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NSW Department of Education and Communities

Curriculum support for NSW Public Schools

The Australian Curriculum

  • Overview
  • Development process
  • Proposed structure
  • Consultation
  • FAQs

The Commonwealth, State and Territory governments agreed in 2008 that a national curriculum should be developed. The 2008 National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians provides a framework for ACARA’s development of an Australian, K–12 curriculum for science.

Science curriculum is one of four subjects being developed as part of the first phase of the Australian curriculum, the others being English, mathematics and history.

The Australian Curriculum -Science will detail what teachers are expected to teach and students are expected to learn for each year of schooling. The curriculum will describe the knowledge, understandings, and skills that students will be expected to develop, in sequence, across the years of schooling from K - 12.

Information on the Australian curriculum is available from the ACARA website You can register your email address at this site to receive the latest updates from ACARA.

Advice has been and will continue to be sought from teachers, professional associations and curriculum experts as well as from the broader educational community at key points during the development process

In August 2008, ACARA commenced work on a national curriculum in English, Mathematics, Science and History. A brief initial advice paper was developed then discussed at a series of national forums held in October 2008. Science Initial Advice Paper – October 2008

In May 2009 ACARA published the Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Science. This paper provides advice on curriculum design and guides the curriculum writers in their development of the draft Australian Curriculum in Science. It provides a reference for judging the quality of the final curriculum documents.
National consultation on the Australian K–10 Science curriculum document was held from February to May 2010, and is scheduled from May to July 2010 for Years 11 and 12.

Digital publication of the Australian curriculum in Science is expected in August for K-10 and by October for Years 11-12.
The Commonwealth, State and Territory governments have agreed that Australian curriculum K10 for the first phase subjects will be implemented by 2013. The timeline for implementation in New South Wales will be announced during 2010. The implementation timeline for the senior years curriculums is yet to be decided by the relevant State Ministers.
Work on an Australian Science curriculum is well underway. The phases and timelines for each stage of the curriculum development process are outlined in the document Curriculum Development Process


The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Science, has proposed that the K-12 science curriculum:

  • be organised around three interrelated strands: science understanding, science inquiry skills; and science as a human endeavour

  • provide the basis for learning science that engages students in meaningful ways and prepares students to use science for life and active citizenship so that they can function effectively in a scientifically and technologically

  • provide a foundation for specific learning pathways leading to senior secondary science as well as science and engineering courses at university and technical and vocational education and training.

Organisation of Content
Curriculum content will be organised around three interrelated strands: science understanding, science inquiry skills; and science as a human endeavour.


Science understanding: Includes the understanding of scientific concepts, explanations and theories that enable people to explain and predict natural phenomena. This knowledge understanding can be applied to new situations and events.

Science inquiry skills: Focuses on the process of Investigating Scientifically where students pose questions, plan and conduct investigations, collect and analyse data and communicate their findings. This element is also concerned with evaluating investigations and claims and making valid conclusions.

Science as a human endeavour: This element highlights the need for informed, evidence- based decision making about current and future applications of science where there is, or would be, an impact on individuals, society and the environment.

Proposed content descriptions: For K-10, curriculum content will be presented as ‘content descriptions’ outlining what students are expected to learn and teachers are expected to teach at each year level. For the senior years curriculum: science content is is presented as content descriptions within four units for each subject; Biology, Chemistry, Earth and environmental science and Physics.

Assessment and credentialing
Credentialing, and related assessment requirements and processes, remain the responsibility of States and Territories, which in New South Wales means the Board of Studies. Reporting on student achievement will be by A-E grades for K-10, or equivalent, but, apart from NAPLAN, formal assessment requirements and processes remain the responsibility of States and Territories and are not part of the Australian Curriculum.

Pedagogy, that is, how the curriculum is taught and assessed (other than for a credential) remains the responsibility of each education sector. Hence, models, approaches and practices to which public schools are committed need not be affected by Australian curriculum.

The development of the Australian Curriculum for science is underpinned by an emphasis on the benefits of an inquiry approach to teaching and learning in science, with less emphasis on a transmission model of teaching and learning.


National consultation on the Australian senior years curriculum: Science documents is scheduled to be held from May 2010, to July 2010 for Years 11 and 12. The draft Australian Senior years: Science documents are available from the ACARA website ( .
At this stage, only the draft curriculum content for the senior years Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science and Physics will be available for consultation. Achievement standards for these courses will be developed through 2010 and be opened up to consultation during early 2011.
Curriculum Directorate - Department of Education and Training and the NSW Board of Studies will conduct separate consultation activities to provide feedback to ACARA on the Australian senior years curriculum drafts.
The feedback will result in advice to ACARA to ensure the new curriculum is accessible, equitable and provides opportunities for quality science learning for all students in NSW public schools.
Specific detail of the Curriculum Directorate consultation with NSWDET teachers of science on the Australian senior years curriculum: Science will be provided shortly.  You are encouraged to find sufficient time to engage with the draft Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science and Physics senior years documents prior to consultation.

How can you participate in consultation?
Send your initial thoughts and feedback about the senior years science courses to:
Ric Morante, Senior Curriculum Adviser, 7-12 Science

Information about further consultation activities will be available on the websites for the Board and Curriculum K-12 respectively soon.
You are also able to respond directly to the ACARA consultation through the ACARA website now.
Guiding consultation with colleagues
The following questions are offered as discussion starters. You might find it helpful to consider only one or two of these questions. Alternatively, you might prefer to examine in detail an area of the curriculum that you know causes problems for the students in your school.
It is recommended that Science faculties allocate some faculty time to discuss the draft curriculum.

Some questions to consider

    • Does the curriculum create opportunities for every student to continue with study in Science through the senior years?
    • Does the allocation of specific topics and content on a year by year basis look justified in Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science and Physics?
    • Is there a clear and sensible progression of learning in Science from K-10 through to each of the senior years’ courses?
      • Are there important concepts/learning missing in Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Science and Physics?

Frequently asked questions

Will I need to write a new teaching and learning program to suit the new Australian science curriculum?
The adoption of the Australian curriculum will involve changes in New South Wales. Advice to schools on how to manage these changes will be provided by both the Board of Studies and the Department.
What is the structure of the new Australian curriculum?
The Australian Science curriculum is organised into three strands; Science Understanding, Science Inquiry skills and Science as a human endeavour. Further detail on this structure can be obtained from the Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Science


For more information, including copies of the shape papers for English, mathematics, science and history and the Curriculum Development Process
and Curriculum Design documents, go to the ACARA website.

Full copies of the Science documents along with their matching consultation reports are available below.

pdf The Shape of the Australian Curriculum (May 2009)

pdf Shape Paper Consultation Report (May 2009)

pdf The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Science (May 2009)

pdf Framing Paper Consultation Report: The Sciences (May 2009)

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