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Austria: education reform brings increased autonomy

In mid-2017, the Austrian National Council adopted far-reaching measures for the education sector, including a special focus on the extension of school autonomy which also applies to VET schools.

The reform gives schools and teachers more scope in the organisation of teaching. They will be permitted to adjust class and group sizes, depending on how they design pedagogical and didactic aspects of learning. Neither minimum nor maximum numbers for groups will be specified centrally. Resources, which will remain unchanged overall and have been legally enshrined, can be used flexibly in various locations for measures taken as part of school autonomy.

The duration of periods of instruction can also be varied, with the 50-minute lesson only serving as a parameter of calculation for resource allocation: total teaching time for teachers and pupils, based on the applicable curriculum, will not change. This will simplify project-oriented teaching, block instruction and topic-centred teaching. The grouping of pupils and the forms of teaching can also be handled flexibly. School opening hours will be laid down for individual locations in school partnership agreements. This will allow school infrastructure to be used in a flexible and better way.

Between two and eight school locations in a region can merge into so-called school clusters. The individual school locations will still be schools but will be strengthened due to cooperation in the cluster. The school cluster management will fulfil a cross-location function. Timetables and the distribution of subjects will be set out centrally in the cluster in consultation with the locations. Each school location will still have one point of contact to support the cluster management on site. A specific advisory body for each school cluster will give the school partners in the cluster an additional opportunity to have their say.

In-service teacher training conducted in-house will be expanded. Teachers will have an electronic portfolio accompanying their career and documenting all the in-service and continuing education and training measures they undertake.

Another important point of the reform is depoliticisation of school administration. In the future, school heads will be selected using a national standardised procedure in which external experts will carry out evaluations. The heads of the school or school cluster will carry out selection of newly employed teachers. Furthermore, new school heads will be assisted through specific programmes. The public authority will examine the formal requirements and will assume functions related to service legislation; it will only intervene in a regulatory capacity if no suitable applicants are found for specific locations.

More information:

Press memo on the autonomy package from the Education Ministry 
Update Schule [An Update on School] – information brochure on the autonomy package of the educational reform