President's comment 8 February 2013

Staffing shortfalls start biting in schools


QTU President
Kevin Bates

Late in 2012, more than 350 QTU members responded to the QTU’s survey on the likely impacts of the State Government’s new staffing model, imposed for 2013 in an attempt to make up for the shortfall in the 2012/13 State budget. The budget allowed for only “270 additional teachers, teacher-aides and support staff to support enrolment growth”, despite DETE’s own projections showing 837 additional staff would be required.

DETE then tried to “find” the required full time equivalent employees (FTEs) from existing resources, by:

  • removing the rounding up of fractional FTEs in primary schools with enrolments above 175
  • redirecting the secondary resource teacher allocation to general staffing
  • reallocating key teacher grants/allocations to staffing purposes rather than to supporting the Year 2 Net, which schools are no longer required to implement.

Our survey showed that QTU members in both primary and secondary schools foresaw the most significant impacts of the staffing shortfall would be as follows.

  1. Increase in class sizes well beyond the targets of 25 in prep to year 3 and years 11 and 12, and 28 in other years
  2. Reduced support for literacy and numeracy – to be most effective, particularly small group and individualised assistance, such support needs specific, targeted staffing which is no longer possible
  3. More composite classes formed by necessity rather than to suit local circumstances
  4. Loss of key support roles such as year level coordinators in secondary, non-teaching Deputy Principals and Head of Curriculum positions in primary
  5. Problems with support for specific programs – access to specialist curriculum, IT support and gifted and talented programs are some potential casualties of staff reductions
  6. Reduced capacity for non-contact time – this time is critical for teacher planning and preparation, particularly where this is carried out in teams formed around year levels or curriculum areas, increasing demands for parent contact by teachers and for research on developments in education to maintain currency are also impacted through the loss of this time
  7. Reduced capacity to respond to behaviour issues – fewer teachers equals larger classes; larger classes will diminish the capacity of teachers to manage student behaviour; decreased availability of administrators will see behaviour concerns escalate
  8. Reduced support for special needs – the gaps in programs created by the pre-existing chronic shortfall in staffing for students with special needs and disabilities will re-emerge now that general staffing has been cut across most schools.

While the Day 8 enrolment calculation is less clear this year, because so many Queensland communities were, and continue to be, affected by natural disasters, it seems that members’ worst fears are becoming reality, with reports coming into the Union of prep classes of up to 32, subjects being dropped from high school offerings and contract teachers being “let go” purely due to budgetary constraints.

Thank you to all the education leaders, classroom teachers and Union reps who responded to the staffing survey. Let us know what’s happening now in your school to help build the case for the State Government to not only address this financial year’s shortfall, but also to prevent a similar situation in the 2013/14 State budget.

Contact the QTU either through your local Organiser or by emailing the Union at qtu@qtu.asn.au, with the subject line – School Staffing Campaign.

K.Bates
8 Feb 2013