Naomi Barnes

Why spectacular slogans and perfect pop ditties will never work

The phenomenon of moral politicking around an issue rather than a political party has been a key part of my research over the last five years. That’s been the case in many things to do with education – and education policy. Our social relationships now have a strong influence on our reality. Politics no longer works the way it did back in 1967.  Let’s look at what happened on the weekend as we voted on the Voice referendum.

On Saturday the No Vote for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament ( commonly called the Voice referendum) won in a landslide. It was a referendum clean sweep. All of the States and more than half the population voted No. There have been many over the weekend who have been deconstructing why. What did the Yes campaign do wrong? Whether there should have been a constitutional convention to avoid spending billions on yet another unsuccessful referendum. Whether there were truth or lies. 

We can analyse the should and the shouldn’ts for days. But in the end, voting on the Voice referendum should never have been the foundational mechanism for having a much needed national discussion about something so important. Maybe once it was. Maybe. But no longer. 

A national discussion

As I said, politics no longer works the way it did back in 1967. 

Back in the 1960s politics had the veneer of a powerful institution that could morally progress the nation. And I say veneer because it’s not like misinformation and politicians behaving badly didn’t exist back then. They absolutely did. But the social agreement was that the political system was represented as something that could be moral. Or at least held to account when it wasn’t. 

Today morality is politicised. In other words, the public are encouraged to gather around an idea because it is moral, not because a political party is moral. We saw this in the distribution of No and Yes votes in the Voice referendum. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) were campaigning for the Yes vote but traditional ALP seats resoundingly voted No across the country. 

Moral politicking around issues rather than  political parties has been a key part of my research findings since 2018. I’ve published a couple of times about it recently with my colleagues (here and here). We discuss how education issues are used as moral barometers in election campaigns and how education publics now tend to align themselves with a moral position attached to an education policy. An earlier finding showed that people are also more likely to make decisions that agree with their friends and family

Moral politicking

This is because our social relationships have a strong influence on our morality. 

The standard response to this phenomenon is ‘media literacy’ or ‘do your research’ or ‘google it’. Be critically literate. This is a great response and absolutely what should happen in the classrooms, in teaching reading and responsible authorship/creation. 

But, when morality is politicised, being critically informed as a moral position is simply not working. We should know that by now. Morality polarises. You can’t teach someone away from the opposite pole with snappy slogans, comedy and clever use of pop songs. They just make your pole feel good (and shocked when you lose). The most successful political actors (politicians/lobbyists etc) today are those who know that spreading misinformation is the best way to run interference – especially on a campaign so deeply concerned with telling the truth. And they are really, really good at it. 

Conservative political actors

These actors tend to be conservative. Conservative political actors, who are intent on wedging issues, do not care whether their descriptions are accurate or not. Indeed their whole purpose is to sow confusion and muddy the water to the point where people have no choice but to vote with their feelings. Meanwhile progressive political actors interested in accuracy, media literacy and fact checking spend all their energy correcting the misinformation or getting frustrated about people not researching. Finding the positive emotional register in “gotchas” when they evidence a flaw. This is a very normal reaction to misleading and inaccurate information. But while this critical energy is spent correcting information, no campaigning for change is happening. Indeed more often than not the conservative campaign is amplified, especially if these discussions are occurring in the media.

So what do we do about it? I’m certainly not advocating for less fact checking or critical media literacy. But we need to face the reality of the situation and consider where critical literacy fits in these times when clever campaigners don’t care if their facts are wrong and critiquing amplifies untruths. 

History and Geography’s poor cousin

It’s not just that people don’t understand how our political systems work that’s a problem, it’s that those who do know are concerning themselves with a system that no longer works the way it used to. Maybe Civics and Citizenship education needs amplifying. The poor cousin to History and Geography has been continuously overlooked in an education landscape dominated by literacy and numeracy. 

We have to have a hard conversation about how we teach people to deal with politics and campaigning texts in this political environment and it has to include the following. 

Less clamouring for the repair of a liberal-constitutional institution and its norms – something that no longer cares about truth. Find a way to make space for those who are grassroots campaigning because they are listening to people. Listening is how you reach people who vote with their family, friends and neighbours. 

Less bemoaning a crisis of democracy because people voted against repairing the Constitution. The logic is that their vote is not as valuable as your vote. A democratic crisis actually does exist in that slippery slope. That worries this ex-Citizenship Education teacher just as much as “If you don’t know, vote No” slogans

After the Voice referendum

Understand that we are in a significant political moment for Australia in 2023. We cannot connect this experience of the Voice referendum to Brexit or Trump or the 2022 Federal election. We cannot draw comparisons to the past when literacy became a policy object and critical literacy experienced a meteoric rise, full of hope for a well informed citizenry. Looking elsewhere is what we always do to make sense of unprecedented moments in our lives. We look back to work out what to do. But, according to Anthony Giddens, looking back for answers has always been what keeps conservative ideas in power. 

Looking away stops us looking our own uncomfortable politics square in the face. We saw racism and prejudice over the campaign. That needs dealing with immediately. We are not going to learn how to deal with our own future if we are looking to England, Europe or the US. Instead, we have to squarely look at our own situation and realise the answers are here already if we know where to listen. We also have to realise that a democracy means that ideas we find morally objectionable may gain traction and no amount of facts and critical thought will stop that happening. But moral polarisation will stop us talking and listening. 

Good can always be found and brought to the surface. That is the essence of politics. 

For instance, whether you voted Yes or No, the Voice referendum has repoliticised challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. The past 40 years of neoliberal government has systematically privatised, proceduralised and neutralised the way issues like deaths in custody, welfare and healthcare, youth incarceration, mental health, access to food and water, access to education and addressing the literacy gap are dealt with in Australia. We know about it. It’s been campaigned about by both sides for 12 months. We know something needs to be done about it. Something with teeth.

Privatised, proceduralised, neutralised

That’s a good thing. That’s a grassroots thing. That’s a democratic thing. And educators who are well-versed in civics and citizenship, have inquiring minds, and listen, really listen, are going to be critical in moving forward. 

Dr Naomi Barnes is a network analyst and theorist at Queensland University of Technology. She is interested in how ideas influence education policy. She is a senior lecturer in literacy teaching and has worked for Education Queensland as a senior writer and has worked as a secondary English, history and geography teacher in government, Catholic and independent schools.

