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Panel Discussion - Shaping the Future: Implementation Issues

The following papers were presented at the Panel-Discussion on Shaping the Future held on Wednesday 12 July at St Joseph's College Gregory Terrace

Brian Rout

Thank you for your invitation to be here and to present an overview of the implementation issues associated with Shaping the Future.

I will briefly outline the major initiatives that we are implementing, highlight some implementation issues in regard to each, and describe some of the monitoring and evaluation we are undertaking to support implementation, to enhance decision-making and to inform our reporting to the government.

There are three major areas of reform:

  1. literacy and numeracy
  2. curriculum including assessment and reporting;
  3. quality assurance.
First to the literacy and numeracy initiatives.

Year 2 Diagnostic Net

The year 2 Diagnostic Net is one of the main Shaping the Future initiatives. It is a process of assessment and intervention to support children's literacy and numeracy development in the early years of schooling. The Net will identify, and provide a basis for the provision of additional support for, those children who are experiencing difficulties with literacy and numeracy.

The Net involves a four-step process in which teachers:

  1. observe and map children's progress using developmental continua for literacy and numeracy;
  2. validate observations using specifically designed assessment tasks;
  3. identify and provide additional support for those children requiring assistance;
  4. report to parents.
The Net is intended for use across the Years 1-3 with a particular focus in Year 2.

A team has developed the Net materials for two strands of literacy (reading and writing) and one of numeracy (number) in a hectic schedule since January this year. The elements of the Net include the developmental continua, validation exercises, and intervention strategies together with the procedural advice about using them. Two more strands in literacy (oral language and spelling) and two in numeracy (space and measurement) will be developed for implementation in 1997. It is worth noting that the Net development has been done by the Department of Education on behalf of the Queensland School Curriculum Office, and that the further development will be completed by that organisation.

There is an extensive teacher development and support program to accompany implementation of the Net. This includes 110 education advisers in literacy and numeracy, over 600 key teachers for on-site support of year 2 teachers, training programs for these personnel and for the almost 2000 year 2 teachers.

The immediate implementation issues will be quite familiar to those of you with a background in curriculum implementation and/or evaluation:

Given the scale of the project - 2000 teachers, 38 000 Year 2 pupils, 600 key teachers, 110 education advisers; and the short timeline - develop, train and implement in eight months - implementation is a massive enterprise. The success we are having is a tribute to the professional attitudes of Year 2 teachers and those who are supporting them.

Year 1 teachers are gradually being involved in mapping their pupils onto the continua. Discussions are planned with the Queensland Teachers Union concerning the involvement of Year 3 teachers also and their use of the continua rather than Student Performance Standards.

One of the requirements of the government is that we evaluate not only aspects of the implementation processes but also the outcomes in terms of pupils attainments in literacy and numeracy i.e. the government wants explicit advice as to whether the $18 million each year that this initiative costs, yields appropriate improvements in levels of literacy and numeracy. We plan a longitudinal study to address this matter.

Another requirement is that part of the resources that have been made available -110 education advisers and the 600 key teachers - are to be redirected as a result of the information gathered from the Diagnostic Net. Where there are pockets of significant low levels of literacy and numeracy we will have to concentrate our support. How to do this is a matter that is being considered in some detail.

There is quite a number of questions that I am sure come to your minds as matters for research and evaluation. Some of these we will be addressing in formal evaluations, others we will be monitoring in less formal ways. This includes:

  1. the effectiveness of the Net materials and processes;
  2. the usefulness of the training and support provided for Year 2 teachers;
  3. the percentage of children who have not reached the phase considered for each of the continua to be appropriate for mid-year 2;
  4. the effectiveness of interventions implemented with these children;
  5. the effectiveness of the Year 2 Diagnostic Net in improving the levels of literacy and numeracy of primary school children.

Year 6 Test

Another major initiative is the Year 6 Test. ACER won the contract to develop, administer, score and produce reports for approximately 50 000 Year 6 pupils in state and non-state schools. There are three parts to the Test literacy and numeracy tests that can be computer marked, and a writing task.

The main aim of this initiative is to provide a bench-mark for literacy and numeracy attainments at the halfway point in the schooling of most children. This will allow for inter-year comparisons.

