From the President: Rethink, Rebuild, Reimagine
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 5, 30 July 2021, page no.7
The 114th Queensland Teachers’ Union Conference took place in Brisbane at the end of June, and although COVID-19 forced a premature conclusion, delegates still achieved much as they considered the Conference theme: Rethink, Rebuild and Reimagine.
In our roles as teachers and school leaders, there is much that makes our work different. However, fundamentally our roles and values are similar. Our goal is to do the best job we can on a daily basis to ensure success for the students in our care. But at the same time, the work of teachers and school leaders has become more complex and demanding. Every day brings a different challenge our way.
We can use these challenges to bond us together in a more powerful and productive way than ever before, if we focus on rethinking the issues together as unionists.
Rethinking around improving and applying wins for working conditions will be important. It is our responsibility, as the profession, to campaign and win the changes necessary to secure the future of the profession, and ultimately, of our students.
COVID-19 has brought the work that you do into the kitchens and lounge rooms of almost every household in this state. It has brought with it a new appreciation of the work that you all do on a daily basis.
While state schools’ capacity to deliver online learning has developed dramatically through the pandemic, the experience has also highlighted the significance of face-to-face engagement between teachers and students, and students and their peers. The yearning for this contact was clear from the relief that many students showed when returning to the support, routine and care afforded by teachers and school leaders. The warmth exhibited by teachers and school leaders in return was obvious too. While schools are clearly institutions that provide academic learning and support, their social aspect cannot be denied or go unappreciated.
What it made clear is that it is critical that our members continue to have access to high quality, well-resourced, and often face-to-face professional development, as our profession responds and changes to meet the increasing needs of the communities we live and work in.
What about Rebuilding?
Let’s talk about TAFE and the fundamental role it plays in our communities – quality training which leads to quality employment. Our TAFEs are an iconic and trusted publicly-funded brand. They are in the perfect position to support Queensland’s post-COVID recovery with skills and training. TAFE leads the way in the provision of quality vocational and further education to countless people, not only in Australia, but internationally.
Winning public contestability contracts in the area of adult migrant education time after time proves the dedication and skill of teachers in TAFE, and we shouldn't overlook the impact they make through apprenticeships, diplomas and wider education.
Let’s talk about schools. Schools are the fundamental building blocks for future economic and societal success. It’s time for the bold, aspirational nation-building policies necessary to guarantee the realisation of every child’s right to be taught by a qualified teacher in a modern school, resourced to at least 100 per cent of the minimum schooling resource standard (SRS).
The State Budget documents noted that, in the next four years alone, 85,000 Australians (equivalent to the population of Rockhampton) will move to Queensland. Many of these will be families with school-aged children. We welcome the unprecedented investment by the state government in new schools. What goes hand in glove with this, however, is the need to attract high-achieving, high-quality and well-trained people to our profession. The qualifications and standards of state school teachers are inextricably linked to our professional status - both in the community and broader society.
Teacher shortages, long felt and experienced in rural and remote areas, are now creeping into inner-city schools, which are increasingly finding themselves without a full complement of teachers on a day-to-day basis.
The working conditions of teachers and school leaders play a significant role in recruitment and retention. It is imperative that governments take responsibility for workforce planning and the provision of an adequate supply of appropriately qualified teachers. This remains integral to securing quality learning outcomes for our students in our schools.