12 June 2014
Principal and deputy principal contracts
Action 9 of the Queensland Government’s Great Teachers=Great Results action plan states: “All new principal and deputy principal positions will be offered on three-year contract terms, with contracts setting clear expectations regarding school outcomes, including student academic performance, engagement and school management.”
With the Minister for Education, Training and Employment highlighting this action at recent professional conferences for educational leaders, it is worthwhile reasserting the QTU's position in relation to implementing such contracts.
The QTU opposes the introduction of contract employment for principals and deputy principals for a range of reasons. Most importantly, they do not enhance the quality, productivity and professionalism of individuals or organisations, but instead place unrealistic expectations on personnel trying to meet systemic goals. The recent fracas over the government's attempts to place public sector doctors on such contracts clearly demonstrated there is no practical purpose for doing so other than to intimidate.
The Minister has reportedly been indicating that contracts for principals are nothing new, citing their use for executive principals and principals of Low SES National Partnership schools. However, these were agreed to in very particular circumstances and the QTU was successful in ensuring that the contracts were collectively negotiated, included targets rather than specific performance measures and enshrined reversionary rights should contracts not be renewed at the conclusion of their tenure.
The QTU has had to repeatedly successfully demand that higher increases through enterprise bargaining flow on. And the QTU at Senior Officer levels participated in selection and renewal of principals.
The QTU believes that fixed-term, performance-based contracts should not erode the conditions of permanent tenure, be used to impose unrealistic expectations or demand compliant leadership that undermines the autonomy and professionalism of the principal. The QTU remains opens to discussion with the government with regards to alternative means to achieve legitimate objectives.
In late 2013, the QTU conducted a ballot of QTU members for industrial action if the department sought to implement a number of its Great Teachers=Great Results actions. One of them was the introduction of contracts for principals and deputy principals.
Over 23,500 members voted, with 92 per cent voting in favour of industrial action.
While the ballot was conducted last year, the QTU has re-affirmed that those membership decisions still stand and will be acted on if necessary.
Some principals have mused about whether or not the membership would support them on this issue.
The answer is “yes”, and the reasons are twofold. Firstly, they are opposed to contracts and job insecurity for any QTU member.
Secondly, they know if contracts and unreasonable key performance indicators (KPIs) are imposed on principals and deputy principals, the demands to meet the KPIs, with all the attendant workload and stress, will flow down through the system
Independent Public Schools
On 30 April, the QTU sent a Newsflash providing advice about this year's nominations to become an Independent Public School. The QTU has never supported the rationale of the IPS program, but it did not oppose schools wanting to nominate for IPS under certain conditions.
In 2013, the QTU's position statement on IPS clearly indicated that “the QTU supports schools that wish to exercise increased school autonomy, within the following parameters…”. This position statement is available on the QTU website.
The QTU did oppose schools nominating for IPS in 2012, because at the time the department had not negotiated a set of guarantees protecting members whose schools entered the program. It was negotiation of the IPS Memorandum of Agreement that allowed the QTU to step back from recommending that schools not nominate for IPS in 2013.
As stated in the Members’ Newsflash sent out on 30 April, should DETE and the government give a commitment that the views of QTU members will prevail when determining which schools should become IPS, then the QTU may review this position.
However, the government failed to respect the input of QTU members in the nomination process, forcing QTU Conference and Council to recommend that schools not nominate for IPS in 2014. This lack of respect was revealed last year, when schools in which the majority of QTU members voted against the program were selected for IPS, despite statements made by the Minister that he would not support a school becoming IPS if the staff did not support the nomination. The Director-General justified the selection of these schools by stating that the school staff were one stakeholder in the process, but were weighted no differently from the community and students. This statement is contradictory to those made previously by the Minister.
The QTU believes that the staff at the school are the most significant stakeholder group and that their views should prevail when determining whether a school should become an IPS. At least one school was selected even though the department was aware that the nomination had been submitted against the wishes of QTU members at the school, who had clearly voted against nominating to become an IPS.
The QTU has continued to work with any school that chose to become IPS in spite of a staff ballot against the nomination.
What action do we take if our school is considering becoming an IPS?
Should your school be considering nominating for IPS, the QTU's advice is that members should participate in the consultation process and conduct a ballot regarding their school's nomination for the program. For the reasons identified above, the Union encourages members to vote against nominating to become an IPS. A clear no vote will send a message to the Minister that he needs to listen to QTU members. The acceptance of nominations from schools at which the staff have clearly voted against IPS will further demonstrate to members the Minister's determination to ignore their point of view and attack the profession. However, where members vote in favour of their school nominating to become IPS, the QTU does not oppose the school doing so.
What does this mean for those members in IPS?
The withdrawal of support for IPS will not impact on those members who are currently in IPS. The QTU will continue to work to support all members and to advocate to protect the working conditions of members in all settings across Queensland.
For further information regarding the consultation process for IPS, please access the QTU guide on the QTU website.
Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary,
Queensland Teachers' Union, 21 Graham St, Milton,Q.4064
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