From the President: Workload still priority 1
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 5, 10 July 2020, page no.7
When QTU members, teachers and principals, settled the ninth enterprise bargaining negotiations, they did so to improve salaries and working conditions, especially reducing workload.
The state government has now legislated to prevent you being paid a well-deserved salary increase on 1 July, but action on reducing workloads is still possible and critical. The question now is how we deal with the consequences of the government’s actions, both in terms of addressing the workload of teachers and principals and our future assessment of the performance of the Queensland Government.
Just as QTU members decided to accept the enterprise bargaining agreement through a democratic process, members will decide, in a ballot to be conducted in early Term 3, what action you want to take to address both issues: how to respond to the government’s actions, possibly through striking and work bans, and how to reduce workload. Whether you agree with the government’s actions to freeze your pay or not, members continue to overwhelmingly identify workload reduction as our first order of business.
There are two possible ways to achieve urgent action on this issue. In the first instance, members can choose to enact work bans on a range of things that will do no harm to students but will allow teachers more time to teach and principals more time to lead. The second option would be for the government to negotiate with the QTU, something they failed to do over the pay freeze, to propose real action to make changes for the good in terms of teacher and principal workload.
The COVID-19 hiatus has delayed processes agreed in the last enterprise bargaining agreement to reduce workload. The government’s decision to break the original compact contained in the enterprise bargaining agreement does not prohibit a further opportunity to negotiate change. Regardless of the path we travel, QTU members have an opportunity to rid themselves of workload that does not contribute to outcomes for, or the wellbeing of, students. QTU members will also contribute to their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of the profession by acting now to eliminate such work.
The COVID-19 crisis has changed the world we live in. We now have the chance to do things differently. This includes ending practices that we know to be inefficient, such as repeated requests from central and regional office for data that is already available from OneSchool and addressing long-standing inhibitors to the education system such as NAPLAN.
Our campaign to be rid of NAPLAN has gained pace over several years. We have moved the national conversation from one of utter dependence on NAPLAN to standing on the cusp of eliminating NAPLAN once and for all. There has been no usable data from NAPLAN for three years: we banned NAPLAN Online in 2018, the 2019 test was a national debacle with online testing mayhem, and the 2020 test was cancelled due to COVID-19. Not one child has suffered because of compromised NAPLAN results or no NAPLAN at all. We have many alternative uses for the tens of millions of dollars spent in Queensland each year on the administration of NAPLAN. A permanent end to NAPLAN cannot come soon enough.
It remains, then, to consider how the QTU responds to the government’s actions in the forthcoming state election. We have ample time to make these decisions, and the QTU State Council meets on 12 September to set the final agenda. A chance exists for the government to act to redeem itself by aggressively addressing workload for teachers and principals without needing to be coerced into doing so. That may go some way towards making up for robbing teachers and principals of $100 million over the next 18 months.