The real con is revealed

President’s comment 12 April 2013

Kevin Bates
QTU President

The Queensland Government’s new schools regime, announced on Monday with no warning and no consultation, is allegedly this government’s alternative to the Gonski reforms of school funding.

It’s not. To borrow a phrase from Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek, his government’s “direct action plan for Queensland schools”, titled “Great teachers = Great results”, is a conski. It will do nothing to help students overcome educational disadvantage, which is the key aim of the Gonski reforms.

The Newman plan is based on two flawed notions: that teacher quality is the main determinant of student outcomes, and that basing teacher and principal pay structures and workplace conditions on competition and short-term contractual arrangements will lead to increased motivation and ongoing improvement in schools.

The reality is that it is the grossly invalid nature of both of these assumptions in the education context that makes the Newman regime so dangerous.

Most of the media attention so far has been on the performance-based pay central to the Newman plan, backed up by “international research”.

Yet other research not mentioned in the Government’s documents demonstrates clearly that performance-related pay and bonuses don’t work in teaching or in the public sector generally.

In a major study of public sector performance pay covering 14 countries released in 2005, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development concluded that:

“…the impact of performance related pay on performance is limited, and can in fact be negative.”1

A recent Australian Education Union Victorian Branch submission, “Performance Pay: the research” provides an excellent summary of the research in this area. For teachers, this research is even more unequivocal. Studies in Sweden, Portugal, various US centres (Chicago, Texas, Nashville and New York) and the United Kingdom all point to the strong potential for negative impacts on student outcomes resulting from performance pay.

In a 2011 study of the New York school system, Fry reports:

“Providing incentives to teachers based on school’s performance on metrics involving student achievement, improvement, and the learning environment did not increase student achievement in any statistically significant way. If anything, student achievement declined.”2

The Queensland Government has selectively chosen research to support decisions it has already made. It would have been far more illuminating for the architects of the new schools regime to actually consult with practising education professionals before constructing this plan.

As one QTU principal has said to the QTU, it was just a few short weeks ago that principals from state schools all over Queensland were gathered in Brisbane and were addressed by the Queensland Education Minister, and yet they heard nothing about this grand plan.

The Premier and his Education Minister have claimed that they were forced to produce their hastily conceived plan because “we can’t wait for Gonski”.

Yet their own proposal will not see any real developments until 2015 and even then only after the end of August in that year – after the expiry of the current EB agreement.

The $535 million in funding for the Newman schools regime is to be drip-fed over four years and must be shared between the state, Catholic and independent sectors of education. Almost $100 million of that funding is to be provided to Catholic and Independent schools to pay bonuses and incentives to their employees through programs of their own design.

Newman has also claimed that the QTU is “opposing” salary increases for teachers and principals, saying that it is the first time in history that such a thing has happened.

In fact, the QTU has consistently opposed performance-based schemes. My own comment from November 2012 and our congratulations of the Newman government, recorded in this Courier-Mail article, for rejecting the Federal Government model of bonus pay in that same month should still be fresh in the Premier’s mind.

To clarify – the Newman government rejected the pay bonus scheme to be paid for by the Federal government in November 2012, only to propose a similar scheme to be paid for from Queensland funds in April 2013.

The message in response from the QTU on behalf of its 44,000 teachers and principal members is clear. Those members will not accept a bribe of divisive pay bonuses or contracts for principals in lieu of real funding reform for all schools that will deliver the resources that we need to do our jobs.

Get on with Gonski now, and don’t announce changes to the pay structures and working conditions of Queensland state school teachers and principals just four months after the three-year EB agreement was signed.

Kevin Bates
QTU President
12 April 2013


1. OECD, Performance Related Pay Policies for Government Employees, 2005

2. Fryer, R.G.(2011), Teacher Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from New York City Public Schools, NBER Working Paper Series, Paper No 16850, National Bureau of Economic Research, Massachusetts.