1989 to 2010s: Action and advocacy - professional issues campaigning
The celebrations of the centenary of the QTU coincided with the election in late 1989 of the first Labor state government in 32 years.
During the Goss ministry, the QTU used its policy frameworks to shape campaigns to prosecute its professional issues objectives. Noteworthy and lasting outcomes for Queensland state teachers in this period included:
- award restructuring agreement, 1991, securing a single salary scale
- introduction of advanced skills teachers
- teachers facing allegations from students were no longer suspended without pay
- all Queensland teachers to have access to at least two hours non-contact time
- remote area incentive scheme introduced
- abolition of the inspectorate
- teacher representatives on governing bodies and selection panels.
This period also saw the introduction of the QTU Curriculum Committee , which, with its successor the Professional Issues Committee, has developed and biennially reviewed a set of Conference-endorsed papers on what was, what could and what should be the way for teachers to best deliver curriculum in Queensland schools.
This ever-evolving Curriculum Policy establishes a coherent set of agreed QTU beliefs.
This provided an advocacy platform to successfully oppose the introduction of student performance standards in 1992, and to ensure that the QTU perspective was incorporated into tertiary entrance, key competencies, gifted and talented, rural and remote education, human relationships courses and essential learnings. These frameworks also became a policy and best practices base for introduction and evolution of vocational education, middle schooling, environmental education, early childhood education and the national statements in Queensland schools.
In early 1990, the Union adopted the policy of an extra year of schooling. Persistent promoting of this initiative in federal and state forums influenced academics, bureaucrats and legislators sufficiently to eventually prompt the introduction of the full-time prep year in 2007 and the Universal Access to Early Childhood Agreement of 2008.
The continuing campaign to maintain valid assessment and reporting practices in Queensland schools began in 1989, against the background of literacy and numeracy statements from the state and federal governments and a few trial tests by the department in 1990.
The QTU’s clear policy on the role of assessment and report and the legitimate practices the QTU can support formed the basis of QTU opposition to the start of census statewide testing in literacy and numeracy in 1998 and its evolution in 2008 into census national assessments. In 2010, frustration with state and national governments’ dogmatic support for the educationally unsound practices of census testing and rank reporting prompted the QTU to join with teacher unions across Australia in placing a moratorium on NAPLAN testing. The move was made in protest at the federal government’s My School website, which used NAPLAN results to unfairly compare schools, something beyond the tests’ statistical abilities. Despite an intervention by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, which attempted to ban the action, the campaign forced the federal government into setting up a working party to review the website. This remains unfinished business.
After 2000, as the QTU evolved its set of web-based social communication tools, the work of the Committee focused on distilling from adopted policies concise fact sheets and brochures.
Essentially, by seeking the curriculum and professional issues policy perspectives of the QTU, the Goss, Beattie and the Bligh ministries enabled teacher-based views to be incorporated into government papers such as Education Have Your Say(1990), Queensland State Education 2010 (1999), Shaping the Future (1994), Literate Futures (2001) and Education General Provision Act (2006). Conversely, the Borbidge and Newman ministries, like their counterparts of the 70s and 80s, governed through the department by decree, producing Meeting the Challenge (1987), Leading Schools (1997) and Great Teachers = Great Results (2013) with selective inputs.
Now, as always, the struggle is to ensure that the officers of the department charged with the implementation of ministerial direction do so in ways that align with the intent of the present agreements, and do not undermine hard-fought teaching and industrial conditions of the members of the QTU.
QTU Life Member
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 119 number 2, 125th Anniversary Special Edition, p41