Education boss Sharyn O’Neill named WA Public Sector Commissioner

By David Donaldson

Tuesday July 24, 2018

Long-time Education boss Sharyn O’Neill will be Western Australia’s next Public Sector Commissioner.

O’Neill, who has held the job of director general of the Department of Education for nearly 12 years, will start on July 30.

She takes over from Mal Wauchope, who retires this month after a decade in the position, bringing his 45-year-long public sector career to an end. Wauchope has most recently helped implement WA’s machinery of government changes, introduced a year ago, to reduce the number of departments from 41 to 25.

O’Neill has led “transformational change” during her time at Education, said Premier Mark McGowan in a statement.

Her classroom-first strategy of 2007 still serves as a foundation of the public education system. She has led the development and implementation of a strong performance culture across public schools, resulting in improved outcomes for students.

O’Neill has implemented major reforms including raising the school-leaving age, moving Year 7 to secondary, making pre-primary the first year of compulsory schooling, increasing school-level decision-making and revising the model for public school funding.

She has also managed significant investment in building and improving WA public schools to ensure students are learning in modern school facilities. This has been done at a time of huge growth in public school student numbers.

More recently, O’Neill has implemented a suite of additional support for students including science labs in primary schools, delivery of student mental health programs with additional support teachers, and extra education assistants and Aboriginal and Islander education officers. More support has been provided in regional WA through independent learning coordinators and regional learning specialists.

In recognition of her contribution to public administration, O’Neill was awarded the Institute of Public Administration WA patron’s award and made a fellow of the institute in 2016.

Acting arrangements will be in place for the position of director general of the Department of Education until it is filled substantively.

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