Changes to the Australian Curriculum (V9)

Since 2008, Australian governments have been working together with ACARA to define a national curriculum that reflects the educational needs of all Australian students. The new Australian Curriculum (Version 9) has finally been approved by Education Ministers. Now that there’s been some time to digest it, we’ve gathered different perspectives and sources of information looking at the changes and understanding the critical implications for teachers and your textbooks, resources, and content for curriculum planning. The curriculum is available for implementation from the school year 2023 onwards and can be discovered in detail here

Why are these changes happening?

The Australian Curriculum; otherwise known as the subjects comprising a course of study in primary and secondary schools, has been under review by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). The Australian Curriculum is the national framework for school education in Australia and sets out the learning needs of students from preschool to year 12.

ACARA states that the Australian Curriculum has been in place for some time now, and education ministers agreed it was time that it be reviewed to ensure it continued to meet the needs of students now and into the future. 

“The Australian Curriculum ensures the same high standard curriculum content is available to every student, regardless of where they live. It reflects the priorities and expectations we hold for our young people, and this curriculum sets a new high benchmark.”

David de Carvalho, CEO of ACARA 

The national curriculum is due for a review every 6 years, with this most recent review taking place between 2020 and 2021. ACARA’s goal of the changes in the new curriculum was to develop a more “stripped-back” and “teachable” curriculum, focusing on “essential content”. 

Andrew Pierpoint, The President of the Australian Secondary Principals Association (a ReadCloud Platinum partner) shared his organisation’s thoughts on the process:

“Of particular note, ASPA is highly supportive of the process undertaken by the review – involving the professional Associations recognizing their expertise and commitment to the students of our nation.”

The Educator AustraliaWhat principals think of the new Australian Curriculum

So what changes are being made?

With a significant amount of changes to the Australian Curriculum in place, teachers need to understand the implications for their subjects and faculties so they can alter their teaching approach to best suit the new curriculum. The changes will, in turn, affect the resources that are available for teachers and are developed by content publishers and providers. 

So, what can we expect from the conclusion of the review process and what changes do we need to be aware of? Let’s take a look at some of the major proposed changes for implementation and the reaction to the changes from publications and content providers. A helpful summary of the key differences between Version 8.4 and Version 9 for the F-10 Curriculum provided by ACARA can be found on their website as well.  

Reduction in the amount of content

There has been a 21% reduction in the number of content descriptions reducing the amount of content that teachers have to teach and students are expected to learn. Additionally, some areas have seen much larger cuts, such as geography in F-6. 

“In primary school geography, however, 50% of the content descriptions in the Knowledge and Understanding strand have been deleted or had content reduced.” 

The ConversationDumbed-down curriculum means primary students will learn less about the world and nothing about climate

Australian History is now compulsory for years 9 and 10

Along with a reduction of the amount of content to be studied in history 7-10, there has been a focus on revising content descriptions relating to Australian history to look at the broader history of Australia as a successful democracy and prosperous society.

“Prioritising Australian history within a global context in Years 9 and 10 with 2 new sub-strands, Making and transforming the Australian nation (1750-1914) in Year 9 and Building modern Australia (post-1945) in Year 10, that are expected to be studied by all students.”

Daily Mail Going vegetarian, green, and learning about sex consent: Revamped Aussie school curriculum is launched – so will they still do maths? 

Explicit teaching of consent and respectful relationships

The explicit teaching of consent and respectful relationships from F–10 in age-appropriate ways. This includes content that addresses the role of gender, power, coercion, and disrespect in abusive or violent relationships.

“Stripped-back and more teachable, Curriculum version 9.0 supports deeper conceptual understanding around key health, movement and physical activity skills and knowledge.”

ACHPER BlogAustralian Curriculum for Health and Physical Education v.9.0 launched.

Phonics is now embedded in the teaching of English

Other changes to how English is taught include more specific and direct content descriptions.  

“The new Australian Curriculum is out and there is some exciting news.  The words ‘predictable texts’ and ‘combining contextual, semantic, grammatical and phonic knowledge’ are now gone.” 

Jocelyn SeamerVersion 9 of the English Curriculum Has Landed

Improvement in the concepts and basics required for Mathematics

Changes in maths have focused on helping students to master essential concepts, facts, and skills at the right time.

“Some content has been moved between year levels; usually resulting in students encountering some elements for the first time in a later year level. For example, percentages are now first introduced in Year 5, rather than in Year 6”

Maths PathwayEverything you need to know about the updated curriculum

Shift towards Inquiry-based learning in Science

Major changes to the approach and curriculum for science include more inquiry-based learning, change to sequencing, and more prescriptive content descriptions. 

“We’re pleased to see the encouragement of an inquiry-based approach, stronger integration between skills, society and science, and a more cross-curricular approach to STEM.” 

STILE BlogThe New Australian Curriculum and STILE

When is each state looking to implement the changes?

Each of the states and the different sectors within the states are taking different approaches and timelines for the implementation of the changes to the Australian Curriculum. You can find a quick summary of announced plans and check out a list of key contacts here where you can make direct inquiries to state governments and sector representatives as to the implementation of the curriculum in your sector and state. 

So far, the Queensland government has announced that from 2024, they will provide the updated curriculum in state schools which will commence with English and Mathematics. NSW will be implementing a new curriculum from 2024 and in Tasmania, Government schools will implement the new version of the AC from 2023. In WA, the state government is still determining how this version will be adapted in the Western Australian context.  

Catholic and Independent schools are expected to broadly commence utilising the new Australian Curriculum on a staggered basis, with some adopting the new curriculum in 2023 and others in 2024 onwards.

What’s next?

Throughout 2023, 2024, and 2025, students and teachers will be getting used to several changes to the Australian Curriculum in all learning areas. The Australian Curriculum is currently being rolled out in schools across Australia at different paces. 

Content creators, textbook publishers, online learning platforms, and curriculum support resource providers have been working hard to ensure their materials will be ready for teachers when they need them. 

Teachers and schools should start to evaluate and think about the relevance of the resources they use in the classroom today. How will the impending changes impact your lesson plans? Are your current textbooks and resources sufficient or will you need to create or find new resources and supplementary materials? These are all important questions to evaluate for the next couple of terms as you make decisions about your 2023 and 2024 classroom priorities.