GT=GR: parts of this plan are and will remain unacceptable

With the dust of the federal election settling, the Union’s focus for term four will centre on state education issues. Chief among these is the state government’s Great Teachers=Great Results action plan.

The QTU State Council decided that the Union should attempt to negotiate where possible, while recognising that some elements that are contrary to Union policy and good practice will be opposed if unamended.

For example, the Union will seek to negotiate and enshrine induction and mentoring for new educators. Consistent, guaranteed arrangements for new educators are long overdue, but cannot be achieved without an investment of time - particularly in schools with a higher proportion of beginning teachers.

The QTU is also paying careful attention to the proposed changes to legislation concerning school discipline. The Union was involved in the discussions around the discipline audit tool and the processes associated with it. To date, reports have been positive, and we would welcome your feedback.

The government has also introduced a bill to amend education legislation to strengthen the powers of principals in dealing with student behaviour and to cut “red tape”. A number of the amendments will be welcome: for example, the increase in suspensions by principals from five to 10 days and the greater specification of grounds of suspension and inclusion, including events that occur outside of school. There are potential pitfalls, but these can be addressed in practice.

The jury remains out about the reduction in “red tape” however. While detail about, for example, timelines are removed by the bill, it also provides for the Director-General to make policies or procedures for student discipline. Provisions about behaviour management plans will be removed, but since the discipline audit tool requires a clear statement of expectations with community involvement, one can reasonably expect this to form part of the department’s policy and procedures.

At the other end of the Great Teachers =Great Results continuum are proposals for performance bonuses, contracts for principals and performance appraisal.

We opposed performance bonuses when they were part of the Gillard government’s election policy in 2010 and supported the department when it decided not to participate just last year. We saw the negative effects of a quota-based “advanced skills teachers” scheme in the early 1990s. This is not the way to go.

An integral component of the department’s performance bonus scheme is performance “review”, which sounds a lot like appraisal. This is to be trialled from next year before becoming universal in 2016. The trial could potentially become a self-fulfilling prophecy after the next round of EB, a situation that we must oppose now.

On the issue of principal contracts, some apologists argue the Union has accepted contracts in the past and others that the introduction of contracts is inevitable. Both these arguments are spurious.

The QTU has negotiated contracts on only two occasions: to create the new position of executive principal, which overlapped with the contract-based senior executive service, and when the department insisted on bonuses for Low SES National Partnership principals. Both instances are a far cry from the current proposal, which will be opposed.

The government has been very reluctant to consult or negotiate, even around matters which are clearly industrial. The way in which Great Teachers=Great Results was announced and the lack of consultation, in spite of numerous requests, are examples.

In June, the QTU State Conference decided that the Union should conduct a school-based ballot on the proposed actions in Great Teachers=Great Results before the end of the year. Given the surprise nature of many government announcements and the lack of consultation, the ballot will ask members to authorise industrial action, if necessary, in response to attempts to force the implementation of negative elements of the government’s action plan.

It is important that this ballot is strongly supported and a clear message given to the government that a number of elements of its plan are and will remain unacceptable to Queensland teachers and principals.

Graham Moloney
General Secretary

Queensland Teachers' Journal, 4 October 2013, Vol 118, No 7, p5