Another aim is to identify those students whose literacy and numeracy levels are below a level that will allow them to function effectively in our community. I am sure that most of these will already be known to teachers but sometimes children slip through un-noticed. The Year 6 Test should prevent this.

In any event it is our intention that schools consider the results of their students and take appropriate action. This might mean some variation to the learning and teaching program overall for the school or some specific interventions with individual children.

The introduction of the Year 2 Net and the Year 6 Test has resulted in a change of emphasis for support teachers learning difficulties. Whereas previously their efforts were concentrated in the early childhood years, the appointment of education advisers and key teachers to work in that area has resulted in STLDs working more in the senior part of the primary school. This change has had to be implemented with sensitivity.

We are required to report to government on the student results overall and on what interventions are undertaken to assist children as a result of the Test. For us a most compelling question is how we can best make use of the resources we have available i.e. what sorts of interventions are most effective.

In the longer term the question is how well we are served by the Year 6 Test. To what extent does it provide information commensurate with its cost of $900 000.


The second major thrust of the Shaping the Future reforms is in curriculum. For the present the major activity is in the area of Student Performance Standards.

The Department of Education had a commitment to Student Performance Standards prior to the announcement of the Shaping the Future initiatives. The government has reinforced this commitment and SPS will be a feature of all syllabuses developed by the Queensland School Curriculum Office.

For both the current Mathematics and English syllabuses Student performance Standards in full are being implemented. For future syllabuses in other key learning areas it is intended that 'pared down' versions of SPS be used.

It is our experience to date with Student Performance Standards in mathematics that where schools have worked deliberately over the last five years to implement the intentions of the syllabus, working with Student Performance Standards has not been a particularly difficult task - it has taken time, but has been manageable. Where school curriculum programs do not reflect the intentions of the syllabus the inclusion of SPS has been quite difficult.

Other than questions of implementation such as these, the major question that we will need to consider is the extent to which parents understand reports based on Student Performance Standards. This is a form of report that is new and of course quiet different from A to E ratings or other basically normative forms of reporting.

We have a major evaluation project in relation to reporting to parents. The government's Shaping the Future decisions included approval of a Student Reporting Framework and highlighted the significance of reporting to parents. The evaluation will examine the reporting process for the Year 2 Net and the Year 6 Test as well as for Student Performance Standards in mathematics.

The second curriculum area in which there has been significant planning activity is vocational education. The government expressed a strong commitment to the convergence of general and vocational education in the senior years of schooling. Achieving this is a major curriculum development task in an area in which competing interests are very active. I'll leave this matter for John Pitman to raise latter.

Within a year I expect that we will see significant new syllabus development by QSCO. For the moment there is little to report on this as the QCC has yet to develop the first of its three-year rolling strategic plans for curriculum development.

Quality Assurance

QA was one of the underpinnings of the Shaping the Future reforms and is the third thrust that I will address. The full scope of the QA elements in our implementation of Shaping the Future is beyond my brief for this address. However two particular QA initiatives are worth noting in this context. The first is the preparation and review of school work programs. The second is the moderation of student outcomes.

This month panels of teachers throughout the state will meet to review school work programs in English for Years 1-8. I have been impressed with the developmental approach that many regions are taking in relation to this. In many cases panel members are reviewing informally and giving advice to schools prior to formal submission of work programs and formal review processes. It is hoped that the return-for-further development rate will be very small as a result.

Many primary school teachers will be involved in the moderation of mathematics and of the Year 2 Net on the October pupil-free day. A light sampling approach will be taken and advice given to schools as to the extent to which samples are in accord with standards across the state. It is important to note that as a way of seeking to achieve comparability of standards in schools across the state, this approach is much less demanding than that experienced in secondary schools. It is so for the very good reason that a more demanding process is not necessary.

Both these initiatives will be monitored as part of the role of the newly appointed quality assurance officers (curriculum). Their task of monitoring and reporting on implementation of many aspects of curriculum practice in schools is new and challenging.

Special Projects

There was quite a number of recommendations in the Curriculum Review "Wiltshire" Report that the government has asked us to research further. One example of this relates to student behaviour management. A review of matters associated with student behaviour management has been completed and I anticipate some major announcements in the near future. Similarly a review of educational provisions for students with disabilities has been completed and some decisions will be announced in due course.

