New housing policy - at last!
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 7, 27 September 2019, page no. 20
The Department of Education’s teacher housing policy was published on 30 August, achieving a long-held aspiration of the Union and our State Accommodation Committee (SAC).
It is important to note that the teacher housing policy (http://ppr.det.qld.gov.au/pif/policies/Documents/Teacher-housing.pdf) is a human resources policy: “The department is committed to ensuring we attract and retain capable and confident teachers delivering responsive services in our rural and remote schools. To support this commitment, the department will enable access to subsidised teacher housing to eligible teachers”.
The policy strengthens the department’s commitment to housing principals, heads of campus and deputy principals as sole tenants. Under “Principles /Accessibility”, the policy states: “Principals (including heads of campus) and deputy principals are entitled, where available, to a unit of sole tenancy accommodation in the rural and remote location to which they have been appointed”.
Previously, the QTU actively pursued sole accommodation for a head of campus, arguing that a head of campus is of course a principal. Of further significance is the broadening of sole tenancy eligibility to deputy principals, recognising the complexity of their leadership role in rural and remote areas.
During the consultation process, the QTU argued for the removal of the words “where available”, however that phrase remains. In correspondence sent to the department in February, the QTU rejected the inclusion of “where available” and noted “that should the Union become aware that a head of campus or deputy principal had not been provided with a unit of sole tenancy, we will pursue the provision of such, actively”.
The accessibility section specifically notes that the accommodation should be provided within the rural or remote location to which the member has been appointed. This point addresses anomalies that have occurred in recent times, e.g. where a principal in a larger centre was allocated housing some distance from the appointed location. Again, the QTU successfully addressed the matter at that time; however, the new policy clarifies an understood position that was not previously stated.
Importantly, under the “Governance and monitoring” sub-heading is the recognition that “local management of teacher housing is managed through a local accommodation committee (LAC) chaired by a local accommodation officer.”
The role of the LAC is crucial in terms of applying the local context to the broader policy position and to the department’s commitment to both attracting and retaining a capable and confident workforce. The policy supports the role of the LAC and the committee’s knowledge of the local context by charging the committee to make the allocations.
The policy states: “The LAC allocates housing to eligible teachers. The following criteria are considered by the LAC when determining allocation of teacher housing:
- existing household circumstances of the applicant (e.g. household size, personal security, disability and household member’s health)
- optimum use of available dwellings
- any other factors considered relevant by the LAC."
The last point provides the opportunity for local knowledge and context to be considered.
In addition, the QTU secured a formal appeal process: “Teachers may appeal decisions regarding eligibility and/or allocation of teacher housing through their regional human resources manager who may escalate the review to the THRG.”
The Teacher Housing Reference Group (THRG) will be established to review eligibility and allocation decisions and provide teacher housing advice to the Deputy Director-General, Corporate Services. The QTU will have representation on the THRG.
A final aspect of the policy that is crucial to the implementation of appropriate culture is the following commitment under “Governance and monitoring”: “Employees involved in the teacher housing process will have access to training and support.”
Training of local accommodation officers and elected committee representatives is essential to ensuring that housing is seen as a mechanism to attract and retain teachers to rural and remote schools, and should be administered through that lens.
The QTU has written to principals and Union Reps in schools in our rural and remote branches and requested that the new policy is tabled at the next local accommodation meeting. The procedures underpinning this policy are still being finalised. The QTU will be providing input to the drafting of these procedures.
QTU Honorary Vice-President Jenny Swadling said: "Being able to support our teachers and leaders in rural and remote centres with a high standard of subsidised housing is crucial for the attraction and retention of staff in our schools. This housing provides an incentive to relocate away from family, friends and some creature comforts to ensure that staff are comfortable while providing for our students."