Deja vu: it didn't work overseas, why should it work here?

Teachers who have experienced the impact of plans like "Great Teacher = Great Results" (GT=GR) in the UK and US, where such approaches are deeply entrenched, know only too well what could happen in Queensland.

Sean Loriaux, QTU Member: GT=GR may outline some positive changes when looking at particular elements in isolation. However, when grouped together, they mimic the notoriously problematic UK education system. Having taught for two years in the Thatcher-inspired system, eerily peering into the future of our current government’s vision for public education, I can personally vouch for the poor working conditions and social polarisation that typify such a system down the track.

Teachers on contracts in the UK outnumber permanent staff, with pay rates varying across the staffroom, often based more on teachers' ability to negotiate than their ability to teach. As a result, schools in less desirable areas bear the brunt as the workforce naturally migrates to the “best” schools, leaving a noticeable imbalance in staffing which puts the most socially disadvantaged students even further behind. Unfortunately, recruitment agencies also rear their ugly heads in this environment, and bleed school coffers dry with money that should be spent on students.

GT=GR, in my opinion, sets a similar foundation to that set by Thatcher in the 1980s. Yes, IPS may seduce schools with more autonomy, but when every school has this autonomy and staffing and contracts become the norm, staff working conditions become malleable, which is unacceptable. At the end of the day, we are foolish to believe that our system will not meet the same fate.

Kate Ruttiman, Deputy General Secretary: During 2002 I was granted leave from the QTU to return to teaching, as I felt I needed to get back to the profession I loved. I availed myself of an opportunity to take on the role of head of department at a public school in outer London. During my time in England, I had the opportunity to experience a system driven by student outcomes and performance bonuses based on these outcomes.
I was directly employed by the local employment authority and my contract was subject to renegotiation each year – a system similar to that which the state government described in GT=GR.

For me there is a profound sense of irony in this emulation of a lot of the UK system. GT=GR suggests that Queensland has a teacher quality crisis and that a stick and carrot approach is necessary to remedy this. In reality, it was my qualification and my experience in Queensland classrooms that gained me the role in London. The school recognised the quality of my professional skills and asked me to lead a department with largely “unqualified” teachers.

My role was to mentor these teachers to lead them to achieving their qualification. My knowledge of behaviour management strategies, differentiation, the curriculum and interaction with parents and the community were assessed as superior to my UK counterparts, and the teachers I worked with through their qualification processes had no trouble passing their inspection. It is this quality, this professionalism, that is called into question in GT=GR.

Additionally I was fortunate to work in a school that had students who performed well academically, and the subjects I taught – GCSE business studies and A level economics – were recognised as academic subjects. The consequence of this was that when the GCSE and A level results were published, our school topped the country for GCSE and came second for A level results. Consequently I received a “performance” bonus over the summer vacation period. This bonus was paid to me, not because of my mentoring or investment of time in my students and colleagues, but purely on the basis of student results. My colleagues who were not fortunate enough to teach the types of subjects I taught received no such bonus. The bonus paid to me was promptly reinvested in providing resources and dinner to the other staff in my department, as without their investment in our students at all levels across the curriculum, our students would not have had the opportunity to positively engage in school and their studies.

GT=GR is a plan determined to divide colleagues and pit them against one another in order to receive bonuses. It is also a plan that suggests that Queensland teachers are not quality teachers, something that none of us should accept.

Queensland Teachers Journal, 30 Aug 2013, Vol 118 No. 6, p8