Andrew Tate: Why the blind hope of a mother needs urgent help from the underworld

Andrew Tate, sent to trial overnight, is a hugely popular influencer whose extreme misogynistic views are infiltrating classrooms and playgrounds across the world. His impact on classroom behaviour has been reported in popular media and include teachers overhearing jokes about sexual violence and  children writing misogynistic essays. Wescott and Roberts recently published insights on their study of Australian classroom experiences with the manosphere. Their study ‘illuminates the presence of rampant disrespect towards teachers, sexual harassment of teachers and girls, physical intimidation and blatant disregard for women’. 

My own experience with the ‘manosphere’ has been through my own child being called names so horrible it took my breath away. How does a child in primary school even know those words? What does a teacher or parent even say to that? I’ve taught in pretty rough schools in my time: been sworn at, even emailed pornography. But I kinda thought for a long time that ‘feminism had done its job’ by now. We just simply don’t speak to each other this way! Let alone eleven-year-olds. I know that’s naïve but there is nothing quite like the blind hope of a mother.

Maybe it’s because I research social media and education, but I have also had a number of people ask me about ‘what should we say about Andrew Tate’? Many parents and teachers are concerned. He’s not really on my research radar but online democracy is. So I turned my 25 years of Civics and Citizenship teacher skills to the problem of ‘Talking about Andrew Tate and the manosphere’. 

The first thing to get straight is that it is pretty much impossible to ban Andrew Tate, despite what he says. He is hugely popular, even after Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook banned him

Suddenly people began to wonder who this person was, and his name got more clicks. Nearly every news outlet reported bans, bringing him into the sphere of older people who might not have heard of him before. If we are thinking in democratic terms, since 2016 we have seen underground extremist groups collectivise, radicalise and come to dominate political decision-making in the US, the UK and even in Australia. Indeed, reactionary approaches to extremism are more likely to send kids underground. Collectivised underground groups provide a sense of community a lonely teenager will most likely value and fight hard to keep. What we need is to be responsive and use well-worn democracy tools to help shift kids’ thinking. 

The following advice can be applied to any influencer you find in the dark parts of the Internet. All you have to do is remember PLUTO. Yes, PLUTO the mythical god of the underworld and the poor, hard-done-by dwarf planet. Yes, it’s a planet again.

PLUTO stands for: Partnership, Listening, Understanding, Talk with purpose, and be Organised.


When speaking to kids about someone like Andrew Tate you must be a partner in the conversation. Do not pretend that you know more than the kids. You don’t. You will never catch up to them, especially if they have been down the rabbit hole for a while. Besides, Andrew Tate has already given them all the comebacks. 

What you do need to know about is what it means to be a part of a fair and just society, what the laws are about hate speech and defamation, and what it means to be an active and informed citizen. You can use these tools to speak with the kids about whether misogyny progresses a good society or sends it backwards.


Listen. Don’t judge the words that come out of their mouths. Andrew Tate has given language that does not necessarily match their development. Ask them to think deeply about the meaning of the words they are using and how that might make others feel. How that makes them look to others. Do some detective work. Ask them what the evidence is that they would use those words to describe another person. Let them know that freedom of speech only applies when it’s true.


The goal is to achieve a collective understanding of what is going on with your classroom or family when a member is listening to Andrew Tate. How is that affecting the dynamic? 

All of these conversations need to happen with a trusted adult. A school inviting ‘an expert’ to speak about the manosphere on assembly is only going to alienate people and probably bring in parental complaints. You don’t want strangers talking to them about Andrew Tate. The same thing goes for a package bought and implemented in a life skills lesson. A package will speak at the young people, not with them. There needs to be a skilled classroom teacher for those kids. Someone who has built a relationship of trust who can work in partnership with the kids, not tell them what to do. 

Talk with purpose

Too often conversations about misogyny happen on the fly. Maybe driving in the car or when it comes up in class. When speaking to kids who have potentially been radicalized, these occasions are not the time to try and shift thinking. When, where and with whom the conversation occurs needs to be well planned. It also needs to have a purpose. Be well designed in its resourcing and intention. Reactionary conversations are most likely going to be ‘won’ by someone who the manosphere has already given all the answers to. 

Be Organised

You, as the teacher (or parent) need to demonstrate a rigorous decision-making process. You need to educate yourself about what it means to live in a fair and just liberal democracy. The discipline area in the Australian curriculum most suited to these conversations is Humanities and Social Sciences, specifically the Civics and Citizenship strand. This, often overlooked, cousin of History and Geography has all the tools needed for talking about how misogynistic views affect our democracy and ultimately society. Civics and Citizenship, as a part of the HaSS suit has purposeful, structured inquiry embedded in its pedagogy and has since Socrates. It also has decades of resourcing about what it means to be an active and informed citizen. 

So, remember PLUTO when you need to talk about Andrew Tate, or any of the people and ideas in the dark, reactionary, radicalizing areas of the Internet. PLUTO: Partnership, Listening, Understanding, Talk with purpose, be Organised.

This is an extrapolation of a lightning talk I gave on a panel ‘Talking about Andrew Tate and the manosphere with boys and young men’ at the Centre for Justice research group at QUT. You can find a recording of all the speakers here. The licence for the header image is to be found here.

Dr Naomi Barnes is a senior lecturer at QUT and is interested in how crisis influences education politics, specifically the effect of moral panics. She also considers how the curriculum relates to nationalism, identity, and democracy. Naomi lectures future teachers in Modern History, Civics and Citizenship and Writing Studies. She has worked for Education Queensland as a Senior Writer and has worked as a Secondary Humanities and Social Science teacher in the government, Catholic and Independent schooling sectors.

The chance to tell the truth about heroes

What should an Australian education researcher say about Ben Roberts-Smith? Should I again write about the ANZAC legend and its role in nationalist electioneering? What about something about the Australian National Values posters, complete with ANZAC iconography, you’ll find in most schools, tucked away near a photocopier somewhere? Relic of a time when school funding became about flagpoles. Maybe something else about the remit of all humanities and social science teachers – Australian citizenship and the characteristics of being Australian: courage, egalitarianism, endurance, mateship according to the Australian ANZAC portal.

You ask me what Roberts-Smith means for how we teach history in Australia? I’ll tell you what this means. This is an opportunity to teach the history of Australia’s supposedly ‘great men’ and teach them truthfully. Ben Roberts-Smith is just another allegedly legendary man whose actions have been exposed.

Last week, Justice Anthony Besanko handed down his judgment in the defamation trial brought by Ben Roberts-Smith where the former soldier claimed to have his life ruined by six articles published by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. Australia’s most decorated living soldier, Victoria Cross and Medal of Gallantry winner Ben Roberts-Smith, sought to clear his reputation.

