The definition of insanity

Dear Reader,

Class Action recently gained ABC News attention for its free lesson plans for schools on the Voice referendum. 

Although most students will not have a vote on this issue of the referendum, all will be exposed to arguments and campaigns for and against through the media, and in many cases in their own homes. The IPA’s Class Action ‘Voice Referendum’ material offers teachers the opportunity to engage students in an important national civics and citizenship exercise of the upcoming referendum, by offering free bi-partisan lesson plans.

Since its launch, our analytics suggests approximately 3,000 Australians have accessed the resource. 

The Australian Education Union – the largest teacher union – announced back in February its support of the ‘Yes’ campaign. AEU President, Correna Haythorpe, said “we extend our unstinting support to the ‘Yes’ campaign today…….we will back this in with resources including a Voice campaign lead officer and project officers.”

Unsurprisingly then, as reported by ABC News, the Australian Education Union described the Class Action material as a “shallow attempt to inflict their conservative views on students in schools”. And despite the AEU transparently committing significant resources to partisan community education, the AEU described our bi-partisan material as “a cynical attempt to influence and interfere in Australia’s democratic processes via the education system.”

Thanks to your support, the Class Action program exists to provide students with a core tenet of education in providing balanced material, allowing students to critically analyse and make up their own mind – and by doing so, contribute to a flourishing future of Australian society that knows its roots, and can humbly acknowledge its imperfections without erasing its proud achievements.

You can download the Class Action Voice Referendum material here: Class Action | Australian Children Deserve A Better Education (

NAPLAN more of the same – as if we didn’t already know

The recently released 2023 NAPLAN results show a continued, dramatic deterioration to the quality of education that young Australians are receiving.

Shockingly, one-third of all Year 9 students failed to meet expected proficiency standards in numeracy, reading, and writing.

The latest NAPLAN results mark the first assessment under the new measurement scales categorizing students into four groups – ‘Needs Additional Support’, ‘Developing’, ‘Strong’ and ‘Exceeding’ - and a new baseline for results thereby removing the ability to compare students’ progress from previous years. From this year, students identified as “Needs Additional Support” and “Developing” are below benchmark expectations at the time of testing.

By way of background, NAPLAN stands for the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy, which is an annual assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. The purpose of NAPLAN is to measure how students across Australia are progressing in their literacy and numeracy skills over time.

Some experts have attempted to downplay declining results by arguing that the new NAPLAN benchmark is high. But the proportion of students falling below expectations is consistent with long-standing international assessments conducted by independent organizations such as the OECD. Back in 2018, (the most recent OECD PISA results available), just 60 per cent of Australian Year 9 students read at a proficient standard. The benchmark performance information is not new and not surprising. It has simply been dressed in new language.

Some have actually suggested these shocking results are even commendable with Victorian Minister for Education, Natalie Hutchins, saying, “All of Victoria should be exceptionally proud of our schools today. Students from Years 3 to 9 have recorded the nation’s highest NAPLAN results, and some of the state’s best ever.”

But with about 100,000 Year 9 students around the nation below standard, there is little to celebrate. The significance of these findings cannot be understated. Literacy and numeracy are foundational life skills intimately tied to personal well-being and post-school success and the future of our nation.

The erosion of explicit instruction has led to a generation of teachers who lack the necessary foundational skills themselves and pass on the problem, initial teacher training courses are littered with ideology instead of practical teacher training and a polluted curriculum promoting activism instead of education combine to create a perfect storm of disaster.

Urgent attention and genuine change is required – and it is not about just playing around with vocabulary. There is a matrix of interconnected issues to address, but with an annual budget of approximately $120 billion, money is not one of them.

There must be a national wide return to a focus on explicit instruction (it used to be just called ‘teaching’) instead of the populist practice of demoting the teacher to a partner in a student-led inquiry and discovery journey before foundational skills have even been secured.

Ideological activism in the curriculum must be removed, with preference instead given to subject matter integrity.

And the Ensure Initial Teaching Training courses (the universities) should focus on practical skills relevant to the professional needs of being at the coal face in the classroom (which will also assist in reducing the high rates of exodus from the profession that in turn contributes to teacher shortage).

You can read my Op Ed In Spectator here: NAPLAN results offer proof: Australia’s education system is failing | The Spectator Australia

Regional-Metro Divide

The NAPLAN results shed a harsh light on the disparities between metro and regional and remote students. 56 percent of Year 9 remote students fell below expectations in reading compared to 31 percent of metropolitan students.

So one might find it understandably perplexing to know that at the very same time as promoting the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, the government has axed the funding for the building of two schools that were to serve some of the most disadvantaged indigenous students in our nation.

You can read my article in the Spectator here:

Incessant indoctrination

Earlier in this newsletter I referred to the OECD PISA results.

The OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test is a globally recognized assessment that evaluates the performance of 15-year-old students in various countries in the areas of reading, mathematics, and science literacy. PISA assesses students’ abilities to apply their knowledge and skills in real-world contexts. It focuses on measuring not just what students know but how well they can use their knowledge to solve complex problems. PISA allows for domestic comparison of previous results and international comparison of participating countries. PISA results have provided objective evidence that the average 15-year-old Australian student is more than a year behind the average 15-year-old Australian student of twenty years ago.

PISA has just announced the next round of testing to be conducted in 2025 will include environmental knowledge alongside English, maths and science literacy.

In the document announcing this initiative named ‘Agency in the Anthropocene, Supporting document to the PISA 2025 Science Framework’, PISA says:

“An important construct to be measured in the (PISA) 2025 is the degree to which 15-year-olds are knowledgeable of, concerned about, and able to act on environmental issues as a result of their science education. This document justifies and explains the competencies youth need to address local and global challenges in this epoch of human influences on the planet. Those with agency in the Anthropocene work individually and collectively with hope and efficacy to understand diverse perspectives on socio-ecological systems and to create a more just and resilient future.”

What’s wrong with this is that it assumes as ‘fact’, the narrative of a ‘climate emergency’ already forced upon and irresponsibly frightening our young, it promotes the idea that being engaged in this ‘climate emergency’ narrative is essential core knowledge – as basic and essential as the ability to read and write, and it promotes to our youth that they are responsible for rectifying world injustices – which they have little power over.

This move by PISA will only serve to undermine the immediate need for the Australian education system to disengage from ideological global social justice issues and focus on the domestic emergency of ensuring basic proficiency in literacy and numeracy of our students.

While the PISA assessment for Reading and Numeracy are valuable sources of information, one can only hope our policy makers decline to partake in this particular assessment and focus on the urgent matters at hand – like being able to read.

Class Action out and about

August 30th – Interview with Alexandra Marshall for ADH TV

September 1st – I presented at the Liberal Party Albert Park branch on “Activism in Education”.

September 8th – Class Action material on ‘The Voice Referendum’ was in the news with allegations by AEU Federal President, Correna Haythorpe:

This move by the IPA can only be viewed as a cynical attempt to influence and interfere in Australia’s democratic processes via the education system.”

But of course AEU would say that. As discussed in an earlier newsletter, the AEU is on the record as explicitly supporting the Voice to Parliament, which completely undermines the AEU’s capacity to provide students and teachers with a balanced view on this critical matter.

You can read the full article here: Conservative think tank IPA accused of indoctrinating school children with Voice to Parliament lesson plan - ABC News

Before I go

As you know I always like to finish with a quote. This one from Margaret Mead is a powerful reminder.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Thankyou for your support.

Colleen Harkin

National Manager, Class Action Program and Research Fellow