Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol. 118.no.4, 24 May 2013, p.9
“Great Teachers = Great Results” and the state government's education agenda
The state government has recently made a range of announcements affecting education, all without negotiation or consultation with teachers and school leaders.
"Great Teachers = Great Results"
The problem with the government’s “Great Teachers = Great Results” plan is that it is about pitting teachers against teachers, principals against principals and deputies against deputies.
If this government was serious about investing in Queensland education, it wouldn’t rip resources out of the system and then try to put it back in an attempt to divide teachers in schools – it would stop the staffing cuts, it would support you with additional resources, it would open its eyes and see the benefit of additional resources that provide improved opportunities and outcomes for your students.
It wouldn’t attempt to impose ill-conceived reforms that have not had the rigour of consultation with the profession, but sit down at the table with us and work through a plan that is for the good of Queensland education and for the good of Queensland’s future.
In announcing "Great Teachers = Great Results", the Premier indicated that these reforms “will happen” in Queensland state schools. Given the industrial nature of these reforms, the QTU has advised that they will only happen if agreed to through EB negotiations.
The government has announced changes to the Education (General Provisions) Act intended to provide support for principals around discipline. It has also introduced the concept of discipline audits in Queensland schools, to be conducted over an 18-month period beginning 1 July 2013.
The audit tool and the processes surrounding the conduct of these audits have yet to be negotiated with the Union, while the detail with respect to the legislative changes has yet to be finalised.
Little consideration is given to the workload of teachers, with the suggestion that the consequences available in behaviour plans could include unlimited lunchtime and after school detention (including Saturday detention) and the introduction of the concept of “community service”.
Despite assurances that there would be no “asset sales”, the government has announced the potential closure of nine schools across Queensland, and the decision to “consult” on potential land sales at Balmoral SHS and Whites Hill State College.
The QTU is currently working with the school communities involved regarding the consultation (which is being conducted by a private provider). The QTU does not reject the closure of schools based on sound educational reasons. However, the introduction of the concept of the “viability” of a school and economic rationale into the discussion of school closures depersonalises the issue and does not take into account the very real impact the closure of schools has on the lives of students, teachers and the local community.
Costello Commission of Audit
The state government’s response to the Costello Commission of Audit’s 155 recommendations makes it clear that the government intends to:
- abandon class size targets
- remove the reasonable grounds test from employee transfers that protects workers from personal and financial hardship
- sell off whole or parts of schools
- change the teacher housing process
- introduce contracts and performance bonuses for school administrators
- limit the matters that can be covered in enterprise bargaining agreements.
In a broader sense, the Costello Report’s push for privatisation by stealth, mainly through “outsourcing” and “contestability”, demonstrates a clear government agenda to devalue the public service as a whole and increasingly abrogate its responsibilities to provide quality public services.
Industrial Relations Act
The government has introduced into Parliament another bill to amend the Industrial Relations Act, its fourth since coming to power. Among other things, the amendments seek to:
- change provisions around how unions represent the interest of members through access to workplaces and facilities such as emails and faxes
- remove union encouragement provisions from awards and agreements
- remove “matters of policy” from industrial instruments
- introduce a range of reporting requirements for unions and officers of unions.
The QTU is preparing a submission to the Parliamentary committee regarding the changes.
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