As Michael Bachelard wrote for Nine Newspapers this week: “The main judgment – ruling on the question of whether the newspapers defamed the war hero, or if he is, in fact, a war criminal – was handed down on Thursday, June 1, 2023. The judge found overwhelmingly for the newspapers, finding Roberts-Smith was, on the balance of probabilities, a murderer, a war criminal, a bully and a disgrace to his country and the Australian military.”

What of other allegedly legendary men?

For example, Governor Lachlan Macquarie is way more decorated than Roberts-Smith. What’s a Victoria Cross in comparison to numerous geographic features and universities? Dr Amy Thunig in her TEDx talk explains how cold-blooded it is that someone who was instrumental in the Frontier War Appin massacre of the Gandangara and Tharawal men, women and children should be rewarded with such accolades. And Australia wasn’t the first place he glorified genocide. Macquarie began his brutal career in India, torching villages of Manantheri. Later, in 1799, he celebrated the aftermath of the defeat of Tipu Sultan where the bodies of Tipu and his people ‘lay in such immense Heaps on the Ramparts…as well as in different Parts of the Town that no regular account of them could be taken’. Lucky for the British Empire forces, there were no mobile phones at those parties recording anyone doing ‘shoeys’ or perhaps ‘leggies’.

Australian history teachers could compare Roberts-Smith to another allegedly legendary man of Australian history, John Eyre (decorated with peninsulas and giant lakes). He also went on trial for war crimes. Priya Satia recounts Eyre’s trial in her book on British colonialism, Time’s Monster (a book all history teachers should read). In Jamaica, where he was Governor after his time in Australia and New Zealand, Eyre ‘launched reprisals that killed more than four hundred black peasants. Hundreds more were flogged and arrested and thousands of houses burned’ (p113).  Eyre did ‘things that should make every Englishman blush with shame and indignation’ (Birmingham Daily Post, 21/11/1865)

Eyre’s trial, a royal commission, was, like Roberts-Smith’s, spotted with Empire celebrities of the day presenting opinion pieces about the consequences of Eyre’s actions. Liberal philosopher and MP John Stuart Mill argued that Eyre was the opposite of what the civilising forces of the Empire were supposed to be. He argued for Eyre’s prosecution, as did Charles Darwin. But British public opinion was sympathetic to Eyre who had popular supporters like Charles Dickens and poet laureate Lord Alfred Tennyson.

Eyre’s trial interviewed hundreds of witnesses and produced a 1,200 page report that criticised him for excessive violence, dismissed him as Governor but exonerated him of murder and genocide because he approved the brutal actions after declaring martial law. We should keep watchful for such a technicality as Roberts-Smith’s consequences unfold. Hopefully we won’t have to teach our children that so-called great men still don’t get real consequences.

The study of history in schools has, and still is, one of the key architectures of nation building. Despite efforts by historians and history teachers to shift the methodology to include the stories of people long marginalised, it has always been broadly accepted by policymakers and politicians that the study of history is about ‘great people’ for young children to learn about to aspire to be great adults. Australian history is resplendent with allegedly great men including highly decorated soldiers who committed horrific crimes. Let’s teach about them, their decorations, their crimes and consequences (or lack thereof). And then let’s ask ourselves what it means to rely so heavily on asking our history teachers to engage in, as Banjo Patterson would say, nation building through stories of ‘shot and steel’.

Header images are, from left to right, John Eyre (by Henry Hering in the Caribbean Photo Archive ), Ben Roberts-Smith (photograph by Nick-D) and Lachlan Macquarie (image by unknown photographer, published by Blue Mountains City Library)

Dr Naomi Barnes is a network analyst and theorist interested in how ideas influence education policy. She is a senior lecturer in literacy teaching and has worked for Education Queensland as a senior writer and has worked as a secondary English, history and geography teacher in government, Catholic and independent schools.

The surprising history of sexual obsession in our schools

Why are some independent Christian schools so obsessed with sex and should taxpayers be paying for it?

These two questions were raised on Monday night by Australian flagship current affairs program, Four Corners, which broadcast an expose on schools associated with Catholic sect Opus Dei. The report made shocking allegations about pastoral processes and the sexual health curriculum in the Sydney schools. It was stomach-turningly medieval with references to self-mutilation, female purity, and excuse-making for uncontrollable male libido.

We’ve seen this type of thing before. In 2021 Citipointe Christian College handed down a controversial contract to the parents of enrolling and enrolled students. The contract indicated that enrolment would be cancelled if a student claimed, or even discussed whether, their biological sex was different to their identifying gender. The contracts likened homosexual acts to paedophilia, incest and bestiality.

But the Opus Dei schools and Citipointe are still not the first private schools to be obsessed with sex, sexuality and gender. We recently published a paper on another that was active in the 1970s and 1980s. This far-right organisation, which ran its own schools, was also obsessive about what happens in the bedroom.

So why sex?

Both Citipointe and the Opus Dei schools’ establishment histories can be traced back to the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1970s, many conservative and religiopolitical groups were challenged by the civil rights gains of the 1960s and sexual freedom in general. We often forget in the teaching and research of the women’s movement that the opposition to that movement did not simply go away because legislation began to be passed permitting new sexual freedoms. Indeed, a counter-revolution thrived.

Children and the focus on sexuality education after the Sexual Revolution and eventually, the AIDS pandemic, created the perfect combination for a conservative moral panic that still exists in various forms today. Teachers’ characters were core to this conservative campaign. Universities, because they were locations of student protests in the 1960s and hubs of sex, drugs and rock and roll, were considered places where preservice teachers were being corrupted. Religiopolitical organisations argued that if teachers were corrupted by their university lecturers into believing in sexual freedoms, then those teachers would ultimately corrupt the children. For example, Queensland Minister Collin Millar on the 1980 Education Committee related:

This morning I spoke on the telephone to a lady who visited one of our colleges of advanced education after having been invited to listen to a course being put forward for teacher trainees. She was sickened by the disgusting material that was being put before these young trainees. (Qld Legislative Assembly Hansard, 18 March, 1980, 2744)

This sentiment continued into 1985 when Greg Sheridan, current foreign editor for The Australian, wrote in Restore magazine – a publication by religiopolitical organisation Logos Foundation – that ‘the state education system seems to have been captured by mediocre talents who adhere to it a variety of fruit-cake ideologies with little regard to serious scholarship’. In June 1987, former Premier of Queensland Joh Bjeke-Peterson told Logos Journal that:

All of us must try to work together as a Christian nation, to maintain … a sound national heritage based on a Christian background and the proper training of teachers. We have a great responsibility and I feel we are very close to losing that which we have.

Religious groups saw the breakdown of traditional family values through the corruption of the teaching profession at universities and morally panicked. In response, numerous religiopolitical organisations developed their own schools that hired Christian teachers and taught Christian doctrine.

