Harrisson addresses SMH Schools Conference, highlighting early years
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Harrisson addresses SMH Schools Conference, highlighting early years

Harrisson addresses SMH Schools Conference, highlighting early years

by Freya Lucas

February 23, 2023

Recent reforms to early learning in New South Wales represent “an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of our littlest learners across NSW,” Georgina Harrisson, Secretary of the NSW Department of Education said as part of her keynote address to the 2023 Sydney Morning Herald Schools Summit earlier this week. 


The reforms, she continued, will “make a real difference for our teachers in primary schools when they have students who are turning up ready for school ready and able to learn – and have their needs already understood and adjusted for.”


Ms Harrisson’s speech also acknowledged that 2023 is the year that marked 175 years of public education in NSW, a milestone which “follows a long tradition of teaching and learning on these lands that has existed for tens of thousands of years in this country”.


The anniversary, she continued, serves as a moment for reflection and celebration, and is “an achievement in which we can all share and be immensely proud”.


Despite the spirit of celebration and optimism, Ms Harrisson acknowledged three challenges the education sector in NSW is facing in 2023, namely: 


  • the significance of early childhood reforms for education;
  • the need to balance the focus on results with ongoing recovery; and,
  • anticipating the challenges ahead for the next 175 years.


“One of my most satisfying moments so far as Secretary was when the NSW budget was handed down last year, where we secured 15 billion dollars of investment in early childhood,” Ms Harrisson shared. 


“This came off the back of years of work by a series of brilliant colleagues, who built the case for ongoing and growing investment in early years of education.”


“We know that in the first five years of life, a child’s brain develops more rapidly than any other time. So it’s critical that every child has the right support to put them on a pathway towards lifelong success.”


While access to quality early childhood education isn’t a reality for all children in NSW, Ms Harrisson outlined that the inequity is part of the reason the NSW Government’s investment “is so important”.


“We know that these benefits will flow to our economy by reducing the barriers to work for parents, and in particular for women,” she continued.


“This reform will be a game changer for education in NSW. And we are laying the foundations today to deliver this once-in-a-generation reform over the next 10 years.”


“We know we’re doing the right work. But it’s not an overnight fix, and it’s not just a challenge in our state, or even just in Australia – these are issues that education systems across the world are experiencing too,” she added.


Ms Harrisson closed her address by saying the work undertaken by those in the education sector “is nothing short of fundamental to our future as a nation. This work very often goes unsung, unnoticed and taken for granted.”


She encouraged education professionals to “share more of the stories about the work we do, of our teachers making a real difference. Let’s make it a habit.”

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