Originally published on EducationHQ (June 2 2016)
The former managing director of the ABC, Mark Scott, will head the New South Wales Department of Education.
Announcing the appointment on Thursday, NSW Premier Mike Baird said Scott’s experience as a former teacher, education reporter and political adviser made him an ideal choice for the role of secretary.
“Mr Scott is one of the great leaders in this country,” Baird said. “He brings a proven track record, a deep understanding and passion for education.”
Scott left the ABC in April this year, after more than a decade in the top job.
“On leaving the ABC, I was asked what I planned to do next,” Scott said. “I can think of no more important opportunity than working alongside the teachers of NSW and the staff of the department to improve teaching and learning in our schools.”
He will replace Dr Michele Bruniges from August, with more than 2000 schools and 49,000 teachers under his watch.
But, while speaking at his first department press conference, Scott was already fielding questions on the private vs public education debate.
He was asked how he could effectively advocate for public education given his own children went to private school and he himself taught at and attended private schools. His wife is also principal at the NSW private school Wenona.
“We have an education system that is based around choice and there are plenty of families who send their kids to public schools and Catholic schools and the independent schools,” Scott responded. “Of course, part of my responsibility encompasses all of the system.”
Scott was also asked about his time as political advisor to NSW’s controversial former Education Minister Terry Metherell in the late 80’s. Metherell oversaw widespread school closures that led to the loss of 2500 teacher positions and mass protests.
“If you really want a sense of how I’ll approach the job you need to look at what I did in the last decade rather than in the last century – that was a long time ago,” Scott said.
His appointment comes as Education Minister Adrian Piccoli continues to call for the full Gonski needs-based funding model. Piccoli said he looked forward to working with Scott and that their focus remained on “improving student results and delivering the skills base needed to grow the NSW economy”.
The Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AISNSW) also welcomed Scott to the role, describing him as a “considerable asset” to the department.
AISNSW chief executive Dr Geoff Newcombe said Mr Scott’s experience as “an innovator, a reformer and agent of change” during his time as managing director of the ABC would stand him in good stead.
“Education operates in a constantly changing environment both within Australia and globally and requires a person with the capacity to identify and respond to the challenges that lie ahead,” Newcombe said.
“I am confident that Mark is the right person to ensure that the NSW education sector is well placed to meet these challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities that it will present.”