It was an exciting and rewarding day when the Australian Education Council finally endorsed The Australian Curriculum: The Arts early in October, and later released the updated Australian Curriculum website (version 8.0).
Ausdance National was a founding member of the National Advocates for Arts Education (NAAE) in 1989, but its latest seven-year campaign was particularly difficult. It was a long journey as art form representatives combined to convince the political powers-that-be that all five subjects should be given separate status in the national curriculum under a single learning area called The Arts.
This concept was first agreed to by the Australian Education Council in 2009, with the strong support of then Education Minister Peter Garrett. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) followed up with many years of writing, rewriting, consulting, arguing and challenging, while the NAAE managed to maintain its unity of purpose and its single voice. We also continued to maintain the confidence of ACARA and the education ministers as argument spilled over into the media, making advocacy more difficult. However, the final outcome is clear: the Arts are not only in the curriculum, but they include all five art forms: Dance, Drama, Media Arts, Music and the Visual Arts.
However, just ahead of final endorsement by Australian education ministers last year, the new Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, ordered a review of the whole curriculum, and NAAE found itself almost back to its original arguments. The review panel subsequently recommended a reduction of the Arts curriculum from five subjects to two (visual arts and music). This left Dance and two other subjects in an extremely precarious position, but ACARA held the line in response to the review's concerns about the 'crowded curriculum'. It introduced optional, single learning area achievement standards for The Arts, while keeping existing subject-specific achievement standards as an alternative (NAAE's preferred option). There were, fortunately, no changes to content descriptions in the final version approved by State and Territory education ministers.
The Australian Curriculum: The Arts has already received international recognition as a leader in 21st Century curriculum. Australia is in the unique position of having an Arts curriculum that provides sequential development for each art form, achieving language cohesion without homogenisation, and using appropriately more specialised language in the secondary years. The curriculum provides teachers with information for implementation support across the five art forms.
However, we recognise that schools and teachers have the flexibility to make decisions about how they teach the curriculum in accordance with the needs of their students, the requirements of their school and local curriculum authorities. While we will continue to work on advocacy and implementation issues as the curriculum is rolled out across the country, classroom dance educators in particular now have a nationally-recognised F-10 curriculum for the very first time, real cause for celebration!