3 December 2015 | No. 23-15 | View as PDF

2015 in review

With the school year drawing to a close in the remote areas of Queensland tomorrow, it is time to take stock of all that has been achieved in the past 12 months. With the change of government in January this year, a number of key commitments in education and the broader industrial relations system have been realised.

Australian Curriculum

Members started the year with a ban on implementing new curriculum areas and end the year with a commitment from the Minister to negotiate new timeframes for the roll out of the Australian Curriculum – an outcome that would have been more difficult to achieve under the former Queensland Government.

It is clear that the existing P-10 Australian Curriculum implementation timelines are not realistic. The QTU has requested urgent advice from the Education Minister regarding implementation of remaining and revised learning areas.  QTU members will recall that in correspondence to schools dated 22 July 2015, the Minister advised that 2015 would be a year of consolidation of Australian Curriculum areas already being implemented and that there was no requirement for new areas to be implemented during 2015.  

The Minister has previously indicated a willingness to consult with the QTU regarding revised timelines, and at QTU State Council on 17 October, members voted to advocate for a revised timeline that will see schools implementing the remaining areas of the Australian Curriculum no sooner than the end of 2020.

In the absence of a revised timeline, QTU members considering plans for implementing the Australian Curriculum should be guided by the principles and proposed processes adopted by QTU State Conference and previously communicated in Members’ Newsflash No. 11-15 of 22 July 2015.

Workload and joint statements

In response to member concerns about increasing workloads, the QTU has reviewed and negotiated a number of joint statements with the Department of Education and Training. From early 2016, it is anticipated that there will be a revised joint statement on collegial engagement in classrooms, and new joint statements on:

  • master teachers 
  • the School Improvement Unit 
  • planning, preparation and differentiation
  • annual performance reviews 
  • the purpose and use of data in Queensland state schools.

These joint statements will set clear parameters around these issues and, when implemented in schools, will address some of the current workload pressures on teachers and school leaders.

Roll out of 875 additional teachers

The first tranche of additional teachers, over and above those required for enrolment growth, will commence in 2016.  This allocation will address teacher numbers lost through the previous government’s removal of the “rounding-up” benefit in primary schools, and will see additional teacher numbers in some high schools. The first 15 of 45 additional guidance officers in secondary schools will also commence in 2016.  Further roll out of additional teacher numbers from 2017 to 2019 has been negotiated with the QTU.

Investing for Success provided to schools on Gonski principles

In 2016 and 2017, schools will receive their Investing for Success funds in accordance with the principles of Gonski – i.e. in response to the factors of educational disadvantage identified in the federal schools funding review. This is a step forward in providing schools with the funds needed for additional support to students and more certainty in funds for staffing.   That level of funding continues beyond 2017 in the forward estimates of the federal budget.

Meanwhile the campaign for Gonski goes on. The QTU will continue to work with schools to lobby the federal government for the full implementation of the review in all Australian schools at the school resourcing standard plus loadings to overcome educational disadvantage and to have cuts to education spending dropped from the federal government's agenda.

Review of industrial relations

One of the first acts of the new Queensland Government was to remove elements of the industrial relations legislation that would have stripped hard-won working conditions from awards and agreements.  The government has also committed to a full review of the Industrial Relations Act, and this review is underway. 

As a consequence of this review, the QTU sought and received a 10-month extension to the current certified agreement. This resulted in members receiving a 2.08 per cent pay increase in September 2016 and a new nominal expiry date of the certified agreement of 30 June 2016. Claim development for EB negotiations is underway and the QTU will begin discussions with the department early in the new year in an endeavour to secure a new agreement in July 2016.

Additionally, the award modernisation process in the schools sector should be finalised by February 2016. The proposed modern award is being considered by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, with responses due by 11 December 2015. The new award is likely to contain the classification structure negotiated in 2006, including experienced senior teacher.

Evaluation of Independent Public Schools

An independent evaluation of IPS was undertaken in 2015. While the outcome and the Minister’s response is not yet known, a number of changes in the selection process for IPS were introduced, including the need for QTU member support before nomination and QTU representation on the selection panel. An IPS strategic directions steering committee has been established and has met regularly this term. This steering committee will provide advice to the Minister in the new year around key aspects of the IPS program in response to the evaluation findings.

Other achievements in 2015 

  • Reintroduction of QTU representation on principal recruitment and selection panels.
  • Negotiations on the proposed highly accomplished and lead teacher classifications.
  • Negotiations for new annual performance review processes for teachers, school leaders and heads of programs.
  • Trial programs, such as the Career Start Bursary, to secure graduates in difficult-to-staff locations.
  • Continuation and expansion of the Teacher Education Centres of Excellence.
  • 300 master teacher positions across Queensland.
  • Funding for the mentoring beginning teacher program, including additional release time for mentors and beginning teachers across the state.
  • Advocating on behalf of members in the review of senior assessment.
  • Start of a review into the Partners for Success program.
  • Negotiations on further executive principal positions.
  • Discussions on principal progression.
  • Establishment of a Ministerial HR taskforce to address staffing needs across the state.
  • Involvement in the review of school support and administrative services.
  • One-off additional flexible student free day on 25 January 2016.

The QTU and its members have also undertaken significant work in the area of social justice, including the Free Mojgan campaign, the joint QTU/IEU Teachers for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum group, supporting the Safe Schools program and advocating for leave for public servants who are dealing with domestic violence – such leave is now available for Queensland Government employees.

The QTU launched its Reconciliation Action Plan in September this year and rule changes at State Conference resulted in an additional Executive position for a member who identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

Changes in QTU Leadership

At the start of 2015 a new presidential team of Kevin Bates (President), Sam Pidgeon (Vice-President) and Jenny Swadling (Honorary Vice-President) began its three-year term of office.

At the close of nominations in September, QTU General Secretary Graham Moloney and Deputy General Secretary Kate Ruttiman were elected unopposed. Following a ballot of State Council members in October, Brendan Crotty was elected to the other Deputy General Secretary position.  Brendan, currently the QTU Organiser for Brisbane South, will start his new role on 21 January 2016. 

Barry Welch’s term of office will end on 20 January 2016. Before being elected to the position of Deputy General Secretary in 2013, Barry was the QTU Moreton Organiser, a position he held for more than 20 years.  Barry was also a marginal seat coordinator in the ACTU “Your Rights at Work Campaign” in 2007. The QTU wishes Barry well in his future endeavours.

Looking forward

With the commencement of EB negotiations, continued campaigning for Gonski and a federal election, 2016 is already shaping up to be a busy year for the QTU and its 43,000 members.  The Union will also be working on maximising permanent employment and reducing principal and teacher workloads.

Members should be proud of all that they have achieved this year; the QTU continues to be the voice of teachers and school leaders across the state and can only do this with the ongoing commitment of our members.

As you head off for the well-deserved end of year holidays, remember to take time to refresh and reward yourselves for a year of hard work and professionalism.  We look forward to continue to working with and on behalf of members in 2016.

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