18 January 2018      No. 01-18 [download as pdf]

Welcome to 2018

Welcome to the 2018 school year. We hope that everyone had a safe and relaxing summer break. 

Your Union’s focus in 2017 was to get back to the industrial basics, ensuring that new and old working conditions were being respected in all workplaces. That task will continue. 

2018 presents many new challenges and opportunities. Professional issues, including curriculum, assessment and the ongoing focus on teacher and principal workload and wellbeing, will dominate the QTU agenda this year.  

The re-elected Palaszczuk government mapped out a comprehensive policy agenda in the 2017 election and the QTU has begun working with the new Minister, Grace Grace, to continue to advance public education in Queensland.

Senior Officers of the QTU met with the new Minister on 15 December and provided her with a comprehensive brief on ongoing and emerging matters impacting on QTU members working in state schools and education settings across Queensland. The specific views of members on NAPLAN (see details below) have been conveyed to the Minister and discussions on that issue are continuing.

NAPLAN Online

The Union has temporarily deferred issuing the directives supported by members (see below) to allow further negotiations.  In the absence of agreement in the near future, directives will be issued. 

At the QTU’s first meeting with the new Minister for Education, QTU Senior Officers spoke at length about the pressures on students and the increased workload on teachers because of continual NAPLAN practice testing, formal testing, trial testing and data analysis. The Minister is understood to be taking briefings from her department and is expected to adopt a position soon. 

The QTU is continuing to talk with the state government about NAPLAN and the progress of these discussions will be reported to the first meeting of QTU Executive, to be held on Monday 22 January. Members will be advised of future developments via Newsflash. 

Background

Late last year, more than 20,000 members voted in a QTU ballot to ban NAPLAN Online testing and preparation, robot marking of NAPLAN writing tasks, and the federal government’s proposed year one phonics test. The ballot also determined the level of member support for a complete review of NAPLAN testing.

Members were advised of the ballot results in Newsflash No. 13-17, sent on 1 December.

Resolution YES NO
1 Are you in favour of the QTU issuing a directive to ban NAPLAN Online in 2018 (including readiness activities, trials and other preparations)? 18634
89%
2113
10%
2 Are you in favour of the QTU banning robot marking of student writing tasks? 19191
92%
1526
7%
3 Are you in favour of a complete review of the NAPLAN testing regime? 19853
95%
893
4%
4 Do you support a future ballot to consider banning changes (such as a standardised phonics assessment for six-year olds) that the federal government attempts to
impose as part of funding arrangements?
19214
92%
1497
7%

QTU members have resoundingly called for Queensland’s withdrawal from NAPLAN Online, rejected robot marking of student writing and a phonics test for year one students and demanded a review of NAPLAN. Teacher unions around the nation have adopted resolutions calling for similar outcomes.

Visit the QTU website for links to research on robot marking and the AEU position paper on national testing.

The strongest support in the ballot (95 per cent of those who voted) was for a complete review of the NAPLAN testing regime. Although the QTU, the Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal Executive and other AEU state and territory branches have called for a comprehensive review of the NAPLAN testing regime, it will be up to the Federal Education Minister to instigate this review.

NAPLAN is a national issue. The last meeting of the Council of Australian Governments Education Council, held on the 8 December 2017, discussed the progress of the NAPLAN Online project. At the time of that meeting, the Queensland election had been held and vote counting was continuing. The government was in caretaker mode, there was no Queensland Education Minister appointed, and, consequently, the then Director-General of Education, Dr Jim Watterston, represented Queensland. To date, there has been no official communique released by the federal government outlining the agreed actions on items that were discussed during that meeting.

Mandatory all-staff training

All schools will be undertaking the new all-staff training program, which this year is mandatory for all department employees. The QTU initiated the review of mandatory training in response to member complaints about the previous modules, which took six - seven hours to complete. The new package is two hours long, and replaces the previous modules on code of conduct, health and safety and wellbeing, keys to managing information and internal controls. Employees can undertake refresher training on student protection if they have previously completed the full student Protection modules online. For further info on the mandatory training that is required, please consult the ready reckoner.

School funding

School funding is under attack from the Turnbull federal government, and a new campaign in association with the Australian Education Union is essential if we are to protect the gains already made under Gonski and realise the full potential of the original needs-based school funding model. The strong prospect of an early federal election at some time during this year will ensure that this issue remains prominent nationally.

Student free days

Due to the addition of a flexible student free day at the start of term two, there are seven student free days in 2018. Two of these days are fixed at the start of the year, and the other five are flexible. This means that teachers will need to make up 25 hours of time across the year (20 hours to make up for the four days in the autumn vacation and five hours for the SFD in October) by attending twilight PD sessions outside of school hours. For part-time teachers, attendance is compulsory at all seven student free days, and they will be paid for those additional days that they are not usually rostered on to work. For more info, see our brochure on the QTU website.

Union news

The QTU Presidential team, Kevin Bates (President), Sam Pidgeon (Vice-President – Full-time) and Jenny Swadling (Vice-President – Honorary) begin a new term of office on Thursday 18 January. This follows elections held in late 2017 in which the three presidential officers were unopposed. 

The QTU welcomed our 45,000th member in late 2017, appointed an additional Organiser and will soon open a new office in Springwood (suburban Brisbane) to continue our focus on growing our membership, campaigning and winning with members.

Our Union’s continued growth has also seen a major restructure of branches, and members are urged to access MyQTU to check their branch and Organiser for 2018.

Conclusion

Queensland education currently holds a strong position nationally and internationally. The year ahead is our time to build on the great work of schools led by principals, teachers and education support workers in partnership with parents. Best wishes for a great year.