Tuesday, 30 June 2020.

work-ready skills: CURRICULUM MUST EVOLVE

Timothy Burt: Business NSW Policy Manager, Workforce Skills  

Last week, the NSW Government released the final report of the NSW Curriculum Review, as well as its response to the recommendations it contained. Business NSW and our interested members have been keen participants in the review’s consultation process since it began in 2018.

Once in a generation do-over

The review provided a once in 30-year opportunity to examine both how and what we teach. It explored ways to;

  • inject more flexibility in course offerings,
  • improve the integration of vocational education,
  • enhance how student capacity and competence are assessed.

Business NSW frequently hears about the impact that school education has on young people’s working lives from our members. According to our 2019 Workforce Skills Survey, more than half of businesses that employed a young person in the past 12 months stated that the young person was either not prepared or only somewhat prepared for the workplace. (Figure 1).

Over half of businesses said the education system was not equipping young people with the skills, knowledge and capabilities needed for work.

It is alarming that after 13 years of schooling young people are more likely than not to be underprepared for work.

Many businesses identified a bloated curriculum and a lack of practical application of knowledge as potential causes. School leavers having poor levels of literacy and numeracy also merited special mention.

The NSW Government’s Curriculum Review team has done an excellent job gathering the myriad different views on the issues and has managed to get widespread stakeholder support for the solutions.

The challenge will be in the implementation, particularly of the recommendations that affect education in the senior secondary years.

Our members are particularly interested in how the existing split between vocational and academic in those final years will be managed.

Elephant in the room

It is disappointing therefore that the NSW Government has hedged on these harder, more critical reforms – only supporting them in principle pending advice from the NSW Education Standards Authority.

It is also disappointing that the NSW Government has chosen not to address ATAR, which received significant stakeholder feedback despite being outside the scope of the review.

While there is still significant work to be done, the review has garnered support from across the entire system and the Government is setting out an ambitious timeline for achieving most of the recommendations. For the time being, everyone appears to be working together on an achievable, common goal.

Business NSW will be monitoring progress against these recommendations, and our interested and active member base will be more than willing to participate in the development of the solutions for the benefit of all.

Resources: NSW Education Standards Authority

VIDEO: A new NSW School Curriculum  
Summary of recommendations 
Govt. response to NSW Curriculum review


For feedback on the this topic, contact Timothy Burt


Figure. 1. Infographic of Workforce Skills report. See below for full report.