Pressing pause on the NSW curriculum rollout is the right decision

Trish Riley
Trish Riley

The Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT Branch welcomes the announcement by the Minns Government that it will ‘press pause’ on the implementation of the NSW Curriculum. The changes – the most sweeping reforms to the state curriculum in 30 years – were designed to address the two-decade slump in Australian students’ results in international tests.

The decision to delay the rollout of almost 30 syllabuses aims to give teachers more time to concentrate on the overhaul to the English and maths curriculum, which will be implemented across all schools from 2024. These changes will impact the maths and English syllabuses for years three to 10.

The now delayed planned changes to dozens of subjects included music, commerce, technologies and Aboriginal studies – a proposed rollout that NSW Education Minister Prue Car described as “an unworkable release” that would place an enormous burden on schools already dealing with serious staff shortages.

“Teachers have been warning for months that the previous timeframe was both unnecessary and unmanageable,” says Mark Northam, Secretary of the Independent Education Union NSW/ACT Branch, which represents more than 32,000 teachers, support staff and principals in the non-government education sector. “It’s encouraging to have a government that is finally listening to the profession.”

The previous government’s plan was to implement changes to 26 syllabuses in the coming 12 months, despite warnings from the teaching profession that this would prove detrimental to student outcomes.

“Implementing a new syllabus is complex and time-consuming,” Northam says. “It takes time to get it right and to ensure the best educational outcomes for students. The teacher shortage crisis demands this enlightened response from the government, and we applaud their decision.”

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The 2019 NSW Curriculum Review, led by Professor Geoff Masters, suggested a 10-year rollout timeframe – a recommendation strongly supported by teachers.

“This revised schedule shows the NSW Government is listening to the voice of the teaching profession,” says Northam.

The delayed draft syllabuses:

  • Aboriginal Studies, years 7 to 10
  • Commerce, years 7 to 10
  • English, years 11 and 12
  • History, years 11 and 12
  • Mathematics, years 11 and 12
  • Music, years 7 to 10
  • Technologies syllabuses, years 7 to 10

Four other mandatory primary school syllabuses, as well as geography, history, PDHPE and visual arts (years 7 to 10), will also be delayed until term three, with further consultation planned.

The rollout of the new English curriculum will change the way high school students are taught grammar, punctuation and sentence structure  and follows a decade-long slump in writing standards and literacy skills.

The focus of the new maths syllabus will aims to enhance sequencing and reasoning skills, with the delivery of a stronger core subject structure in early high school designed to equip students for more complex calculus courses in senior years.

For many already overworked teachers, the opportunity to focus on these critical core learnings is a welcome relief.


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Trish Riley is a Zimbabwean-born writer and communications specialist. With experience in journalism, and public relations, Trish has been developer and editor of several trade publications and regularly contributes articles for diverse sectors including aged care, animal care, construction and education.