Gonski 2.0 Review: What the Commonwealth should do (and not do) to drive improvement in school education – Brisbane

The Commonwealth’s Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools (known as the ‘Gonski 2.0 Review’) is a serious opportunity for a new nation-wide conversation on school education.

The outcomes of the Review will influence the Commonwealth’s next steps in national schools policy. A key step will be the negotiations with the states later this year, as the Commonwealth strives to ensure that its contributions to school funding are spent wisely.

The review comes at a critical time. Australia’s educational performance is declining internationally, we face new challenges in preparing students for their future lives and jobs, and equity gaps are too wide. But this does not mean that the Commonwealth should have a much bigger role in schooling than it does today.

In this State of Affairs event, Julie Sonnemann, Grattan Institute School Education Fellow, along with a panel of leading policy thinkers, explored:

  • What is needed to lift educational outcomes at scale?
  • What are the benefits, challenges and risks of Commonwealth interventions?
  • Where should the Commonwealth focus its efforts, and why?


Leanne Nixon has served as the Assistant Director-General, State Schools Performance, Queensland Department of Education since March 2014, where her priority is to develop innovative strategies to improve student outcomes. Leanne previously worked across Queensland, from the coalfields of Central Queensland to the outback community of Cunnamulla. She served as the Foundation Principal of the Queensland Academy for Health Sciences on Queensland’s Gold Coast and Executive Principal of Calamvale Community College, and worked with principals and colleagues to develop school improvement agendas as a Teaching and Learning Auditor. She led the development of Independent Public Schools as the Executive Director for the project. Leanne is recognised for her educational leadership across the teaching profession and professional contributions to advancing learning for students, colleagues and the system. Leanne encourages rigorous discussion and learning across the system and believes that professional conversations are critical for effective teaching and learning.

David de Carvalho is the Chief Executive Officer of the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA). He started his career as a secondary school teacher.  He has extensive experience in leading major reforms at both national and state level and a deep personal passion for, and understanding of, education. Immediately prior to NESA, he was Deputy Secretary at the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. This followed an extensive career in the Commonwealth public service, working in the health and education departments, as well as Treasury, Finance and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet David led the Reform of the Federation White Paper Taskforce from January 2014 to June 2015. He was CEO of the National Catholic Education Commission from 1998-2003, during which time he was a board member on both the Australian Council for Educational Research, and the Curriculum Corporation (now Education Services Australia). He is a member of the ACARA Board.

Matthew Deeble is the Director of Evidence for Learning, a new Australian non-profit organisation dedicated to helping educators increase learning with better evidence. Evidence for Learning’s foundation partners are Social Ventures Australia, the Commonwealth Bank and the UK’s Education Endowment Foundation. Matthew has more than 20 years’ experience in building and running enterprises in education, environment and health. He was involved in provisioning the first Internet services in Australian schools and developing school administration software and curriculum tools used by many thousands of schools in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and USA. More recently he worked on data, identity and privacy projects for the National Schools Interoperability Program and an online career profiling service in Higher and Vocational Education. He is also a non-executive director of a medical research efficiency platform called Covidence.

Julie Sonnemann is the School Education Fellow at Grattan Institute. She has significant experience in education policy and system design, and has co-authored several high profile reports on effective teaching, professional learning, equity and funding. She has over ten years of experience in school education policy, working within government, consulting and research organisations. She has studied high performing school systems in East Asia and North America, and consulted to the Australian government, the OECD Education Directorate and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Julie began her career at the Prime Minister’s Department and is an economist by training. She has a B.Com (honours economics) and Master of Public Policy from The University of Melbourne.