3 December 2014

Reclaim the Profession:  Halt further implementation of new learning areas in the Australian Curriculum

On 12 November, the Queensland Teachers' Union sent out a Union Reps Update and a Members' Newsflash informing members of a ballot to halt implementation of the Australian Curriculum.

This followed a meeting on Monday 10 November, at which QTU Executive determined to conduct a ballot for the QTU to issue a directive halting the implementation of any new learning areas within the Australian Curriculum. This was in the wake of lengthy discussions of the impact of the implementation of the Australian Curriculum on workload at State Council on 1 November.

QTU Executive made this decision in light of the current uncertainty surrounding the Australian Curriculum, growing concerns regarding teacher workload, an overcrowding of the curriculum and the need to consolidate the implementation of Phase 1 (English, Maths, Science and History) in Queensland schools.

Consequently, QTU members are being asked to vote on the following:

That in the absence of satisfactory commitments from the Minister of Education to halt the further implementation (including familiarisation) of the Australian Curriculum, the QTU issue a directive to all members to cease immediately any further implementation of any new learning areas within the Australian Curriculum.

The ballot opened on Wednesday 12 November and closes today, Wednesday 3 December. Should the appropriate commitments not be received from the Minister and the ballot is carried, the QTU will issue the directive to all members.

What does “Further Implementation (including familiarisation) mean?”

New learning areas are those that the school had not yet commenced implementing.  For example, most schools will have implemented Australian Curriculum English, Maths, Science and History.  Some schools may have commenced implementing Australian Curriculum geography this year.  In these circumstances, the new learning areas referred to in the directive are Australian Curriculum learning areas other than those listed above.  If a school has not commenced implementing Australian Curriculum geography, this would be considered a new learning area.  The directive is intended to halt implementation of new curriculum areas - implementation includes familiarisation, planning, teaching and reporting.  If schools have already started "implementation" (as defined above) of these curriculum areas (e.g. a school has written programs, familiarised itself with the curriculum, developed lesson plans etc) these are therefore not new learning areas.  If however a school has not started implementation, they are new learning areas

The Members' Newsflash sent out to all members on 12 November has more information about the issues that led the QTU Executive to determine to hold a ballot.  Also you can access a link to Sam Pidgeon (QTU Honorary Vice-President) talking in more detail about the concerns raised by members and offering further explanation about new learning areas.

Great Results Guarantee

As principals would be aware, the department has indicated that for schools to meet the requirement to report on outcomes from the 2014 Great Results Guarantee, they will have to publish a ‘snapshot report’ on the school website before the end of the school year. The correspondence from the department outlined incorporating a ‘traffic light’ system to demonstration if your Great Results Guarantee strategies:

  • are on track to meet or exceed targeted student outcomes (green)
  • have made substantial progress toward targeted student outcomes (amber)
  • have made limited progress toward targeted student outcomes (red).

Feedback from members has indicated that this correspondence from the department has caused confusion for principals over community reporting of the Great Results Guarantee.

A copy of the email was received last week and was considered by the QTU Executive that same night. A number of issues were raised, including the change in the reporting process that the QTU was advised of at the beginning of the year. Additionally, the QTU has concerns that categorising progress so simplistically lends itself to the creation of league tables of “effective” or “ineffective” schools.

In meetings with the department at the start the year, the QTU was advised that the evaluation of the success or otherwise of the use of GRG funds for 2014 would be between the principal and the school community. This was the advice that the QTU provided to principals and schools earlier in the year.

Last week the QTU requested that this snapshot be rescinded and that the department revert to its original commitments regarding reporting requirements around the GRG. On Friday last week, as a result of QTU intervention, the department advised principals that use of this traffic light template is optional. Based on the concerns outlined above, the QTU recommends schools consider issuing a ‘text-rich’ narrative GRG report relating the success stories achieved in their use of the GRG funding.

Contracts

As principals and deputy principals would be aware, the QTU has firmly rejected the introduction of contracts for school leaders since the government indicated its intention to offer such contracts when it released its Great Teachers = Great Results plan. Through last year’s ballot, members demonstrated their willingness to take industrial action should contracts for school leaders be introduced. That willingness was reaffirmed by members though another ballot held in September of this year. Members have indicated through the ballot that they overwhelmingly oppose the introduction of contracts for school leaders.
Since then, the government has been very quiet on its notion of introducing contracts for school leaders.

The QTU maintains its position that it will oppose the introduction of contracts for school leaders. During the recent QTU membership survey, job security was clearly the key priority for members – the introduction of contracts creates insecure employment and consequently removes job security. Additionally, there exists no evidence that the placement of school leaders on contracts leads to improved school performance. While the Union will engage with DETE should it wish to discuss the issue, the Union believes that there exist too many unanswered questions to expose members to a situation in which they become “business managers” rather than educational and instructional leaders.

The Minister has stated this year that contracts were a prerequisite for principal performance bonuses. The QTU does not support a system of insecure employment and performance bonuses – instead it supports a system where school leaders are respected, have employment security, are remunerated fairly and properly and are acknowledged as collegial professionals.

Principal and School Leader Performance Review Process

With agreement reached on the Annual Teacher Performance Review, attention has now shifted to school leaders.

The process to be used in the development of the principal performance review process will be similar to that used for the teacher performance review process. Both the QTU and DETE support a three phase program: Phase 1 – reflection and goal setting, Phase 2 – professional practice and learning, Phase 3 – feedback and review.

A working party of school leaders has been established to further discuss the process. There are five QTU representatives on this group. These school leaders represent primary, secondary and special schools, as well as school in remote and regional Queensland.

The QTU has been clear that the sources of evidence for the principal performance review should be different from those used to determine school performance. In particular, the QTU has highlighted that if the headline indicators used in the school performance and review framework are used to determine school performance, they should not form part of this process. The Union has outlined that the Australian Professional Standard for Principals and the areas of professional practice should be used in this process.

The Union is firm in its view that school leader performance should look at the professional aspects of the role, not simplistic numerical indicators of school performance.

Annual Teacher Performance Review Process

The recently announced Annual Teacher Performance Review process should be viewed as a significant win for members.

This new process replaces the Developing Performance Framework (DPF) (which all teachers undertake) from 2015 and does not result in ranking and ratings. Only trial schools will be using this process in term 4, 2014.

More information can be found in the QTU Members’ Newsflash (26 August 2014)

Graham Moloney
General Secretary 

Paige Bousen
Assistant Secretary - Education Leaders


 Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union