From the President : Kevin Bates

Accentuate the positives

In the wake of the improved enterprise bargaining offer and ballots, we should not lose sight of the array of positive initiatives for schools, teachers and principals delivered by the Palaszczuk government in its first 18 months in office.

Extra teachers and secondary guidance officers

Earlier this year, Minister Kate Jones outlined to schools the government’s commitment to deliver on the promise it made in the 2015 election, to deliver 875 additional teachers above the requirements for growth, and 45 new secondary guidance officers. This package, worth $165 million dollars over three years, has been fully allocated in the budget and flagged to schools with a three-year rollout.

The additional teachers replace the 519 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers denied to schools by the LNP in 2012 and address emerging and longstanding concerns such as: restoration of the rounding benefit for primary schools with more than 176 students, abolished in 2013 (2016 185 FTE); new specialist teacher positions in secondary schools to replace resource teachers cut in 2013 (2016 92 FTE, 2017 90 FTE, 2018 32 FTE); additional curriculum coordination time in primary schools (2017 146 FTE, 2018 142 FTE); additional curriculum coordination time for special schools (2018 23 FTE); additional release time for teaching principals (2017 31 FTE); additional heads of department (HODS) in secondary schools (2017 23 FTE); additional deputy principal positions (2016 13 FTE special, 2018 60 FTE primary, 33 FTE secondary); additional 3.5 FTE for curriculum coordination time and HOD positions for schools of distance education; additional five FTE guidance officer positions in secondary to supplement the 45 additional contained in another government policy commitment to ensure that every school with more than 500 secondary students has a full-time guidance officer.

Additional funding for school maintenance and capital works

In a major development straight out of the QTU’s state budget submission, and recommended by the Queensland Auditor-General, schools have received significant additional money for maintenance and capital works. In the first Palaszczuk budget in 2015, there was an allocation of an additional $300 million above existing allocations across four years. In 2016, the government added an extra $192 million to this figure.

Major capital works allocations, including for a raft of necessary new schools, have begun to catch up with the void left by the previous government, where no new schools were commenced in the last two years they were in office.

Gonski money direct to schools

Federal funds available for state schools over the next two years total almost $480m (building on the $131m in 2014 and $183m in 2015). Instead of the previous ad hoc 12-month allocation, the funds will be smoothed across both years, with approximately $240m for both 2016 and 2017, with provision for enrolment changes. All schools have been advised of their allocations for 2016 and 2017 to facilitate planning of programs and employment of staff.

In a dramatic improvement from the LNP model used for 2014 and 2015, all of this money has been allocated to schools based on the factors of educational disadvantage proposed by David Gonski: socio-economic status; students with disability (SWD); Indigeneity; English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D), for non-refugee students with an achievement in English below C; refugee status, for students in their third year in Australia; school location.

Schools have certainty about the funding for two years and transparency about how the money is allocated.

Curriculum review

After a campaign spanning nearly two years, Minister Kate Jones recently announced the government’s response to the concerns of parents, teachers and principals about the crowded curriculum and unsustainable workload pressures that had resulted. Work is well advanced on reducing the number of C2C units in key subject areas to deliver on this commitment. The first revised units should be available to schools by the beginning of term three, 2016.

So what?

In addition to the major highlights set out above, we have also seen: $102 million over four years to implement the outcomes of the review of school support and administration staff, almost $100 million extra in 2016 for TAFE, more than $70 million for the implementation of the review of secondary school assessment and tertiary entrance, the completion of the review of IPS, the commencement of the review of the department’s human resources practices and full funding for the extra teachers and support staff needed to cater for growth in schools.

All of this goes directly to the point that the Palaszczuk government is prepared to invest in education in ways that reflect the needs of schools and the aspirations of those who teach, lead and learn in them. The EB8 offer is more than just a pay rise and improved working conditions. It is a part of a plan to let teachers teach, to rescue TAFE and prepare for the future economy for all Queenslanders.

Kevin Bates                                                                                                                   President

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 121 No 6, 2 September 2016, p7