Newsletter March 2017

New syllabus release

As far as the profession is concerned, the release of the new Stage 6 Syllabus was not well handled by NESA. A media briefing a full day before the documents were released to teachers allowed broad and misleading statements such as 'The Bard is back' (Daily Telegraph) and that grammar and writing did not have due emphasis in the current syllabuses. These documents from which we have been teaching our students for the last 17 years were described as ‘fads’ and ‘social engineering’ (Daily Telegraph). Not a flattering depiction of our professional integrity!

The ETA was contacted for comment on the new courses straight after the media briefing but of course, as teachers, we had not seen them. By the time we did, the syllabus was no longer ‘news’ and consequently the voices of teachers rarely penetrated through to publication.

The issue subsequently raised over text choice - that novel and poetry are no longer mandatory - is a concern for the profession but a natural consequence of the new writing module and the request by a critical mass of teachers to reduce the numbers of modules for study. This has been seen as a ‘dumbing down’ - and it potentially is - but the true effect of this structure can not be seen until the text list and the exam specifications are released.

What is clear, however, is that the availability of an ATAR for English Studies (despite almost universal disapproval by educators) and the diminution of the standard of the outcomes particularly of the Advanced course have contracted the scope of student achievement. This could well limit the attainment levels and the interest of those brighter students who do not wish to undertake extension courses and may also encourage entry to the English Studies course by those students for whom it was not intended.

So for the moment, despite misrepresentations and disputes in the media, as our president, Karen Yager, has said we ‘need to focus on what we do best’, the education of our students.  We will not be ‘defined or contained by a syllabus that is pitched at the middle’ or by disparaging innuendos in the media or indeed by sidelining by NESA. We will continue to work for the benefit of our students and support each other through sharing resources and great teaching ideas. The ETA has in train and has further plans for professional learning and resources that can steer your students through the new syllabus in ways that will not compromise their levels of achievement or intellectual enjoyment.

Come on NSW!

An Australia-wide research project on the literary knowledge of English teachers has received very little response from teachers in NSW. We can do better. Please assist in this valuable research to assist in teacher training and in targeting professional development.

The project Investigating Literary Knowledge in the Making of English Teachers is exploring where literary knowledge comes from and how it plays out in different contexts. There are two ways to get involved:

BY SURVEY: Go to to find out about the project and do the survey

BY INTERVIEW: We are seeking NSW English teachers now in their second year of teaching to interview for the project. Please email Wayne Sawyer at by Monday 20 March 2017 for more information and to register. Use subject heading ‘Investigating Literary Knowledge’.

 For more information about the project visit:




    May June

    The ETA sponsors the Premier's Scholarship award of $10,000 for a study in English. It is anticipated that successful applicants would spend up to five weeks involved in this teacher-devised program. Time need not be spent in formal study, but may involve a program of visits to sites, schools and institutions to conduct interviews, observe exemplary practices and collect resources for the preparation of teaching materials related to English education. Further details and application.

    A free online magazine of stories
    Narrative serves as a virtual bridge to connect readers and writers, publishing more work each year than any other literary periodical, and reaching readers young and old in schools and homes around the globe. Sign up for this free resource.

    To celebrate The New Yorker's 92nd anniversary, The New Yorker Poetry Bot, available on Twitter and Facebook Messenger,  will send out poetry excerpts for the next 92 days.

    Haiku competition
     ending soon.