2017 state election weekly wrap up

– what could the future hold? 

In any election, voters will make their choice thinking about two things – the past, and the future.

The past can be judged on the records of parties when in power; this 2017 state election presents an unusually stark choice (a comparison can be found here).

The likely future is harder to judge....

.... information can only be had by looking at the policies and promises the parties take to the election. (And the 2012 election of the LNP quickly revealed there was a hidden agenda of job cuts and attacks on workers’ rights that was never mentioned before that election). We can also make judgements based on the responses received (or not) to the QTU’s pre-election “asks” on behalf of our 44,000 members in state schools and TAFE.

At the end of each week...

.. over the four-week state election campaign, the QTU will summarise the policies of and announcements by political parties about education and workers’ rights. 

The focus will be on the two major parties – the ALP and the LNP – as only those parties can realistically form majority governments. Since preferential voting is now compulsory, some information will be provided on the minor parties: the Greens, the Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), and One Nation (ON). These parties could potentially hold the balance of power in a future government.

Announcements on education, IR

Note – announcements with significant impacts and/or those relating to QTU priorities are covered.

ALP

TAFE

  • Investing $85m over three years to redevelop, refurbish and extend TAFE facilities at Pimlico (Townsville), Cairns, Mount Gravatt, Toowoomba, Redlands and the Gold Coast. Funding amounts for each TAFE institute are at https://annastaciapalaszczuk.com.au/pathways-to-training-skills-and-jobs/  (The QTU strongly supports this investment in TAFE, the state’s trusted provider of VET in metropolitan and regional areas. The restoration/upgrading of TAFE facilities, including those in provincial centres, was one of the QTU’s pre-election claims.)

Schools

  • Employing more than 3,700 new teachers over the next four years to cover enrolment growth and maintain downward pressure on class sizes, employing up to 45 extra music teachers and purchasing 1000 new instruments. (The QTU welcomes these commitments to support the quality teaching and learning in state schools.)
  • Establishing four “Centres for Learning and Wellbeing” in rural and remote Queensland, to give DET staff professional development, advice and wellbeing support; enhancing internet connectivity in teacher housing. (The QTU supports these improvements to teachers’ and school leaders’ lives at home and at work.)
  • Re-engaging at-risk students with school or alternative education. (The QTU has long advocated for more positive learning centres, so supports this announcement.)
  • Engaging more students with disability in learning by continuing access to the Autism Hub and providing 12 new scholarships for state school principals to undertake a Master of Education (Inclusive Education) degree at QUT.
  • Implementing the Digital Technologies Curriculum in all schools. (The QTU supports this announcement on the condition that teachers are provided with adequate PD and time to familiarise themselves with the content.)
  • Encouraging STEM studies through virtual STEM academies, “Girl Power” camps and regional STEM champions.
  • Finalising the rollout of the new senior assessment and tertiary entrance system. (The QTU has been closely consulted in developing this new system.)
  • Reintroducing the Ready Reading program to primary schools.
  • Investing $97m over three years to install solar systems and improve energy efficiency in state schools. (This meets the QTU’s pre-election claim of boosting renewable energy use in schools.)

LNP

TAFE

  • “Ensuring that TAFE is engaged with modern forms of engagement and course delivery methods”. (The QTU believes that, given the LNP’s record in power, this statement ominously looks like code for seriously undermining TAFE educators’ working conditions through extending work hours, increasing class sizes and increasing competition with the private RTO market.)
  • “Retaining and supporting Skilling Queenslanders for Work” – which the LNP cut when it was in government.

Schools

  • Establishing an extra 50 Independent Public Schools. (The QTU strongly rejects this proposal as it would fragment the strength of Queensland’s state school system, and exacerbate problems in the teacher transfer and relocation systems.)
  • Introducing another test for teaching degree graduates, on top of the literacy and numeracy test already imposed by the Federal Government, that would allegedly test “practical teaching” skills. (Teacher graduates already completed four years of university study on teaching – these “11th hour” tests are nothing more than attempts by politicians to degrade the teaching profession. This is evident in the LNP’s policy document that states: “If our teachers are struggling with basic languages, literacy and numeracy, how can they be expected to teach our children?”)
  • Providing 1000 new teacher mentors and 80 new paid internships for “high-demand areas”. (The QTU supports mentoring for beginning teachers, providing schools and mentor teachers are given adequate resources. Internships have some role to play in the education system but must not be at the expense of fully qualified teachers.)
  • $8.5m for primary STEM programs and $3m for STEM academies.
  • 8 more autism coaches and 15 occupational therapists.
  • $60m for “key infrastructure” in schools, with no timeline given. (This falls far short of the ALP’s $235m over four years for school renewal, and $750m over four years for maintenance.)

