AATE summary response to the review of the Australian Curriculum
25 November 2014
1. This message outlines the response of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE) to the recommendations arising from the review of the Australian Curriculum conducted by Professor Kenneth Wiltshire and Dr Kevin Donnelly.
2. AATE is the national umbrella organisation unifying autonomous state and territory professional associations for teachers of school subject English. Established in 1964, the association has a current membership of approximately 5000 including both individuals (teachers and academics) and institutions (mainly secondary school English departments).
3. AATE has serious concerns about the influence on the final report by invited contributions from selected individuals deemed by Wiltshire and Donnelly to be “subject specialists”.
4. The report contains no detail about the selection criteria or the process by which two individuals were chosen out of all those in the country who could legitimately be considered to be experts on the content and teaching of school subject English.
5. In addition, views about school subjects and how they should be taught can be expected to vary, even amongst those who can genuinely be considered to have expert status.
6. As far as AATE can see, there is no evidence to indicate that the views of Professor Barry Spurr and Dr Fiona Mueller can be regarded as generally representative of the views of the many others in the country who have similar or greater degrees of expertise on teaching English in schools.
7. Professor Spurr is apparently a recognised authority on early modern English poetry (including Donne and Milton) and on modernist poets, especially T.S. Eliot. This highly specialised scholarly knowledge is not equivalent to expertise in teaching subject English at primary and secondary school level.
8. The vast majority of experts in the field of English education in Australia understand that our national curriculum has an ethical obligation to meets the needs of all Australian children. This requires English teachers having both literary knowledge and a culturally and linguistically inclusive curriculum in which to teach it.
9. AATE considers that, without further supporting evidence, the personal views of Professor Spurr and Dr Mueller should be given little weight when the relevant authorities at state and federal level decide how they will respond to the recommendations related to English in the report arising from the review of the Australian Curriculum
10. As we argued in our submission to the review, AATE considers that the current version of the Australian Curriculum should have been implemented for a longer period before the first of its periodic reviews should have been conducted. For this reason, we think that any changes at this stage should be minimal.
11. A longer document with specific comment on most of the review’s recommendations can be found on our website at http://www.aate.org.au/newsmenu/aate-submissions-recent.
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)
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This is the first time I have been to an ETAQ conference and it was really sensational to get so much at all of the sessions.
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