The ANSN (a not for profit organisation) has a 21-year successful history in school reform and improvement. The Network has been at the forefront of new thinking about learning, pedagogy, curriculum and school organisation and the use of new technologies. It is unique in that it is led by educators and brings together teachers, schools, universities, business, teacher unions, and government and non-government employers, as a vibrant nationwide research, development and learning community.
It began as the NSN in 1991 when funded by the Hawke-Keating Government. It survives as the one of a few national networks of its kind in the world. It is recognized nationally as one of the few groups that can bring together diverse stakeholders in a collaborative way to advance ideas, programs and policies with a special focus on schools in disadvantaged communities in all sectors.
The NSN began as part of the broad Award Restructuring Agenda that most industries were involved in the early 90s. Funded by the Commonwealth in partnership with the education systems as a pilot with 90 schools from 1991-93, it had the research and development task of asking the following question.
“What is it about the way our work is organised that gets in the way of student learning?”
Schools were then supported to trial and evaluate innovative forms of organisation and teaching and learning. This work was then funded in an ongoing way from 1993-96, and over 500 schools were involved. Each year the NSN received upwards of $3m to work with systems, schools and universities on research and development. The NSN were also funded $1m pa to conduct 17 summer and winter schools in teacher vacation time over those years and worked with over thousands of teachers and school leaders in universities in each state. Many of these participants are now leading our most innovative schools, lecturing and researching in universities and working at senior levels in systems of education and government. The connections remain strong today.
The strength of the network became evident when federal funding ceased at the end of 1996. Teachers, schools, systems of education and unions continued to support the NSN. Such was the support that it just continued to function as a network. It was set up as a not for profit organisation. Schools became its core membership base with state and territory systems of education supporting innovation through project funding. We believe this collaboration of all parts of the education community is at the heart of the success of the ANSN.
The ANSN had a marked influence on approaches to teacher professional learning around the country. These influence are still evident today. Current research on effective professional development for teachers acknowledges the very things that the ANSN has always stood for. Beginning with the teachers interests and developing innovative approaches to learning together such as the research circle, using protocols to look at student and teacher work, and action learning methods particularly in learning communities. The ANSN has had a focus on documenting this learning through the publication of products and training so that others who were interested could learn from the work of their colleagues.
Since 1991 the ANSN has led innovation in school education through the exploration of: different designs of middle years of schooling, team-small group classroom management, authentic assessment, exhibitions of student work, key competencies, numeracy across the curriculum, habits of mind, dimensions of learning, refugees in schools, full service learning, kidsmart early childhood and technology, and interactive whiteboards.
Through this work the ANSN has developed an approach to rethinking school and school development (based on both its own empirical research and research findings supported by the broader research community). This approach includes: principles for the design of an ANSN school, an approach to change tat is respectful, hopeful and challenging, as set of norms for community interaction, the creation of learning communities, and a set of processes and frameworks for leading school and teacher change. Big Picture Education Australia was developed as a direct result of the school reform work of the ANSN.