So, these schools exist and are, due to the deregulation of Australian education funding policy, allowed to exist.

But should taxpayers’ money be allowed to let them thrive?

These schools are ultimately products of the education policy environment in which they exist. In the 1970s to 1990s, they took advantage of the school funding changes brought in by the Fraser government, and were supported by the rising neoliberalism of the Hawke and Keating governments and, ultimately, the deregulation of private schooling under the Howard government.

Why do these schools thrive?

AWell as with everything academic – it’s complicated. But essentially, Australian education policy is systematically Christian. This makes it very difficult to make education policy that does not favour Christian-style education. Even pedagogy and curriculum in public schooling faces this dilemma as it endeavours to keep up with social change.

Australia nominally runs a public education system that in the late-19th century had to deal with the established power of Catholic schooling within the colonies, rampant sectarianism, and the desire to ensure state-based schooling was available for all children (excepting, of course, First Nation’s children who were fundamentally excluded from mainstream schooling). The newly federated colonies insisted that government money should only fund a secular school system that reflected a desire to avert sectarianism and avoid privileging one Christian religion above another. In other words, secular education was supposed to mean neither Catholic nor Protestant, not freedom of or from religion, as it is often defined today.

Further, under Section 116 of the Australian Constitution, the Australian government cannot interfere with religion, but can interact with it. In other words, the assumed separation of church and state under the Westminster system does not really exist because the Australian government can very much be influenced by religion if the desire for religion is democratically popular.

And in the 1990s Christian education became enormously popular.

The Howard government (1996–2007) gave ‘primacy to the private purposes of schooling’, with Howard positioning himself as a moral political figure who understood the possibility of religion. While in Opposition in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Coalition realised the political potential of the Christian right’s opposition to civil rights legislative change. Whether Coalition ministers believed in the opposition or not or not, these religiopolitical groups presented a real opposition to the ALP government. Shoring up that support once in power, the Howard government made opportunistic political moves that undertook the ‘deployment of conservative family values in the service of neoliberalism’ and made it easier for private schools with private agendas to thrive.

As enrolments in these new private schools rapidly grow, so too does the school funding that follows those children. And it is a difficult sector for the government to intervene in and regulate because the mass proliferation of Christian schooling has privatised and individualised religious belief. This means that, constitutionally, the government cannot interfere. The state must leave the regulation of religious practice up to the community it exists within until that community is seen to break the law.

The potential breach of law and human rights in some of these schools is why Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace felt it appropriate to intervene in the Citipointe contract, and why Premier Dominic Perrottet must launch an investigation into the Opus Dei schools.

But should we have to wait until an organisation breaks the law before governments move on regulating taxpayer contributions to schools that may be spreading misinformation and discrimination? What about the private schools that aren’t doing these things? How does an education minister even begin to think through the complicated nature of government intervention into religious doctrine in schools they allowed to thrive? They can’t. It’s too fraught and would be democratically VERY unpopular. While we don’t have the words to get deeply into the autonomy of schooling, we can say that if parents are to make an informed choice about the school they send their children to, there must be transparency in the enrolment materials about where government funds are being spent and what doctrine underpins  a school’s ethos. This information should not require a theological deep dive, nor investigative journalism.

From left to right: Naomi Barnes is a Senior Lecturer and network analyst interested in how ideas influence education policy. Spanning across disciplines, her research contributes to scholarship concerned with evidence-informed policy in education. The growth of communication via social media has kept her motivated to develop models which show the impact of the platforms on the politics and policy of education. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Knight’s key area of interest is equity of access to and in tertiary education, the provision of institutional information and support for transition into post-school education. In 2017, Lizzie completed a PhD at Monash University, investigating change in marketing messages over the period of higher education massification. Lizzie is also a professional careers counsellor. Melanie Myers is a writer, multi-discipline researcher and sessional academic at the University of Queensland. Her doctoral novel Meet Me at Lennon’s (UQP) was published in 2019 and her articles and nonfiction have been published in various literary journals. Her academic articles have been published in Hecate and TEXT Journal of Writing and Writing Courses.

Happy new year reading: our most popular posts of all time

EduResearch Matters began back in 2014 under the stewardship of the amazing Maralyn Parker. At the end of 2020, Maralyn retired and I tried to fill very big shoes. The unusual thing about EduResearch Matters is that even posts published in the first couple of years of the blog’s existence continue to get readers – good research continues to inform and inspire. Some posts are shared many times on social media, some get barely a handful of shares yet continue to be widely read. Here are our top 15 posts of all time. We all need something to read over the break and I thought it might be lovely to see what our best read posts are. To all the authors, from PhD students to professors, thank you for your contribution. To prospective authors, please email ideas to Enjoy. Happy new year!

Jenna Price, editor, EduResearch Matters

  1. If we truly care about all Australian children and young people becoming literate I believe it is vital we understand and define the complexity of literacy, writes Robyn Ewing (2016).

2. What does effective teaching of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students look like? Thousands of research studies have been dedicated to finding answers to this question. But much of what we think we know, or hear, about Indigenous education remains mired in myths and legends, writes Cathie Burgess (2019).

3. As I see it, music education has now been in the ‘too hard basket’ for at least a generation of Australian students. We continue to suffer a malaise in long-term governmental policy direction, writes Leon R de Bruin (2019).music

4. I did not become a teacher the day I walked out of university. I was trained as a teacher but it took many years for me to feel like a teacher. I’m still not sure I’m there yet, writes Naomi Barnes (2016).

5. Christopher Pyne [former Coalition minister for education] is embarking on his own education revolution. He wants our nation’s teachers to use a teaching method called Direct Instruction.  For forty years, the specific US-developed approach has been the object of education debates, controversies and substantial research. It has not been adopted for system-wide implementation in any US state or Canadian province, writes Alan Luke (2014)

6. Positive personal attributes such as fairness, humour and kindness, I believe, should be considered necessary attributes for a teacher, writes Nan Bahr (2016).

7. There is a lot of misinformation out there, as well as ill informed commentary, about how we prepare teachers to teach reading and writing in Australian schools today, writes Eileen Honan (2015).

8. Online learning has become a well-recognised part of the broader landscape of higher education. It is also proving to have a critical place in widening access and equity within this landscape. Increasing numbers of students from backgrounds historically under-represented at university are taking the opportunity to study online, particularly through open-entry and alternative pathways, with many of these learners being the first in their family or community to undertake university studies, writes Cathy Stone (2017).

