Editorial: Focus turns to 2022
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 8, 12 November 2021, page no.5
As we head into the last few weeks of the school year, our focus turns to planning for 2022 and all that it holds. For our members this means EB negotiations in schools and CQU, a federal election that will be vital for schools and TAFE, and a new approach to the pandemic.
On World Teachers’ Day, information was released that suggested eight out of 10 teachers had considered leaving the profession since the start of the pandemic in 2020. The Australian College of Educators’ “Teacher Report Card” identified digital devices, student behaviour and parent conduct as some of the reasons. The majority of participants in the survey also indicated that schools did not have the infrastructure necessary to support the learning needs of students, while some confirmed that they continue to work up to 50 hours per week (including time at school). However, if the survey is accurate, it appears that fewer members are working beyond 50 hours per week.
The results of this survey echo member input into EB10 claim development. Members have confirmed that they continue to work long hours and take on additional duties, and the claim calls for recognition of these additional duties and a review of the allocative model, to enable schools to accommodate the demands of 21st century schooling. It also calls for more collaborative planning time, so that members can work together to modify curriculum and assessments to meet their students’ needs. The overarching theme of member input is the need to improve member working conditions to address workload and wellbeing, with a focus on keeping schools safe, i.e. to address occupational violence in schools. This, and salary increases that align to the highest paid teachers in the country, are recommended as a core focus of negotiations next year.
While EB10 will be a significant focus in 2022, we cannot forget that everything that we do is for our members and for our profession. Consequently, as we head into next year and the next federal election, the QTU has been asking members to consider what a federal government that respects our profession looks like. As a signigicant proportion of funding for schools comes from the federal government and the conditions for this funding is linked to federal government priorities, it is important that our voices are heard during the campaign.
It should not be lost on members that this federal government, despite the clear view of the profession (and the community) that NAPLAN in its current form has had its day and that schools should be funded based on the needs of the students they teach, insists that the quality of teachers and school leaders are the only issues with schools. The decision to blame the profession rather than government policy shows a lack of understanding (or deliberate ignorance) of the complexities of schools. It’s clear from our EB10 claim development that if school leaders and teachers are to focus on addressing the needs of the students in their schools, they need to be resourced to do so. That is the focus of the “Every School, Every Child” campaign, which, with the “Rebuild with TAFE” campaign, will be important in securing a federal government that respects our profession in actions, not just words.
And as we head into the summer holidays, Queensland faces a different approach to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Understandably, members are feeling exhausted after managing the uncertainty of the pandemic - keeping schools safe for themselves and students has meant managing not only the physical but also the psychological impact of the pandemic. As Queensland’s borders start to open up, members are encouraged to safeguard against further uncertainty by accessing the vaccine and following the health directives and advice, whether that is wearing masks in schools or continuing to use hand sanitiser and keeping a physical distance where possible.
Members should also be aware of the requirements to quarantine (or otherwise) if they choose to travel. Members who live in NSW and work in Queensland will also need to be cognisant of any border restrictions that are in place. QTU operations may also be subject to some changes. The Union will need to comply with the conditions of any venues it uses for training and meetings. Members will be informed of these before they attend. It is also likely that, as with the EB10 claim development survey, the QTU will use various online organising and campaigning processes to access as many members as possible.
I said earlier in the year that the only thing you can be certain of during this pandemic is that the pandemic creates uncertainty. This year, members have managed lockdowns, remote learning, border restrictions, mask mandates and so much more. Education and teaching continue to evolve, and the pace of change is significant. So once that final student leaves the school gates this December, it will be time for members to take time for themselves. It’s time for members to disconnect from their C4Ts and to relax and rejuvenate. Over these summer holidays, I hope all members have the chance to turn off from work and enjoy time with themselves, their families and people who bring you joy. I look forward to all that our Union, together, achieves next year.