Studies Directorate recently initiated a review of flexible progression in primary schools. The report in this case is due at the end of the year.

Another type of special project that has been established is pilot studies. There are three involved here viz. gifted and talented education, literacy and numeracy in lower secondary schools, and post-primary programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in remote areas.


This has been a very demanding year in primary schools and the pace of implementation will increase further in this term. With the Year 2 Net validation tasks in August/September, the Year 6 Test in August and workshops for mathematics SPS throughout July and August, there will be many Shaping the Future initiatives being implemented in primary schools.

Overall implementation is proceeding as scheduled and in an environment of general support at all levels. That is not to say that there is not a reluctance to change in some quarters. However I am optimistic that the Shaping the Future goals will be achieved in the course of the next few years. My optimism is generated in part at least, by the very favourable level of resourcing that Shaping the Future initiatives have received from government. The funding provided makes this the best resourced curriculum ever in Queensland. The changes have a chance!

What I have tried to do in this short address is to outline these initiatives, to raise some issues associated with them, and to indicate areas in which we are monitoring and evaluating progress.

I look forward with interest to the perspectives of other members of the panel.

Bruce J Howden

The outcomes of the recent government report into Queensland's curriculum, Shaping the Future, stand to have a significant impact upon independent, non-systemic schooling. Some primary schools, particularly those that encompass only upper primary classes, will find themselves in a potentially awkward situation if they ignore the implications of the report. In part, this is due to the fact that their students' schooling spans more than one form of school system. Secondary schools, too, will not be immune from the implications of the recommendations.

In the past, independent schools in Queensland, particularly primary schools, have enjoyed tremendous freedom with respect to curriculum. They could adopt state syllabuses. Alternatively, they could selectively dip into these syllabuses or, if they wished, they could choose to ignore state programs altogether. Certainly, there has been little in the way of government intrusion into the school programs of independent schools in the past. Implementation of issues in the new curriculum such as the Student Performance Standard s has the potential to change the present situation quite markedly.

It needs to be remembered that this government reform addressed the issues of curriculum for all schools in Queensland - not only those controlled by the Department of Education. It recommended a statutory body to develop syllabuses for all schools. A common reporting framework was also advocated as part of the means of establishing quality assurance in education.

Adoption of these items by independent schools would have significant consequences for them. Many independent schools would find themselves having to substantially rewrite school based programs. In-service programs would need to be developed within independent schools to enable teachers to implement the changes. Furthermore, the parents of these schools, many of whom have deliberately chosen independent schools because of perceived differences between them and systemic schools, would need to be convinced of the advantages of the proposed reforms.

The effectiveness of student-referenced assessment such as the student performance standards, is dependent upon a number of factors not the least of which includes anchoring the standards with examples of student work. While it is true that independent schools were given the opportunity to contribute significantly to the process of formulating the Shaping the Future, concern remains among these schools over such issues as the origin of the standard samples of student work. This is because they have been drawn from the efforts of a quite separate curriculum and assessment committee formed by the federal and state ministers of education. Independent schools believe they had little input into the work of this particular group as it attempted to determine standards for schools. Quite naturally, independent schools are wary of accepting the standards of other schools, school systems or government committees.

A problem for independent schools in accepting the government's reporting measures is the means by which the work folders of their students can be compared with those of students in other schools and other systems. Comparability of standards in Student Performance Standards will be a crucial issue. A key element of any form of assessment is agreement by two or more teachers working together. This is necessary to bring individual judgments of teachers into line with general standards. A goal of Student Performance Standards would appear to be its desire to define absolute standards. This means that a student given Level 4 in a certain area of the curriculum could be in any class or any Year Level in a school. Therefore, Level 4 would need to mean the same standard not only in every classroom but also in every school in the State. Adoption of Student Performance Standards by independent schools means that they must conform to statement concerning students' levels of achievements which, in theory at least, should have the same standard or value from school to school and system to system.

For those independent primary schools and upper primary schools, there are particular difficulties. For example, students being enrolled at Year 5 may have been assessed at the previous school as being of Level 3 performance in a certain aspect of the curriculum. If the school to which the student has moved does not believe the student to be yet at that level, the new school has been presented with a problem.

