4 December 2015

With the school year drawing to a close in the remote areas of Queensland, it is time to take stock of all that has been achieved in the past 12 months. With the change of government early this year, a number of key commitments in education and the broader industrial relations system have been realised.  Yesterday a Members’ Newsflash called 2015 in Review was sent out.  Please take the time to read this newsflash.

The QTU would like to thank all school leaders for the work that they have undertaken during 2015. Our state schools cannot be great schools without the dedication and hard work of our teacher and school leader members. 

Investing for Success

The distribution of additional resources to schools in a way more closely resembling the Gonski needs-based model supports the achievement of the full Gonski reforms. Through the Palaszczuk government’s ‘Investing for Success’ package, schools now have certainty about the allocations for  the next 24 months (subject to adjustments for enrolment change) and can actively plan for the effective use of the available funds in the medium term as the funding continues in the forward estimates of the federal budget. 

Two key issues now arise. The money allocated to schools must be spent with maximum effect to sustain future arguments about school-based allocations. Students only get the chance to complete a particular year of education once and there is a moral and educational imperative to expend the available money on those students. Notwithstanding issues with the availability of additional staff in some areas, growth in school bank accounts will be viewed by government as a negative outcome. 

The second concern is the need to rapidly move away from temporary employment arrangements to permanent appointments as a demonstration of the system’s commitment to real change on an ongoing basis and to attract and retain appropriate staff. The key to developing expenditure models for the future is a comprehensive consultation process with staff (through the LCC) and parents (through the P&C).

Teacher-aide agreement

The Department of Education and Training is currently balloting teacher-aides on their new agreement. The QTU has been briefed on the new arrangements and the implications of maximisation of hours for teacher-aides.

The new agreement will result in teacher-aides employed in schools being afforded the opportunity to maximise their hours to 30 hours per week or six hours per day (currently 25 hours per week). Any hours additional to the permanent base hours must be offered in the first instance to teacher-aides currently employed at the school.  Additionally, the hours should be spread equally across the teacher-aides employed by the school.  

The concept of Priority Learning Hours has been removed from the agreement and Priority Learning Areas need to be negotiated and agreed to by the LCC and United Voice. Priority Learning Areas should align to the school’s improvement agenda and form part of the Annual Implementation Plan (AIP).

The result is that teacher-aide hours can be directed to priority learning areas but the scheduling of these areas cannot occur in particular hours that prohibit access by teacher-aides to maximisation of their hours.

The QTU is currently working with DET and are hopeful to meet with United Voice in the coming weeks to develop a clear guide for school leaders regarding the implementation of the new agreement. DET are also currently developing fact sheets to assist school leaders.

All principals, including those in IPS, are required to implement the agreement as it is an industrial instrument that governs the employment of teacher-aides in schools. Consequently, while principals may report directly to the DG and the RDs/ADGs, this does not remove responsibilities to comply with the agreement. 

The QTU supports the intent of the agreement to provide employment security for teacher-aides, however the Union also recognises the need for schools to provide flexible learning opportunities for students. The matter will form part of discussions with the Director-General.

Principal progression

Earlier this year, DET approached the QTU regarding the ability for principals to access a closed merit process should they be placed in a circumstance where they have already moved to a higher band (broad-banded) as a consequence of enrolment growth. Currently principals are only able to access broad-banding in the same position/school once and then must face an open merit selection process should the school grow to a higher band.

During these negotiations the QTU advised DET that a transparent and consistent process was necessary to determine which schools/principals would be able to access this closed merit process. 

At QTU State Conference the following resolution was carried.

That Conference note the report on principal progression and support the concept that where a school has been upgraded more than once by an incumbent principal, that principal be entitled to apply for that position through a closed merit process, providing the six conditions (a-f) are satisfied:

a.     Reasons for re-evaluation to a higher level;

b.     School enrolment history;

c.     Student/parent/staff community relations;

d.     Whether and when an advertised vacancy process has previously occurred;

e.     What impact, if any, would there be on the achievement of the Department’s service delivery outcomes;

f.      Obligations under the Public Service Act 2008 regarding general public service principles, the merit principle and equality of employment opportunity.

The QTU advised the Department of this on 8 July 2015 and DET commenced drafting an MOA to facilitate the arrangements. Further discussions regarding the conditions determined by State Conference were held in August and September this year.

In October this year, the QTU was advised by DET that it did not wish to proceed any further with the discussions on principal progression and that the status quo would remain. 

Recently the QTU raised the decision by DET not to continue these discussions with the Director-General of Education and Training. The Union has indicated that it remains prepared to discuss the issue should DET wish to reengage in the negotiations.

Consultation

One of the most valuable roles undertaken by Union Reps is to guide and support members in workplace consultation. As we head into a new school year, we need to ensure that members are consulted regarding a range of changes. 

The requirement to consult is part of all the relevant industrial instruments. The process for consultation at a school level is contained in clause 3.1 of the certified agreement. This clause outlines the need to ensure effective consultation and elaborates on the role of the Local Consultative Committee (LCC). The clause elaborates on the role of the LCC as follows.

Broadly, the role of the LCC shall include at least the following:

(a)     To act as the school’s management/staff/union consultative forum;

(b)     To oversee the implementation and application of the terms of this Agreement within the school;

(c)     To resolve, wherever possible at a local level, disputes on the general application of matters contained within this Agreement;

(d)     To contribute to the planning of smooth change management at a school level, wherever possible, towards the fulfilment of the parties’ commitment to cooperate in the implementation of the model of school-based management; and

(e)     Other roles as agreed by the parties.

As the vehicle for consultation and planning of change management in a school, the LCC has a role in consultation around a range of issues including the consideration of bus and playground duty rosters, staffing flexibility and workplace reforms, the expenditure of Investing for Success funds, expressions of interest in programs such as IPS, the organisation and timing of flexible student-free day hours, the implementation of new curriculum areas and joint statements, and any changes to the regular spread of school hours. In some circumstances change cannot proceed without the agreement of the LCC (which must be reached by consensus). In other circumstances the process of consultation will assist school leaders in making decisions cognisant of the views of staff and those affected by the proposals.

If members are to ensure that the increasing demands of DET have a minimal impact on teacher and school leader workload, schools must have effective consultation mechanisms.

Promotion panels

Following discussions with representatives of the QTU, DET has agreed to modify selection panel composition requirements for classified teaching recruitment panels (including deputy principals, heads of department, heads of curriculum, heads of special education services and guidance officers).

The modifications for deputy principal panels, heads of department, heads of curriculum, heads of special education services and guidance officers are:

  • effective from Term 4 2015 for all schools (including IPS)
  • a selection panel will generally consist of the line manager/supervisor for the position and two other panel members, one of whom should be a representative of the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU). 

Principals are able to obtain lists of QTU nominees for panels from their regional office or services@qtu.asn.au.

Regional offices cannot appoint a QTU panellist for a principal panel. For principal panels, regional offices will contact Paige Bousen at the QTU and the QTU will advise the region who our representative will be.

QTU representative panellists ensure that panels comply with set procedures at all times.  Their focus on ensuring all applicants are treated consistently, ethically and fairly by the selection process provides applicants with confidence that the process has operated as intended. QTU representatives on selection panels have been endorsed by QTU State Council.  Members who wish to serve as QTU selection panel representatives should complete the nomination form available in the supplement to the Queensland Teachers’ Journal.

Finally the QTU would like wish you a safe and happy holiday.  We look forward to continue working with and on behalf of school leaders in 2016.