Editorial: What to look out for in 2017

Staffing back in black in 2017

The start of 2017 has finally seen Campbell Newman’s cuts to education staffing redressed. The second instalment of the Palaszczuk government’s pre-election promise of 875 teachers over three years has been delivered. 580 additional teachers over and above enrolment increases more than compensates for the 519 cut by the Newman government at the start of 2013.

The implementation plan negotiated with the QTU has so far provided: 185 through restoring the “rounding benefit” in primary, 182 specialists in secondary, 31 for release time for small school principals, 13 for deputies in special education and 23 HODs in secondary schools. A further 295 FTE positions will be provided in 2017.

Class sizes

In 2017, the QTU will be working to ensure that the new agreement is implemented on the ground as well as on paper. One particular area is class sizes. The ALP promise was for extra teachers “to lower class sizes and support high schools”. While class size targets remain the same, the 2016 agreement restores an important condition: class sizes are only to be breached in exceptional circumstances and after consultation at a local level. Class sizes are a central element of learning conditions for students and workload for teachers. The QTU will be ensuring that the agreement operates at a local level and class sizes are at or below target sizes.

Gonski funding

Queensland schools start 2017 with $240m of "Investing for Success" funds. I4S funding has gone under many names, but it is ultimately Gonski money – money won by teacher unions, teachers, parents and community members through a long campaign for better, needs-based funding.

They are federal funds provided to the states by agreement, and the funding agreement is up for re-negotiation at the start of 2017. We have three concerns:

  • the level of funding, which is still well short of the original proposal
  • distribution of funding on a needs basis
  • any unacceptable conditions that the federal government might attach to the funds.

It is hard to see even the Turnbull government seeking to reduce the $240m provided to Queensland schools. By contrast, New South Wales wants the federal government to honour a six year agreement with higher funding – an agreement that the Newman government refused for political reasons. The snipes of Andrew Laming could just be the first shots in a broader campaign to limit funding.

Other 2017 priorities

As well as these issues, priorities for 2017 include:

  • proper implementation of curriculum from P to 12 (keeping in mind workload)
  • the pilot program for highly accomplished and lead teachers
  • the review of the promotional classification structure
  • increasing permanency levels for teachers and promotional positions
  • reducing principal and teacher workload
  • implementing the EB agreement.

Recruitment

As always, recruitment is a focus. Membership is both the life-blood and the muscle sinew of the Union. QTU membership grew by around a thousand last year, but we had to recruit nearly four times that number due to resignations and retirements. Make sure all your colleagues are part of your Union, benefiting from and contributing to a successful year.

Best wishes for 2017.

Graham Moloney                                                                                                             General Secretary


Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 1, 10 February 2017, p5