differences between the Australian curriculum and existing state and territory curriculum.

The Australian curriculum for English, mathematics, science and history (K 12) will be completed in the third quarter of 2010. It is expected that the implementation of the Australian curriculum (K 10) will be well underway in 2013 across the country. For some states and territories, 2011 will be a pilot year, with the experience and advice from participating schools used to guide implementation in the remaining schools in subsequent years.

Implementation sequences for senior secondary years’ curriculum will be determined in 2010.

Evaluation and Review Stage

During this stage, data on and issues raised about curriculum implementation will be reviewed to determine whether a curriculum (or part thereof) requires revision.

Developing the Australian curriculum for geography, languages and the arts (Phase 2)

The second phase of the Australian curriculum development involves geography, languages and the arts. Curriculum development in these three areas follows Phase 1 by approximately 12 months, although each has individual timelines.

The development of the Shape of the Australian Curriculum papers for these learning areas is preceded by a process in which ACARA considers positions in relation to a number of key issues. These include whether they should have the same emphasis in the curriculum as those in Phase 1, and whether they will carry the expectation of K–10 implementation for all students.

This process is supported by reference groups with learning area expertise. Reference groups and timelines for each of the Phase 2 learning areas will be available on the ACARA website by mid-December 2009.

Initial advice papers for geography, languages and the arts will be available for public consultation in mid 2010. Analysis of the consultation feedback will guide ACARA in setting directions for the development of the respective shape papers.

ACARA will appoint lead writers to support the writing of the initial advice papers. The names of the lead writers will be published by mid January 2010.

ACARA and the Curriculum Council WA engage teachers and school leaders in the development of the Australian curriculum


group activity shot


On 23 and 24 November 2009, the Curriculum Council WA and ACARA conducted two briefings in Perth for about 500 teachers, school leaders and sector/system representatives. The sessions provided an opportunity for participants to discuss the draft Australian curriculum, the timeline for formal consultation and implementation considerations for WA.

Participants had the opportunity to ask questions of Robert Randall, General Manager, Curriculum, and a panel including senior officers from each of the Western Australian system/sectors and the Curriculum Council.

Photo of Bill LoudenACARA board member Professor Bill Louden, who presented at the sessions, commented on the importance and benefits of quality consultation and communication with classroom teachers and principals in developing the national curriculum.

“They are the ones teaching the curriculum and they are best placed to tell us how it can be most effective in the classroom,” said Professor Louden. He affirmed the commitment by ACARA to listen carefully to all feedback and to be open in its responses.

The importance of engaging with our school-based stakeholders was re-iterated by David Wood, CEO of the Curriculum Council, who commented that, “It is essential we meet and talk about the national curriculum. Teachers want to engage in it, they want to be involved…The draft curriculum….will be available for comment early next year and we want our teachers to be informed so that they can contribute to making a national curriculum for all students.”

The success of this engagement activity was clearly reflected by the responses of participating teachers and principals, who commented on the positive outcomes they received from attending the briefings. Some of these are outlined below.

Photo of Bernie RobertsBernie Roberts, Head of Department, Maths, Newman College, Perth: “The only way forward is to engage in the national curriculum. It was good to view the curriculum documents, see the scope and sequence and discuss the practicalities and the problems with teachers from Catholic, independent and government schools. There were a lot of common agreements (about the national curriculum) and we are very encouraged by it all.”

Photo of Jef MiddletonJef Middleton, Deputy Principal, Mater Dei College: “I liked that the briefings acknowledged that different States would need their own schedule. WA has already made some major modifications (to its curriculum) and it would be too much to ask to jump soon. I wouldn’t like to see the new curriculum to be too prescriptive. We have a lot of flexibility and I would not like to lose it. It was good also to go away and talk to people in our sector about the changes. “

Photo of Denise StoneDenise Stone, Principal, Spearwood Alternative School: “It was a great opportunity to be here and go over what I have read and heard and have a few myths busted. Having had a few things clarified, I feel more confident discussing the national curriculum with staff. I also liked that we had plenty of time to discuss things and ask questions.

Photo of Graeme SmithGraeme Smith, Principal, Duncraig Senior High School: “It was good to increase my knowledge about implementation and have the opportunity to discuss things with my colleagues. Our curriculum has been through a period of great change and we would not like to go through it again without learning the lessons of the past. Briefings such as this, and what we are hearing about implementation timelines and resources, suggests we are proceeding correctly this time.”

ACARA will continue to conduct such briefing sessions in partnership with state and territory authorities, to ensure that all those who are interested are aware and involved during key stages of curriculum development.

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