Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 3, 23 April 2019, page no. 10
A growing number of school leaders and classified officers are choosing to leave their positions because of difficulties with family care arrangements.
Of course, people relinquish these positions for a wide range of reasons, but I am aware of a growing trend of women being driven to relinquish in order to deal with family responsibilities.
This raises some key questions for the QTU, and importantly the department and managers. Why is it that classified officers don’t feel supported, or able to access part-time or flexible work options as a temporary solution? And why do they believe that the only solution available to them is to give up a merit-achieved promotional role and return to the classroom, with a significant impact on their personal finances and professional opportunities?
More deliberate thought needs to be given to the reasons behind it when HR discussions take place around relinquishment. I’m not aware of many occasions on which there has been discussion about what support processes are available and where effort has been taken to work with the person considering relinquishment. It is especially important that options are explored and supported, given the context of our feminised profession, the gender breakdown of school leaderships positions, and the disturbingly low number of people in classified positions who are working part-time.
Another solution that is overlooked is the capacity to take a period of leave from a classified role and relieve below level for a period of time. I am aware of people who have negotiated this arrangement but were required to navigate some initial resistance, given the lack of understanding or support at a regional level.
The QTU has reached agreement with the department that employees in promotional positions either relinquishing or relieving below level will have access to the relevant salary, either senior teacher or EST, subject to years of service and satisfactory performance, and will not have to complete the EST application process. This has been established through an exchange of letters between the QTU and the department, acknowledging the agreement has been reached and including a commitment to incorporate such changes into EB9.
There is a growing understanding at a central level of the importance of supporting the workforce and the need for flexibility to support and value employees, especially given the government’s commitment to supporting gender equity principles. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always occur at a regional level, and people seeking relinquishment as a means to balance caring or family roles should seek detailed advice.
Nikki* has been a teaching principal for 13 years, and is also a single mum.
Her son was commencing prep, and to support his transition to school, Nikki looked at options that would provide her with some additional time to be more “present” for him.
Following ongoing conversations with regional HR, during which the possibility of relieving below level was never discussed, Nikki relinquished her principalship and returned to the classroom full-time.
Having worked in Queensland schools for more than 18 years, she was told she wasn’t eligible for EST as she hadn’t been a senior teacher for the required period of time.
Following industrial support from the QTU, Nikki did access EST. However, had she been made aware of the capacity to take leave from her principal role, she would have chosen a path that did not require her to relinquish.
*Not her real name.