6 May 2016 | No. 12-16 | [download pdf] 

Coalition turns back the clock on  funding and working conditions

The federal Coalition’s education policy released on 1 May and its federal budget delivered on 3 May have finally answered two important questions about the current government.

  1. No, it does not support the Gonski school funding model.
  2. Yes, it is still committed to policies such as performance pay which threaten the basic working conditions of QTU members.

Funding

The headline figure from the budget announcement was a so-called $1.2 billion “boost” to school funding, spread over three years from 2018 to 2020. This is not extra funding to support student need; it represents a back down from the government’s former plan to tie school funding increases to nothing more than inflation and enrolment growth. Instead, it will now use an education specific indexation rate of 3.56 per cent: the policy says “this measure reflects more accurately the growth in education costs”. It is not a boost – it is slightly less of a shortfall.

To read the policy document is to be taken to a world that pretends the Gonski review of school funding never happened – the document makes 29 citations of studies, research and reports to support its rhetoric, and not one of those is the biggest school funding review to happen in the country for decades.

Working conditions

One of the most alarming aspects of the Coalition policy document is its ‘command and control’ approach to the running of schools and the employment conditions of education staff. While there is merit in ensuring all states and territories don’t shirk their school funding obligations (which the Gonski model would’ve ensured), the Coalition proposes to effectively hold them to ransom in the way schools are run and their employees are treated.

It has only been a matter of weeks since Malcolm Turnbull suggested that the federal government had no role to play in running government schools and could abandon them completely.

Yet now his government’s intent leading into the election is clear. The policy document includes:

  • changes to state industrial relations agreements to link teachers’ pay progressions – from the level of increments – to their performance
  • a “national certification process” to be completed before new principals can be appointed
  • a raft of new standardised student testing, including on entry to school and before students are allowed to leave school in year 12, as well as the need to report “annually to parents against agreed national literacy and numeracy standards for every year of schooling”, which sounds very much like NAPLAN-style testing for every year level.

These approaches, plus repeated statements throughout the policy document emphasising data collection over teachers’ and principals’ professional judgement, are all based on this government’s ongoing promotion of an imagined “deficit” in the profession – when in fact, the deficit lies in the support this government is prepared to give to students, teachers, principals and school communities.

Members who wish to undertake the unpleasant task of reading the Coalition’s education policy document can find it here http://tinyurl.com/edpolicycoalition.

Choice is clear

Now that the Coalition has finally made its position on school funding and education policy clear, there is a clear choice at the forthcoming election – in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Both the ALP and Greens have committed to Gonski – their policies can be found at http://www.laborsplanforeducation.com.au/labors_plan and http://greens.org.au/policies/education. 

Make sure your vote will be counted by checking your enrolment details, or enrolling to vote, at the Australian Electoral Commission website (www.aec.gov.au). The election is due to be officially called any day, so it is important that your details are correct.

Labour Day

Congratulations to QTU members who turned out across Queensland for Labour Day marches and festivities: together, you sent the clear message that you are all proud of your profession and committed to standing united for the sake of teachers, principals and students across the state.

Celebrate Union Reps

The week of 9 – 15 May is National Volunteer Week, celebrating the contribution of volunteers across Australia.  Among them are QTU Workplace Representatives, who give their time to distribute Union information, act as a point of contact for members in the workplace and represent and advocate on members’ behalf.  Take the time during the week to thank your Union Rep/s.

If your school or workplace doesn’t have a Rep, will you volunteer?

Commercialisation in Public Schooling (CIPS) research project

You are invited to participate in a survey that will gather views, and concerns, regarding commercialisation in public education, i.e. the provision by commercial organisations of products and services in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and administration in public schools.  The survey is for members of the Australian Education Union (AEU).  

This information will assist the AEU in understanding the scope of commercialisation in public education in Australia and the extent of concern held by members.  The research team conducting the survey is led by Professor Bob Lingard and comprises academics from The University of Queensland (UQ) and Queensland University of Technology (QUT).  You can access the survey at https://survey.qut.edu.au/f/186317/128b/. 

The first page of the survey provides further information.  There is no obligation to participate and the survey will be completely anonymous.  It is expected that the survey will take 15 minutes to complete.  Although the findings of the survey may be published, none of the information you provide will be/can be linked back to you as an individual or your school.

The survey will be open from 26 April until 3 June 2016.


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