The government's appraisal and reporting system spans the 10 years of compulsory schooling. It uses 6 levels on which the progress of students is ranked. This poses other problems for primary schools that encompass only three year levels. It is not inconceivable for a student to remain on the same level for three years This presents difficulties for teachers in endeavouring to explain to parents that such a child has, in fact, made progress.

Implementation of Shaping the Future, and in particular student performance standards, would necessitate opportunities for teachers to visit other teachers' classrooms in other schools, to invite them into their own rooms and to establish moderation meetings across schools to share notes and samples of students' work. These are very commendable professional activities. However, independent schools would need to decide whether it is worth the cost of implementation of a set of reforms whose worth has yet to be tested.

Undoubtedly, there are budgetary implications for independent schools. Access to resources, availability of key teachers and state government advisers to train other teachers, and access to supply teachers to enable staff to attend inservice courses are concerns for principals of independent schools. There are independent schools that will experience difficulties in resourcing implementation of Student Performance Standards.

Of late, there has been much talk of quality assurance. Given the problems experienced in recent years by the universities in this regard, many independent school principals and their school boards are beginning to ask whether quality assurance measures such as Student Performance Standards and the Year 6 Test might be used to determine funding to non-government schools in the future. The quality of independent schools has traditionally been determined not by government regulation but by their capacity to attract students through the standards which they set for themselves in the market place.

It needs to be remembered that independent schools have the capacity to decide if they will participate in any, or all, of the government's initiatives. If the schools adopt these measures, they will need to budget for the necessary resources to implement matters such as Student Performance Standards, the Year 2 Net, the Year 6 Test, and the training of teachers. They will need to be prepared to accept a curriculum that has been determined outside the school and a reporting procedure in common with other schools. These are not necessarily negative issues, provided that independent schools watch that adoption of Shaping the Future does not prejudice the future long-term level of independence of independent schooling.

Raylee Elliott Burns


In the report Shaping the Future, curriculum is identified as 'the totality of experiences' that the school provides for its students. This encompasses the goals and objectives, the content knowledge and its organisation, the learning environment, the teaching processes and the assessment of learning outcomes.

For Archdiocesan Systemic schools the curriculum embraces within this totality, a distinctive Catholic identity inclusive of at least the following elements:

The Shaping the Future report also identifies the achievement of high quality student outcomes as a fundamental objective of all edu cation systems. For Brisbane Catholic Education quality is seen in terms of: These elements are central to the existing and ongoing processes of renewal within the Brisbane Catholic Education System that support effective teaching and learning.


We in the Brisbane Archdiocese, along with the other four Queensland Dioceses, have been involved from the earliest stages of the Review of Queensland School Curriculum chaired by Professor Ken Wiltshire. A response to the 100 plus recommendations presented in Shaping the Future was made from the broad Catholic schooling sector which includes those schools administered by Religious Orders, as well as from the Dioceses in their own right.

When Cabinet mandated reforms for the government schools, Catholic systems had already developed - from these responses - a preferred position on the reforms. Using the preferred position statements a further consultation process occurred, and from this process 25 recommendations provided the chosen focus for curriculum reform in the Brisbane Catholic Education sector ...... Hence the title we have given to the curriculum initiatives:

Choosing Our Future


Choosing Our Future has provided the catalyst for the most comprehensive consultation process ever undertaken by Brisbane Catholic Education. It has been an opportunity for extensive collaboration with parents, teachers and Pastors, and is the basis for a continuing partnership in the provision of curriculum with the hallmarks of excellence, authenticity and relevance.


The differences for Brisbane Catholic Education in the implementation of the Choosing Our Future initiatives occur in the focus and priorities, in the timeline, sequencing and emphasis on particular areas of curriculum, as well as in the assessment and reporting processes.

Religious Education is recognised as a separate body of knowledge and skills and is thus a core and compulsory part of the learning of students in Catholic Schools Years 1-12. For Catholic schools therefore, there are 9 Key Learning Areas in the curriculum, which means that time allocations for subjects will be different.

Personal Development Education is already compulsory learning in Catholic Schools. Research will be undertaken to determine whether this area is revised or expanded to capture the essence of what Shaping the Future calls: Lifeskills. We would hope that some collaborative work between ourselves and other systems may occur in this area particularly through the Queensland School Curriculum Office.

