Wednesday, 9 August 2006

The Purpose of Schooling

It should be the goal of education policy to enable a democratic, free, equal, just and peaceful society to be maintained and to prosper, on the basis that all South Australians without exception share the same inalienable rights, equal citizenship, and a common national destiny.

This requires the active encouragement of mutual respect for all of our diverse cultural traditions, and our right to enjoy and practice these in peace and without hindrance, and in the recognition that these are a source of strength for our communities and the unity of the nation.

Schools should create the conditions for developing a coherent, integrated, flexible state system which advances the equitable use of public resources, a continuing improvement in educational quality, democratic governance and school-based decision making within a State framework of standards, curriculum and quality.

It must ensure an equitable, efficient, qualitatively sound and financially sustainable system for its learners within a coherent state pattern of school organisation, governance and resourcing which is regarded as absolutely necessary.

Public education must therefore be unified through a managed process of change based on respect for rights and freedoms, redress, equity and continuing improvement in the quality of learning.

The structure, governance and resourcing of public education must aim to -

· ensure both state coherence and the promotion of a sense of common purpose in public education, while optimising flexibility and protecting diversity;

· enable disciplined and purposeful school environments to be established, dedicated to a visible and measurable improvement in the quality of the learning process and learning outcomes throughout the state;

· enable representatives of the main stakeholders of schools to take the responsibility for school governance, within a framework of appropriate (yet minimal) regulation and high support by the state education department;

· ensure that the involvement of departmental authorities in school governance is at the minimum required for legal accountability, and is based on participative management;

· enable school governing bodies to determine the mission and character or ethos of their schools;

· ensure that decision-making authority assigned to school governing bodies is coupled with the allocation of an equitable share of public resources, and the right to raise additional resources for them to manage;

· recognise that a governing body’s right of decision-making is not linked to the ability of its community to raise resources;

· ensure both equity and redress in resourcing from the public purse in order to achieve a fair distribution of public funds and the elimination of backlogs caused by past unequal treatment and bureaucratic tardiness;

· improve efficiency in school education through the optimum use of public resource allocations and publicly funded staff resources.

All South Australians must be given grounds for confidence that public education will be professionally planned and carried out, democratically and locally governed, and effectively managed; that the structures and strategies developed will be such as to enhance quality; and that the resources will be equitably distributed over the public education population as a whole.

Parental rights.

Parents (or care givers) have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, and have the right to be consulted by state authorities with respect to the form that education should take and to take a meaningful and influential part in its governance. Parents have the inalienable right to choose the form of education which is best for their children particularly in the early years of schooling, whether provided by the state or not, subject to reasonable safeguards which may be required by law.

Parental rights, though inalienable, are not absolute or unlimited, but must be exercised within the full context of fundamental rights which all government agencies have the obligation to protect and advance.

It is envisaged that public schools will have at least the following features in common:

· each school will represent a partnership between the state and the local community;

· public schools will be funded totally or largely from public resources, that is, from state budgets, and with few exceptions their property would be owned by the state;

· the admission policies of public schools will be determined by governing bodies in consultation with the state department in terms of norms and regulations and will uphold guaranteed rights and freedoms;

· the mission, policy and character or ethos of schools will be determined within national and state frameworks by a governing body comprising the main stakeholders in the school;

· the salaries of teachers in each public school will be paid by the state department according to an allocation formula, and such teachers will be appointed in each public school by the state department on the recommendation of and in consultation with the school’s governing body.

Decision making authority of schools in public education will be shared among parents, teachers, the community and the learners in ways that will support the core values of democracy.

The sphere of governing bodies is governance, by which is meant leadership through direction and priority setting, policy determination, monitoring and evaluation in which the democratic participation of the school's stakeholders is essential. The sphere of the school educational leadership is management, by which is meant the day to day organisation of teaching and learning, and the activities which support teaching and learning, for which teachers and the school principal are responsible and accountable. These spheres overlap, and there is likely to be considerable diversity in governance and management roles, depending on the circumstances of each school, but within the state standards and quality framework.

Good public school governance requires a flourishing partnership, based on mutual interest and mutual confidence, among the many constituencies that make up and support the school.

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