9. For decades there has been an overrepresentation of Indigenous students across Australia in disciplinary school records. Suspensions, exclusions and a range of other negative reports fill the school records. As a result low attendance, low retention and under achievement have been the more commonly reported trajectories for Indigenous Australians, writes Helen Boon (2016).

10. When a text uses two or more modes we call it a multimodal text. I have been researching how teachers use and teach multimodal texts and I believe Australia needs to update the way we understand multimodality in our schools and how we assess our students across the curriculum, writes Georgina Barton (2018).

11. Money spent on reducing class sizes has not been wasted as Education Minister Christopher Pyne believes. The advice he has been given is wrong. Reducing class size does make a difference, and the biggest difference it makes is to the schooling outcomes of our most vulnerable children, writes David Zyngier (2014).

. 12. Schools all around Australia are currently hosting research projects involving classroom teachers. But it can be difficult for teachers to engage in research because it takes a lot of time and energy, not just in the classroom but also due to the paperwork and meetings involved. However, I believe if we don’t work with each other, teachers risk reinventing wheels or becoming trapped within an echo chamber, and researchers risk irrelevance, writes Charlotte Pezaro (2015).

13. What is the obsession with Band 6s? Band 6s sound elite, the very best. But the facts are that a Band 4 or 5 in a difficult subject such as Physics or Chemistry may make as big – or even bigger – contribution to ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) (more on that later)  than a Band 6 in say, Music. Also, Band 6s are the only metric made publicly available and shared with the media, writes Simon Crook (2021).

14. You know there is something going wrong with Australia’s national testing program when the education minister of the largest state calls for it to be axed. The testing program, which started today across the nation, should be urgently dumped according to NSW Education Minister, Rob Stokes, because it is being “used dishonestly as a school rating system” and that it has “sprouted an industry that extorts money from desperate families”. I think it should be dumped too, in its current form, but for an even more compelling reason than Stokes has aired. I believe we are not being honest with parents about how misleading the results can be, writes Nicole Mockler (2018).

15. Australian teachers are doing well. They are not under-qualified and they are certainly not under-educated, as some media stories would have you believe. They are doing an admirable job managing exhausting workloads and constantly changing government policies and processes. They are more able than past generations to identify and help students with wide ranging needs. They are, indeed, far better qualified and prepared than those in our nation’s glorious past that so many commentators reminisce wistfully about, write Nan Bahr, Donna Pendergast and Jo-Anne Ferreira.

Top of the pops: AARE’s Hottest Ten 2022

Thank you to all our contributors in 2022. We published over 100 blog posts this year from academics all over Australia, from research students to DECRA fellows, to deans and professors. Thank you all for being part of our community and many thanks to the AARE executive, especially newly-minted Professor Nicole Mockler.

Didn’t get to write this year? Want to contribute? Here are notes for contributors. Pitch to me at

The 2022 AARE EduResearch Matters blog of the year, announced at the AARE conference in Adelaide: “Why restoring trust in teaching now could fix the teacher shortage”. La Trobe’s Babak Dadvand wrote a compelling account of one way to address the teacher shortage.

It is genuinely hard to choose the best because every single blog reveals new ideas and new thinking about education but I’ll just list our ten most read for 2022 (and of course, some of our older posts have racked up thousands and thousands of views). So many others were excellent and please look at our comprehensive archive.

Here we go! 2022 top ten.

Babak Dadvand on the teacher shortage.

Inger Mewburn: Is this now the Federal government’s most bone-headed idea ever?

Debra Hayes: Here’s what a brave new minister for education could do right away to fix the horrific teacher shortage

Kate de Bruin, Pamela Snow, Linda Graham, Tanya Serry and Jacinta Conway: There are definitely better ways to teach reading

Marg Rogers: Time, money, exhaustion: why early childhood educators will join the Great Resignation

Rachel Wilson: What do you think we’ve got now? Dud teachers or a dud minister? Here are the facts

Simon Crook: More Amazing Secrets of Band Six (part two ongoing until they fix the wretched thing)

(And part one is now one of our most read posts of all-time)

Alison Bedford and Naomi Barnes: The education minister’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea*

Martina Tassone, Helen Cozmescu, Bree Hurn and Linda Gawne: No. There isn’t one perfect way to teach reading

Thank you to all of you for making this such a lovely community, looking forward to hearing from you and a special thank you to Maralyn Parker who has now been retired from the blog for two years but is still a fantastically supportive human when I need urgent help.

Jenna Price

Why we should ditch metrocentricity now (and read about a new book too)

We are coming to the end of the conference but still happy to take blogs about papers you heard and papers you’ve given. I’m on

Sally Patfield, Senior Research Fellow, Teachers and Teaching Research Centre, School of Education, The University of Newcastle writes on the Rural Education Symposium

Knowledge and rurality: Deconstructing geographic narcissism in education

Philip Roberts, Natalie Downes, Jenny Dean, Kristy O’Neill, Samantha McMahon, Jo-Anne Reid, Laurie Poretti, Ada Goldsmith

Approximately 7 million people – or 28% of the Australian population – live in rural and remote areas across the country. Rural communities are unique and diverse, not only in terms of geography and demographics, but also in terms of the emotional and material realities of residents’ lives, framed within the interrelated context of the local and the global.

We’re all used to hearing the phrase ‘educational disadvantage’; it’s rolled out repeatedly to capture and conceptualise the apparent education achievement gap between rural students and their metropolitan peers. Particularly when it comes to standardised tests like NAPLAN, it’s a well-worn narrative that the achievement gap between rural and urban students is persistent and widening.

This symposium turned this narrative on its head by interrogating the metro-centric bias inherent within curriculum, educational institutions like schools and universities, and even within academia itself. It re-frames how we think of the ‘problem’ by asking: ‘what, and whose, knowledge is valued?’ And: ‘what if its not rural students who are failing to perform, but rather, the education system which is failing rural communities by marginalising the perspectives of the rural?”

The four papers presented within this symposium weaved together a powerful argument that challenges the way we think about the very nature of ‘educational disadvantage’ by questioning existing practices and illustrating the important role rural knowledges and ways of being can play for young people, their families, and the future of their communities. 

Each paper provided a different layer of insight and analysis: granular case studies that demonstrate how schools are already integrating rural knowledges into curriculum enactment; large-scale analyses of achievement data which examine how school location influences senior secondary outcomes; an examination of the experiences of rural students in higher education, focusing in particular on notions of belonging; and finally, questioning the way research may (perhaps inadvertently at times) even (re)produce deficit notions of the rural, marginalising different ways of knowing, being and doing beyond the metropolis.