Cultural Literacy and Languages: We have made a deliberate choice of naming this area to re-emphasise the importance of cultural understandings for all students both within LOTE studies and across the wider curriculum. While LOTE will be compulsory for Years 5-7, a range of issues impinge on the effective provision of a compulsory LOTE Program. Consideration needs to be given to factors such as a belief in the value of LOTE learnings, resourcing issues, issues of availability of suitably qualified LOTE teachers which affect the likelihood of having quality programs, and the continuity issues between LOTE in primary and secondary schools.

There is also a need to review current assessment and reporting mechanisms in junior secondary with the use of Student Performance Standards.


The difference in timeline occurs as a result of different priorities, issues relating to the readiness and preparedness of teachers, and to the significant differences in access to resources to implement the curriculum initiatives. Brisbane Catholic Education will focus first on English in both the developing and approval of School Curriculum Programs and in reporting using Student Performance Standards. English has been chosen as a priority because of the extensive discipline renewal most teachers have experienced as a result of the professional development opportunities associated with the introduction of the English 1-10 Syllabus.

With respect to the Early Years Diagnostic Net, we see value in preparing all teachers in Pre-School, Years 1, 2 and 3 and Learning Support Teachers, to understand and use the developmental continua. This will be a staged process in literacy first and will include numeracy in 1997.

Some of the initiatives chosen do not follow the reforms for the government sector. For example, we are not sure of the educational value for students in the administering of the Year 6 Test, so in 1995 a few of our schools will trial its use, and this may help to clarify its worth to students and to the system.


Some funds have been set aside by Brisbane Catholic Education over the next four years to support teachers in the implementation of curriculum initiatives. The Catholic sector asked the Government for $6m to assist with the implementation of the curriculum initiatives. The allocate made was $1.5m outside of the 'basket' of funding to be shared by all 400 non-government schools. Whilst the government argued that there is already $2.2m within the 'basket' for curriculum implementation, it is very difficult to identify separate monies within the 'basket' mechanism.

An example of the paucity of the funds is, that if the system were to provide 1.5 hours per week to each Year 2 teacher for intervention work as a result of the Year 2 net, this would cost near to half a million dollars. This figure is close to the total allotment which could be made to Brisbane Catholic Education from the identified $1.5m. Further to this the Government appears to be wanting to tie such grants to Government priorities such as the Year 2 net, the Year 6 test and using SPS, and to Government timelines.

This is a very disturbing set of circumstances particularly after the long and involved process of consultation with school communities, and the consequent decisions made and choices taken about selected priorities and appropriate timelines.


Brisbane Catholic Education has provided pertinent information to parents, teachers and school administrators about the implementation of the Choosing Our Future initiatives. Information brochures were distributed to both parents and teachers during March 1995, and a periodic bulletin continues to provide current information to teachers on professional development, resources and services associated with the chosen initiatives.

Diagram for sequence of responses to the report

John A Pitman

In the last six months of this year the Queensland Board of Senior Secondary School Studies (BSSSS) has prepared the following reports:

The Board is required to prepare the following papers: The tasks that the Board is required to complete are: The Board is in the process of embedding the following Board subjects with Vocational Education components: The Board is currently working with Curriculum Advisory Committees (CACs) that are comprised of teachers, industry, tertiary, TAFE and union representatives to develop Industry Framework Courses.

Industry Framework Courses have been developed in the following industry areas:

These courses are composed of Vocational Education and Training (VET) modules. They have been (or are in the process of being) accredited with the Vocational Education, Training and Employment Commission (VETEC).

Selection of the modules in each of these Industry Framework Courses will be extracted and incorporated into appropriate Board and Board-Registered subjects.

Contributors: Brian Rout is the head of the Studies Directorate, Queensland Department of Education.
Bruce Howden is Headmaster, Toowoomba Preparatory School.
Raylee Elliott Burns is an education officer for the Catholic Education Office, Brisbane.
John Pitman is Director, Board of Senior Secondary School Studies, Queensland.

Please cite as: Rout, B., Howden, B., Elliott Burns, R. and Pitman, J. (1995). Panel Discussion - Shaping the Future: Implementation Issues. Queensland Researcher, 11(1), 40-57. http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/qjer/qr11/panel-discussion11.html

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