Editorial: A year of possibilities
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No 8, 2 November 2022, page no. 5
I have been trying to resist the urge of reflecting on all the things that we have achieved this year and all the things that we have overcome, because the certification of the proposed new agreement, which is hopefully pending, presents so many possibilities for the future. Looking backwards can lead to us becoming too introspective and to lose sight of what can be.
This year saw a turning point in Australian federal politics. We have been campaigning for some time to elect a government that respects our profession and is prepared to demonstrate that with more than words. We have sought a government that would listen to the profession, that would include the voice of the profession on decision-making bodies, and that will fund TAFE properly and state schools fairly. The election of the Albanese government brought hope that we now have a government that will do just that. The bringing together of a taskforce on responding to teacher shortages is an example of the possibilities that the new government represents. And as long as teachers and school leaders are heard on, not blamed for, the teacher shortage, then the possibilities presented by the taskforce can be manifold.
Similarly, 2023 will see the renegotiation of the school funding agreements. This is an opportunity for the federal government to show its bona fides. Disconnecting funding from outdated mechanisms like NAPLAN would be a start. Another would be to move toward ensuring state schools receive the schooling resource standard (SRS) funded at 100 per cent – sooner rather than later.
Which leads us back to the possibilities that the proposed agreement presents. I think I’ve heard “not another review” a number of times over successive EBs. But if we all know something is not working, we all have ideas on how to fix it. I guarantee our ideas will all differ, because they come from our lived experiences and all of us have experienced things differently. It makes sense then to do a review of the school resourcing model, provided that the review hears all of those lived experiences.
In undertaking the review, it will be necessary to determine what is the “cart” and what is the “horse” to determine what should be examined first. In my mind, the first thing you need to do is examine all that schools, and the people within them, do. Look at what is expected of schools and look at the duties of our members and then look at the extra things they do to make schooling happen.
It’s easy to say “Well that’s not their job”, or “That’s not what that role should be doing”, without understanding what will happen if that “duty” is not performed by someone. To me, it’s similar to the arguments we have had over the years about the TRS allocation to schools. The funding for sick leave reflects an “average” per teacher and differs for sectors because, traditionally, secondary schools have had “internal relief” that can accommodate the coverage of some absences. This notion however is outdated because whatever “spare capacity” the allocative model and I4S provides has been consumed by additional responsibilities or duties caused by new programs or expectations, making TRS funding inadequate.
It’s so important that the terms of reference for the review of the state schools allocative model is framed in such a way that the outcome is not predetermined and is more than a shuffling of the deck chairs. The review must deliver a change and must forgo old assumptions. New assumptions about schools will need to be built into the model, so that whatever “spare capacity” exists in a future model does not result in what we have now – overworked, under-pressure teachers and school leaders. The next few months will be vital in trying to get the framing of the review right.
Similarly, the next few months will be essential in preparing materials for schools so that the new agreement becomes more than words on a page. I am sure that there is more in the current agreement than many realise, as there is in the proposed agreement. For example, there are some who suggest that little has been done about workload over the past three years. Yet ironically many schools have adopted the Principles of Good Workload Management and used their LCC to manage change in such a way that, when asked how many people could say they worked less than 42 hours a week at a conference the other day, a number of hands were raised. Those activists were then able to show their colleagues how this was achieved. This learning and empowerment of each other is an example of the industrial instruments becoming our members’ lived experiences and embedded working conditions.
Next year is a year of possibilities – a year of change and reflection that can deliver good things for members. A year that can prove that when we campaign together, we can win.
Thank you for all that you have done this year, which like the many that have gone before has been unique, with many challenges. Next year is sure to have its own challenges and complexities, which together we can overcome to realise its possibilities.