ON

Made no announcements that would assist state schools or TAFE. Did make disgraceful and unsubstantiated claims that were a slur against Queensland teachers; “apologised” for the language used, but did not withdraw the allegations.

ALP

  • An additional $543 million for new schools and upgraded facilities, which includes:
    • $308 million to build 10 new schools, including a number of schools announced during the Budget this year as part of the $500 million Building Future Schools for Queensland fund. (The QTU welcomes the announcement of more schools to meet the needs of the respective communities. Given Queensland’s growing population, it is important that there are adequate state schools to meet the demand. The QTU welcomes the announcement of a new special school in the Caboolture area to relieve demand.)
    • $235 million to build new educational facilities and upgrade existing facilities at 17 secondary schools throughout the state. (The QTU supports the ongoing maintenance, refurbishment and development of existing school infrastructure. The QTU believes that to meet the education needs of tomorrow, we need quality facilities today and will seek extension, over time, to all secondary schools.)
  • Early years program expanded, resulting in four early years coaches for each Department of Education region. (The QTU acknowledges the important foundational learning that occurs in the early years and welcomes any additional support that can be afforded.)
  • Extending the Skilling Queenslanders for Work program with an extra $180m over three years (this program had been cut by the LNP when it was in office, and was reinstated by the current government).

LNP

  • Endorsed the federal government’s proposed phonics test for six year olds, citing that the test would not be onerous, that it would not take long to complete, and that it would be good to have a national measure of student progress. (The QTU is opposed to standardised testing for six year olds. The Union maintains that classroom teachers are best placed to determine what assessment and testing to undertake with their students, and that the results of such assessment and testing should remain within the school to support planning and reflection, rather than be uploaded to a nationwide database.)
  • Will re-establish the Queensland Schools Planning Commission (QSPC). (The QTU holds concerns regarding the QSPC, given that six existing and fully functioning schools were closed during the last LNP government, and the QSPC did not distinguish between the need for public or private schools when it was operational.)
  • Unwilling to commit to building a high school in Calliope that was announced in 2016. (The QTU believes that the residents of Calliope best understand the needs of their community. Given that they have so strongly advocated for a high school, and that one has been budgeted to be completed by 2020, it is concerning that there is a reluctance to support the area’s education needs.)
  • Trialling “truancy prevention officers” in Townsville and Cairns. (The QTU believes that truancy officers address the symptoms of disengagement, not the causes, and that funds would be better spent on guidance officers and other student support professionals.)
  • Air conditioning for some schools in the Wide Bay and Deception Bay

ON

  • $6.5m for a “school chaplaincy program”. (The QTU does not support extra funding for chaplains; funds would be better spent on guidance officers to professionally support students. The QTU also believes that parents should have the choice to send their children to fully secular schools.)

The QTU actively campaigns in elections to secure a better future for our teachers, our principals, our TAFE educators, and their students.

In this first week of the election campaign, the QTU has sent a list of claims to the leaders of the ALP, LNP, Greens, KAP and ON and sought their response (responses received will be published in the week two roundup). The detailed list of claims can be found here.

In summary, the claims are focused on the major areas that will deliver the greatest benefits.

  1. School funding – particularly to overcome educational disadvantage to ensure all Queensland children are supported in their education.
  2. Additional teachers and more time for teacher release – to help teachers cooperate, innovate, and carry out their complex professional duties.
  3. TAFE – guaranteeing that 70% of the state’s training budget will go to TAFE, as the trusted public provider of the skills training needed throughout the state, particularly in provincial areas.
  4. Education governance – refocusing on quality education by reviewing NAPLAN, ending the divisive Independent Public Schools program, restoring educators’ professional representation and stamping out online harassment of teachers and principals.
  5. Conditions – developing the stable education workforce that Queensland communities need by ruling out divisive impositions such as performance pay and contracts for school leaders.
  6. Workload – eliminating excessive workload for teachers and principals.
  7. Facilities – providing safe, comfortable, energy-efficient and future-focused schools.
  8. Existing projects and programs – committing to HAT and Lead teachers, the review of promotional positions, and mentoring for beginning teachers.