AHISA maintains a strong advocacy effort on behalf of members and their school communities in both the political and public domains, through submissions to government, consultations with politicians and their advisers and engagement with the media.

Valuing diversity

Concerned by the way deficit model thinking about school reform has dominated policy discourse and media commentary, AHISA has invited politicians and policy makers to consider the process of policy making itself. AHISA advocates for a strengths-based approach to education policy, which recognises the professional expertise of educators and the capacity of schools for innovation and entrepreneurial effort.

AHISA’s members lead diverse schools, ranging in size from less than 200 enrolments to multi-campus schools with over 3,000 enrolments. Members’ schools are located in major city, regional and remote areas and the communities they serve are among the least advantaged and most advantaged in Australia.

In seeking to amplify the voice of its members, AHISA believes it is important to represent the diversity in schooling provision the membership embodies, and promote diversity and choice as strengths of Australia’s education system. To capture the diverse experiences of members and the broad range of challenges they face, AHISA conducts member surveys to inform its submissions.

In 2017-19, substantive submissions were made to a number of reviews and consultations, including: the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools (the ‘Gonski 2.0 Review’); an investigation by the Chief Scientist into optimising STEM industry-school partnerships; the Religious Freedom Review (the ‘Ruddock Review’); the Closing the Gap Refresh consultation; a Senate inquiry into the effectiveness of current temporary skilled visa system; a House of Representatives inquiry into the status of the teaching profession; the Expert Review of Australia’s VET System; a consultation on the National Strategy for Regional, Rural and Remote Education; and the NAPLAN Reporting Review.

In keeping with AHISA’s tradition of advocating on student welfare issues, submissions were also made on the Draft National Alcohol Strategy 2018-2026 and to a Senate inquiry into gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items, which examined concerns that some video game applications are a form of gambling.

In 2018, following a call by Papua New Guinea’s Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, the Hon Charles Abel, that Australia establish a scholarship program to place PNG students in Australian boarding schools, AHISA worked with the Australian Boarding Schools Association (ABSA) on a submission to the Minister for Foreign Affairs with recommendations to support the successful implementation of such a program. In 2019, AHISA and ABSA were invited to consult further with departmental officials.

During the biennium AHISA established a valuable collaborative relationship with Christian Schools Australia, which generously shared its understanding of discrimination law as AHISA prepared submissions to and appeared at hearings for Parliamentary inquiries relating to exemptions to anti-discrimination laws for faith-based educational institutions.

Collaboration and contribution

The Biennium was marked by collaborative effort at an organisational level.

Under the leadership of AHISA’s National Chair, Dr Mark Merry, and in partnership with the Centre for Strategic Education, AHISA launched its #EDdialogues series to engage Heads on topics of policy interest and provide a platform for the sharing of diverse viewpoints. In 2018-19, the topic of senior secondary pathways was discussed at AHISA Branch meetings, and at roundtable events to which principals from other school sectors were invited.

As well as initiating policy dialogues across all school sectors, in 2018 AHISA once again joined with the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA) to host a one-day national policy forum in Canberra, attended by Heads, chairs of school Boards, sector representatives, departmental officers and politicians. Delegates were addressed by the then federal Minister for Education, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, then Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten MP and Shadow Minister for Education, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP. Mr David Gonski AC drew on his extensive experience on corporate and not-for-profit boards to speak on governance issues.

AHISA also strengthened its relationships with the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) of the UK and the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS), with sharing of resources. A memorandum of understanding was agreed with University Colleges of Australia (UCA), entailing reciprocal invitations to conferences and with the possibility of future joint research projects, such as on the transition experience of students from the independent sector to university.

AHISA appreciates its connections with the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA), Catholic Secondary Principals Australia (CaSPA), the Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA) and Independent Primary School Heads of Australia (IPSHA). AHISA also maintains a strong relationship with Independent Schools New Zealand (ISNZ), in recognition of our joint members. As a Council member of the International Confederation of Principals (ICP), AHISA seeks to learn from and contribute to global professional exchange.

AHISA also values its membership of ISCA’s National Consultative Group and the Parents and Principals Stakeholder Group of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), and its engagement with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). AHISA’s CEO is a member of AITSL’s Board and also serves on the Board of the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM).

Through consultation, collaboration and connection, AHISA seeks not only to amplify the voice of its members, but add a further dimension to their contribution to Australian school education.

AHISA’s 2019 Social Capital Project

Working with McCrindle Research, in 2019 AHISA developed a major survey to examine the ways in which independent schools create social capital and how they contribute to the nation’s social capital. Topics covered by the survey included students’ community service, civic engagement and character development, and schools’ parent and alumni networks, community and global connections and the diversity within their own communities.

The survey results, analysed and presented in a report published by McCrindle Research, are evidence of the outstanding work of independent schools in helping to develop young Australians as global citizens, build strong communities and contribute to the wellbeing of the nation.

Social Capital Project