How do your class sizes measure up?

As we kick off another school year and see the implementation of the latest enterprise bargaining agreement, it is important to reflect on one of our most basic working conditions – maximum class sizes.

Class sizes have a major impact on the workload of classroom teachers across the state. No matter what size school or geographic location, ensuring class size targets are met helps to manage teacher workload, maximises teacher employment and improves educational outcomes for students across the state.

The latest agreement re-establishes the clause stipulating that targets can only be exceeded in “exceptional circumstances”, and also requires formal consultation in the event that the targets cannot be met. This is a significant strengthening of the class size guarantees that were threatened by cuts to the allocative methodology by the former Newman government.

The agreement reached at the end of 2016 re-establishes a formal process to manage teacher workload, but such guarantees were secured through the campaigning and activism of QTU members in the recent round of negotiations and over preceding decades.
Section 2, “Class Sizes”, of the Department of Education and Training State School Teachers Certified Agreement states:

2.1.2 Accordingly, the department is committed to the following maximum class size targets:

Prep, years 1-3, years 11-12.........25 students per teacher

Years 4-10.....................................28 students per teacher

2.1.3 The class size targets for composite classes are informed by the relevant year level target. Where composite classes exist across cohorts (e.g. year 3/4) the classes target would be the lower cohort target.

As we saw with the overnight introduction of the misguided Great Teachers = Great Results policy of the former government, at the stroke of a pen, member entitlements can be placed under direct threat and workloads increased arbitrarily without consultation. The consultation provisions and the restoration of the class size guarantees will only be effective if members insist that they receive such entitlements and that they have a voice on the local consultative committee (LCC).

Looking back on our history, there have been many campaigns to manage class sizes. I attended a retirement function of a member recently who recalled in detail the campaign and industrial action back in 1982 that saw maximum class sizes reduced to 30. Most members would also recall the significant public campaign “Class Size Counts” back in 2003 that led to maximum class sizes in years 4-10 being reduced to 28. But the legacy of these campaigns will mean nothing if we don’t work together to ensure the current targets are met, particularly when all schools are provided staffing levels to meet them.

As we reflect on some of our most basic working conditions and entitlements in 2017, let’s make sure every member in every school is teaching classes at or below the class size targets.

If you have questions about the implementation of the latest agreement you can contact QTAD (1300 11 7823 or qtad@qtu.asn.au) or your Regional Organiser, who will be happy to provide advice and assistance.

Brendan Crotty                                                                                                                 Deputy General Secretary (Member Organising)


Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 1, 10 February 2017, p11