The first three presentations brought to the fore key issues around the ideas of spatiality, inequality and knowledge production: that is, that rural space has a reality and, relatedly, that rurality is “reality producing”. In this way, the presenters clearly demonstrated how notions of space and place are central to both the maintenance and representation of social difference.

Overall, this symposium challenges us to think about how we define and engage with the rural – both as educators and researchers. In the third presentation, Natalie Downes and colleagues sadly showed how rural university students see rurality as misrecognised and misrepresented in their coursework and curriculum, with rural locations and careers portrayed as problematic – places associated with staff shortages and a lack of opportunity, for example. Unfortunately, rural students reported that the way rurality was depicted not only impacted how they felt at university but also once they returned home to their communities. Clearly there is much more to do to transform how we embed rural knowledges and promote rural careers across higher education degrees.

In the fourth presentation, the stark reality of how rurality is commonly portrayed was again emphasised, with the presenters highlighting that the fact that far too many projects do not engage with the complexities of rurality in definition nor in analysis, often just mentioning ‘the rural’ in passing as the site of the research. The authors made the case that context matters in education research and how we position and work alongside rural communities plays an important role in either perpetuating or dismantling longstanding hierarchies of power and knowledge.


On Wednesday, the AARE Local/Global Issues in Education book series launched Community Matters: The Complex Links Between Community and Young People’s Aspirations for Higher Education by Jennifer Gore, Sally Patfield, Leanne Fray and Jess Harris. 

The book explores the complex meanings of community, the pressure young people face to attend university, access to higher education, university aspirations in rural communities, and understanding why community matters when young people express a desire to attend university. 

In reading an excerpt, Gore described how the book was about how “community helps to soften blunt equity categories and remind researchers, policy makers and equity practitioners of the human conditions that mediate the gap between important analytical categories that undergird important social justice efforts”.

The book is due to be published on 30 December 2022

Community Matters: The Complex Links Between Community and Young People’s Aspirations for Higher Education offers a new lens on equity of access. The policy focus, nationally and globally, on widening participation for under-represented target groups too readily treats such groups as if they have a singular voice, a singular history, and a singular set of concerns. Drawing on the perspectives of Australian school students, their parents/carers, teachers, and a vast array of residents from seven diverse communities, this book uses the lens of ‘community’ to reframe inequitable access. It does so by recognising the complex social and cultural forces at play locally that shape how young people form and articulate their post-school futures.

The perplexing political life of education online

One of our intermittent blogs during the #AARE2022 conferenceIf you want to cover a session at the conference, please email to check in. Thanks!

Online spaces have arguably given voice to more diverse actors and advocacy activities related to education policy. While policymakers have a responsibility to address areas of concern to Australian education, a highly digitised public sphere presents challenges to implementing appropriate reform. Online political machinations can open education policy decision making to moral panic, misinformation, and culture wars, but also offer new opportunities and hope. 

This symposium aimed to spark questions about the confluence of political shifts and online information sharing, commentary, and activism on the formation of Australian education policy. The series of papers presented in this symposium were a short overview of politics related to education online. Each raised questions about the influence of the Internet, and education-related information ecosystems, on education policy. The point of this symposium was to provide a national platform for discussing the challenges and possibilities of education projects that employ digital sociological approaches. The papers used a variety of online platforms and employed diverse methodological approaches to investigating education online. All projects are led by early career researchers and higher degree research candidates exploring cutting edge and traditional approaches to theory, qualitative and quantitative methods.

First, Barrie Shannon from the University of Newcastle spoke about how young people, especially young queer people, are looking online for relevant, affirming information about health, sex, gender and identity. Shannon explained that there is a wide body of knowledge that suggests young people in Australia are dissatisfied with the quality of the sexuality education they receive from school, that tends to take a heteronormative focus on puberty and reproduction, and the information that is presented is often piecemeal, irrelevant, or cautionary, framed as a minefield of potential risks and dangers. Further to this, contemporary political discourse in Australia positions trans youth in the fray of ongoing ‘culture wars’, with schools serving as central battlegrounds. This presentation drew on narrative data from trans, nonbinary and gender diverse Australians aged 18-26 who reported using social networking sites to find information, make friends and establish communities of care. Using the microblogging platform Tumblr as a case study, Shannon illustrated how the affordances of certain social networking sites facilitate alternative ways of communicating, peer-learning, and teaching that are not delivered by a formal authority figure and are not mediated by government policies or curriculum documents. 

Next, Blake Cutler from Monash University spoke about his work with Lucas Walsh, Libby Tudball, and Thuc Huynh surrounding  the rapid growth of the School Strikes 4 Climate movement over the past few years. Cutler argued that this movement has been an important way for young people to negotiate and enact their participatory citizenship and democratic rights, given the barriers they face to engage in formal means of civic participation. The presentation explored the role of Twitter in how young people identify with and express their political and civic identities in relation to the climate strikes. The team collected a total of 92,360 tweets from between 1 October 2018 and 5 October 2021 that contained the #auspol hashtag with at least one of the following: #climatestrikeonline, #fridaysforfuture, #climatestrike, #schoolstrike4climate. Using a novel deep learning algorithm they predicted the demographics of users to explore the role of young people (i.e., those under 29 y.o.) in this online space. 

Next, Keith Heggart from the University of Technology Sydney spoke about how Edutwitter is a fraught environment, with competing discourses about teaching approaches, how to teach reading, and the role of teachers in society. He explained how this space has become filled with a variety of third party actors, such as educational gurus, think tanks and institutes that work between politicians and the populace in the formulation of education policy. Heggart’s presentation examined the role of various non-governmental agencies in determining Australian education policy. Two sites were considered: Critical Race Theory in Australia, and the anti-vax movement amongst the Teachers Professional Association of Australia. These two sites provided evidence of policy borrowing (where policy is uncritically taken from other jurisdictions on the basis of its outrage appeal), policy washing (where extreme positions are cleaned through various interactions in order to appear more acceptable) and ideological absence (where organisations and other actors are quick to abandon principled positions in the pursuit of influence). 

Next, Naomi Barnes from QUT spoke about Wikipedia as a place where knowledge is contested and often vandalised. Unknown to many, Wikipedia communities have taken a major role in advocating for informed understandings of concepts like Critical Race Theory (CRT). As politicians increasingly do their policymaking in the media, Wikipedia stands as an important site of knowledge production. While ideas like CRT morph into policy objects, editors protect the page from misinformation and bad actors through a variety of editorial processes. Barnes explained this politics of knowledge protection and production within the context of the recent Australian Curriculum Review that saw both the Commonwealth and NSW Senates, courtesy of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and Tasmanian Liberal senators, ban CRT for Australian schools. This replicates a pattern in the political spheres of both the USA and the UK and is a danger to evidence informed policy making. 

