Editorial: Major change in teacher career structure won
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 6, 31 August 2018, page no 5.
The establishment of highly accomplished teacher (HAT) and lead teacher (LT) as classifications within teachers’ career structure is the most significant change since the establishment of a single salary scale for three-year trained and four-year trained teachers more than 25 years ago.
It fulfils QTU professional pay claims – a more highly paid, standards-based career structure for classroom teachers, and an opportunity for higher rates of pay without having to leave the classroom.
There are no quotas, a factor which destroyed the 1990s attempt to establish advanced skills teacher as a career path. At a time when workload is a fundamental problem for teachers, it requires no additional duties or workload other than the application process. It is a recognition of work already undertaken rather than a promise to do more.
It is the culmination of a long engagement with professional standards going back to the early 2000s, with first the Queensland Professional Standards for Teachers and then the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers with its four levels of graduate, proficient, highly accomplished and lead.
Before the 2015 state election, following discussions with the QTU, the then ALP opposition, decided to make the establishment of the HAT and LT classifications part of their election platform in the “Letting Teachers Teach” policy. It was a bold policy, but the probability of its implementation was low. The opposition at that time held only nine seats in the 89 seat Queensland Parliament and anything but another disastrous term of the Newman government seemed unlikely.
History records the stunning turnaround that established the minority Palaszczuk government. Those who have been around for a while will know that electoral success is no guarantee of the implementation of policy. Who can forget John Howard’s post-election “core” and “non-core” promises? But the Premier and her government had a genuine commitment to education, and to fulfilling the election pledges they had made as far as was humanly possible.
And the QTU made sure that the promise could not be forgotten, enshrining the pre-election commitment and the timelines for the introduction of the two classifications into the 2016 enterprise bargaining agreement. The EB agreement provided for a pilot of the process for certifying teachers to the new classifications, negotiation on the on-going process and the attached pay rates and arbitration by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) if agreement was not possible.
In the end, the department and the QTU presented an agreement to the QIRC, which it was prepared to approve, following a pilot program with over 500 initial expressions of interest, training of assessors, and field testing of the assessment process, plus a review of the pilot and extensive negotiation at both the department and ministerial levels. Thanks must be extended to all QTU members who participated in this process, whether as applicants, assessors or negotiators of the agreements. There were a lot of contributions over more than four years to make this happen.
This achievement – major as it is – will not change the teaching career structure overnight. The application and certification process is substantial, consistent with the salaries attached to the classifications. Over time, people will assemble portfolios as they teach. At the inauguration of these classifications, the compilation of the evidence in portfolios from years of teaching is more demanding and not all eligible or deserving teachers will apply in the first cohorts because of the associated workload. After another couple of years, the full fruits of these new classifications should be seen and evident.
The introduction of HAT and LT is a triumph for teachers, but it would not have been possible without an organisation like the QTU representing teachers - discussing the policy, campaigning for its introduction, keeping the government to its promise, negotiating it into the EB agreement, negotiating the pilot and its evaluation, and finally, negotiating an agreement on process and pay for the QIRC to consider and approve.
The sustained commitment of resources that only the QTU could make has made this achievement possible. Big changes normally take longer, and can only be achieved by an organisation with a long-term view in representing the interests of teachers.
QTU members were also heavily involved in the federal Longman by-election, campaigning both for the Fair Funding Now! campaign and the ACTU’s Change the Rules campaign.
The result is the election of a candidate, Susan Lamb, who supports public education and fair funding, who supports TAFE and who supports changing the rules to ensure a fair deal for working people.
The challenge however is not to elect one candidate but to elect a government that supports those objectives. That campaign will continue until a federal election that will be held before May next year, but could be anytime now.
Thanks to those members who gave their time to make fair school and TAFE funding an issue, talked to parents at school gates, phoned other QTU members about the election and stood on polling booths in support of union campaigns. Next time, with your help, we’ll have to do it around the state.