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Courses cut, syllabuses rewritten in NSW curriculum overhaul

“The NSW Government will be taking a back to basics approach to the curriculum. Literacy and numeracy will remain the focus throughout a student’s school experience,” she said.

The new curriculum will start across all years by 2024, beginning with English and maths for kindergarten to year 2 by 2022. The new syllabuses would be “stripped down to focus on what is essential in each subject”.

The 20 per cent of secondary school electives that could be dropped to free up study for core subjects included puppetry, leather and wearable art, Professor Masters suggested.

Professor Geoff Masters speaking at the Sydney Morning Herald Schools Summit.

Professor Geoff Masters speaking at the Sydney Morning Herald Schools Summit. Credit:Janie Barret

The government also agreed to the development of a smaller number of rigorous, high-quality HSC courses, and to provide more opportunities for senior students to gain credits for qualifications in apprenticeships.

It supported in principle proposal requiring every HSC student undertake a major investigative project, but simply “noted” a proposal for a task force to investigate the feasibility of abandoning the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank.


When the new syllabuses are implemented, students will progress at their own pace.

“Students who require more time should have it; students ready to advance should be able to do so,” said the recommendation, supported in principle by the government but sent to the NSW Education Standards Authority for further advice.

During consultation for the review, 94 per cent of teachers agreed that existing syllabuses were overcrowded and content needed to be reduced, and 90 per cent of parents wanted their child to move at their own pace.

Nine out of 10 parents also agreed minimum standards were necessary to establish where students were in their learning progression.

The review comes as the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority begins a review of the national curriculum, which is less than 10 years old and is aligned to the NSW version.


It also comes just a few years after the last review of the state’s senior school content. New English and science syllabuses were tested in the HSC for the first time last year, after teachers spent a year being trained in how to deliver them.

Year 12 students will have to meet minimum standards to receive their HSC qualifications for the first time this year, but the review proposes to widen the minimum attainment levels to all subjects.

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