Finally, Jessica Prouten, an Educational Doctorate candidate at QUT, spoke about the link between the presentation of teacher identity on social media, looking at how practitioners manage the interplay between personal, professional, monetised, relational and activist spheres. The paper used Foucault’s ideas of governmentality as a lens to understand social media policy as related to teachers and how people manage behaviour and have their behaviour managed by a network of gazes. 

These papers, collectively, highlighted the simultaneous affordances and perplexities of online spaces, and prompted questions about the politics of education online, including:

  • What do these various online communities and spaces enable and constrain for those engaged with them?
  • What kinds of literacies do young people, educators, education leaders and policy makers and researchers need in navigating the politics of education online? and
  • What are the ethical considerations, for researchers, when working in these online spaces?

These papers, collectively, prompted a robust discussion of the politics of education online.

Dr Naomi Barnes is a network analyst and theorist interested in how ideas influence education policy. She is a senior lecturer in literacy teaching and has worked for Education Queensland as a senior writer and has worked as a secondary English, hstory and geography teacher in government, Catholic and independent schools.

Eve Mayes is a Senior Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy and Curriculum. She currently lives and works on unceded Wadawurrung Country. Her publications and research interests are in the areas of student voice and activism, climate justice education, affective methodologies and participatory research. Eve is currently working on the ARC DECRA project: Striking Voices: Australian school-aged climate justice activism (2022-2025).

The last blog for the night – reading, shadow education in China, time poverty among teachers, philanthropy in schools

One of our intermittent blogs during the #AARE2022 conferenceIf you want to cover a session at the conference, please email to check in. Thanks!

This blog was put together by Naomi Barnes of QUT, Rafaan Daliri-Ngametua of ACU and Kathleen Smithers of Charles Sturt University.

Naomi Barnes writes:

The University of Aukland represented well in the Policy and Politics SIG on Day 1 of the AARE conference with one paper on reading for pleasure in the NZ curriculum and shadow education regulation in China.

Ruth Boysak (pictured, left) challenged the individualistic approach to reading education that has come from the UK to dominate NZ education. Reading for pleasure has recently been inserted into the NZ curriculum but there is very little research on the activity in a social context. The idea of enjoying a book alone is deeply embedded in reading education and dominates how the practice is thought about in school, reseach and policy contexts. However, reading is an intensely social practice and there is virtually no research into social reading in NZ. Boysak explained that some NZ children preference their family and community activities over reading because reading is framed as an individual activity. We need to engage in more research about the sociality of reading if reading for pleasure is a new staple in the curriculum.

Carlos Liuning (pictured right) reported on a student-led project investigating the regulation of shadow education in China. In China shadow education is supplementary to the schooling the Chinese government provides – approximately 10 million tutors support this industry. Before 2018, shadow education was largely unregulated in China. In recent years the Chinese government has made it impossible for these private tutoring companies to operate leading to the mass unemployment of these workers. Liuning and colleagues are conducting their research to show the Chinese government that tutors are teachers and that there is still room in the regulated system for both private tutors and government teachers.

Two fascinating papers.

Rafaan Daliri-Ngametua writes on the Time Poverty Problem  

This morning I had the pleasure of attending the Teachers and Time Poverty presentation, in the Teachers’ Work and Lives SIG. A/Prof Nicole Mockler, Dr Anna Hogan, Dr Meghan Stacey, Dr Sue Creagh and Professor Greg Thompson (in absentia) introduced the Time Poverty Problem – it was a thrilling introduction to their ARC linkage project! Tackling the current, confronting and significant concerns around the intensification of teachers’ work, they presented a synthesis of existing, empirical research. More specifically, they explored how the concepts of workload and work intensification are being operationalised and how they may explain teachers and school leaders’ experiences of being time poor. Interestingly, they identified that ‘decision making’ practices and processes may be where the intensity of the work in schools manifests. Such ‘heavy hours’ (Beck, 2017) are in fact on an upward trend, with alarming negative impacts on job satisfaction and ultimately on the student experience. While the pressure to perform within the complex and multifaceted conditions of teachers’ work is not a new area of research, the work presented in this session introduced a seminal approach to tracking the granular details of how and where teachers are spending their time. While the project is hoping to capture the ebb and flow of the daily work of teachers, Anna rightfully pointed out that in fact there may be no ebb or flow but rather the intensity of the work of those in schools is seemingly sustained and unrelenting.  

The irony of this project was not lost on the presenters as they candidly discussed the complexity of researching and conceptualising time poverty and time poor teachers by necessarily taking up teachers’ time. However, to address this complexity they have developed a Time Tracker App – a methodological stroke of genius that allows for teachers to efficiently input their activities through various snap shots throughout their day. The data points from the initial pilot have produced fascinating outcomes and quandaries with vast implications on how we understand time in the teaching workforce. This presentation was moving and thought provoking. The captivated audience was enthralled by the teams’ academic rigour and scholarship, the innovative research approach as well as the timely and critical nature of the research problem and the ongoing implications. The second pilot of the research is currently underway! We will wait with great anticipation for more updates and outcomes from this formidable team and from what will be one of the pivotal projects of our time.  

Kathleen Smithers on philanthropy in Australian public schooling Symposium

Categories of philanthropy in Australian Public schooling from Anna Hogan and Alexandra Williamson

In this paper Hogan and Williamson map six categories of school funding to problematise the common argument that philanthropic funding in Australia is characterised by the “hyper agency of billionaires”. Indeed, they argue that it is both “easy and obvious to critique philanthropic funding”, but these philanthropic categories exist due to decreasing levels of school funding. They used desk research to identify the multiple forms of philanthropic funding, mapping these against the reforms set out by recommendation 41 of the gonski review. This paper sets the scene for the papers that follow, by identifying the landscape of Australian philanthropic funding. There are six categories identified: foundations, charities, intermediaries, not-for-profits, churches and Parent and Citizen associations. Hogan draws attention to the types of philanthropic funding that we may take for granted, such as Healthy Harold, and asks why we might question church funding of schools, but not other organisations.

Philanthropy, marketing disadvantage and the enterprising public school from Jess Gerrard, Elisa Di Gregorio and Anna Hogan

Following on from the previous papers mapping of philanthropy, they begun by identifying that Schools Plus is just one element of philanthropic funding in Australia. They argue that there are discourses which shape Australian schooling as “in crisis” and that this fuels the argument for philanthropic funding, which further fuels the idea of a “crisis” of funding in Australian schooling. Using interviews with people who work at Schools Plus and desktop review data, they unpack the conditions of possibility for philanthropic funding and the positioning of schools as entrepreneurs of their own futures. Interestingly, the administration of funding is mediated through a gate keeping process whereby schools must show some measures of ‘impact’ that can be provided to donors as evidence of their ‘legacy’.

The discussion that followed these papers explored the ways that Schools Plus administer funding and raised questions over who chooses funding? Who gets funded? And there were discussions about the missing links of fundings and the ways that schools are becoming entrepreneurs of gathering funding, with particular reference to P&Cs.

The education minister’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea*

When will governments learn their lesson? Worksheets won’t fix workload crisis.

The teachers of NSW are at breaking point, and the government solution is to take away the part of their work they most expert in – lesson planning.  As Queensland’s experience shows, this ‘quick fix’ will not solve the workload issues which underpin NSW’s teacher shortage crisis.

The social media response to the SMH’s article, which featured the NSW education minister Sarah Mitchell (pictured in the image with department secretary Georgina Harrison) on lesson planning reform has been swift.

and more.

Teachers are decrying the government strategy. Of most concern,  the resources will be produced in under eight weeks, for a curriculum that is currently under review. The lack of transparency about how this feat will happen makes this approach look like this wasteful, impractical splurge on public funds during a time we are all being asked to tighten our belts.

The thing is, resources are already available and attached to the National Curriculum website via Scootle. Many of them arrived there because of a similar initiative by the Queensland Government. So our question is, why hasn’t the NSW government done its homework or listened to the teachers before addressing the core issues fuelling the teacher crisis?

Lesson planning is not the issue

While the Grattan Institute report, which forms the basis of the NSW government’s strategy, identifies the biggest demand on teacher time is planning, they have neglected that this lesson planning is the part of their work that teachers want to be doing – it is their core work. The top three activities teachers would choose to do if they had a  spare hour are working on student assessment, preparing effective classroom instruction, and adapting teaching.

 The Grattan report goes on to argue that providing teachers with centralised planning resources will alleviate pressure. But the report’s own findings show the issue not the planning per se, but the time needed to undertake it – teachers could develop common lesson plans and resources, tailored to and developed within their school context, with their colleagues, if the time that they identify as the biggest impediment is provided to them.

Increased administrative duties and expanding pastoral care pressures are chewing into time teachers once had to collaborate, plan and prepare their students for success. Time is the issue, but time could be made available by strategies that deal with the administrivia of teacher workloads, rather than removing the core work.

Queensland tried and failed

Queensland tried the centralised provision of “curriculum lesson plans, texts and learning materials” a decade ago in the Curriculum to Classroom (C2C) reforms, designed to support the initial implementation of the Australian Curriculum. This project, while well-intentioned, was not as simple as the Queensland Department of Education first imagined. It became plagued by multiple issues which both slowed down the roll out and reduced the quality of the resources in comparison to what a teacher could develop themselves, if given the time. For example, according to Naomi Barnes who was a Senior Writer on the program, copyright meant that only resources which were made freely available by those who owned the copyright, or were out of copyright, were approved for use in the C2C program. This means that in an era where teachers are trying to increase the diversity of texts in their classrooms (which they could do through purchasing class sets and designing their own lessons)  they were instead provided with worksheets that referred to dated works that were less prone to copyright issues.  To include diverse texts would mean adequately compensating authors, rather than financially cutting corners through inferior resourcing.

Even more concerning was the political interference in the development of the materials, with resources being vetoed by the Newman LNP government at the time. As such, lesson plans were held up to scrutiny via the “Courier Mail test” or whether they would hit the newspaper for content Newman’s government might determine was partisan. Issues of diversity and contestability were removed for “safer” options. In other words the government decided what was safe for children to know. This political interference in teacher’s work is still a feature of LNP curriculum governance

C2C also increased workload. Research from both C2C implementation and more recently shows that even with highly proscriptive, resourced lesson plans, teachers viewed and used the materials in a wide range of ways, negating the promise of consistency and workload reduction. For example, Mathematics teachers pointed out that the initial C2C materials did not actually address all elements of the curriculum they were meant to support and so required significant redevelopment. Barton et al’s exploration of the initial responses to C2C implementation found “prescription of curriculum materials only leads to mistrust and a devaluing of teachers’ expertise”. Hardy suggested rather than seeking to standardise teacher work, we instead recognise teachers’ professional skills as experts in lesson planning and curriculum implementation, valuing their professional collaborations and practices .

Workload correction

While having a set of resources can be a helpful starting point when planning, it is not going to fix the workload issues facing teachers because teachers will still have to spend time adapting them to their school context, which is what they already do with the myriad of resources already available to teachers in numerous resource banks, like Scootle.

A full-time teacher is currently allocated approximately 3.5- 4 hours a week as non-contact or preparation and correction time. A standard teaching load is 4-6 classes, so this is less 30 minutes per week during the school day to plan for learning and mark assessment. The Grattan report pointed out that 28% of teacher time is devoted to non-teaching activity (ie over one full day a week – more than their allocated non-contact time). As one example, the introduction of the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) has significantly increased the administrative workload for teachers in maintaining detailed lesson plans and tracking individual resources to ensure funding is allocated to students with additional needs or disabilities (Union survey highlights data overload ( Properly funding learning support staff who can assist classroom teachers both with the planning for and administration of differentiated materials would be one welcome change. A reduction in teacher’s cocurricular loads would also be another easy-to-implement solution, as would reviewing the extent of classroom teacher involvement in pastoral care work, which has only increased with the increased disruption and distress of COVID and bouts of lockdown and homeschooling. 

The issue is that the proportion of non-teaching activity is taking up their allocated time to prepare for their core work – lesson planning and differentiated delivery. Rather than spending money on creating (already available) resources the funds NSW has to spend on this project would be better spent investing in additional school staff to take up some of this administrative load.

The clear and obvious solution to relieving pressure on teachers is an ongoing investment in additional staff: learning support experts, sports and arts co-curricular supervisors, and professional pastoral staff.  Recognising teachers’ professional expertise as educators and giving them the time to do their core business well is the real answer to the teaching crisis, not handing out another worksheet.

*Headline with apologies to Alexander and to Judith Viorst

Dr Alison Bedford is a lecturer (curriculum and pedagogy) in the School of Education at the University of Southern Queensland and a secondary school history teacher.

Dr Naomi Barnes is a network analyst and theorist interested in how ideas influence education policy. She is a senior lecturer in literacy teaching and has worked for Education Queensland as a senior writer and has worked as a secondary English, hstory and geography teacher in government, Catholic and independent schools.