No. 04-21, 23 February 2021 | DOWNLOAD PDF
To QTU Members
Current Issues – Your working conditions explained
NAPLAN - What is the difference between readiness testing and practice tests?
Following a hearing in the Industrial Court, the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) was ordered to remove its directive in relation to NAPLAN. This was communicated to members on 25 January 2021. It is important that members note that the Industrial Commission and Industrial Court determined that the directive constituted unprotected industrial action.
Unprotected industrial action is very different from illegal or prohibited industrial action. However, considering the decision of the Industrial Court, the QTU Executive determined to comply with the orders.
While the directive may have been removed, the NAPLAN Joint Statement remains in place and can be enforced under the terms of the certified agreement.
In recent days, the QTU has been advised that some schools are requiring members to complete Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) NAPLAN practice tests. Members are reminded that they cannot be required to:
- conduct/practice repeated or regular NAPLAN tests or other familiarisation activities unless they are in proximity to the test
- use NAPLAN results to enrol students in Queensland state schools
- use NAPLAN data as evidence in recruitment and selection
- issue “awards” for NAPLAN achievements
- report on NAPLAN results
- use NAPLAN data in annual performance reviews
- implement pre-tests to capture data for the purpose of shaping teaching and learning specifically related to NAPLAN.
While participation in both the practice test window (23 March – 23 April) and the national coordinated practice test (25 March) is strongly encouraged by the department, the QTU recommends that QTU members are consulted about the school’s participation in the practice tests, in consideration of the advice contained in Newsflash 02-21.
It should be noted that this is distinct and separate from “NAPLAN readiness testing”. Practice tests should only be conducted “in close proximity to” or near the test (the QTU asserts that as the test is in May, any practice tests conducted in Term 1 are not in “close proximity to the tests”) and includes providing students with previous NAPLAN papers to complete (which teachers are expected to mark) and asking them to prepare written tasks in the genres that may be assessed by NAPLAN etc. These practice tests are not part of the curriculum and assessment program for the year level, they are add-ons.
In contrast, readiness testing ensures that the platform used during the exam period works – it is not a practice test through which students become familiar with the form of the test and which teachers are required to mark. Readiness testing is not included in the joint statement. Readiness testing should not be an onerous task, however if members believe that it does create a workload burden, they should contact the QTU so that this can be addressed with the department.
Staggered starts to the school day
Recent news reports have raised questions about the ability of schools to adopt staggered start and finish times. Timetables can be varied to support this, however there are some conditions that must be met, including:
- rostered duty time cannot be extended beyond 25 hours per week
- a school day must be at least three hours long and cannot extend more than seven hours
- teachers must access a meal break between the third and fifth hours of a school day
- a school day cannot commence any earlier than 7am and cannot extend beyond 5pm
- where a school day runs for five hours or more, members must have access to a 10-minute rest pause as part of their rostered duty time (this must be at a time separate from that provided for the meal break)
- non-contact time must continue to be provided in accordance with the entitlements of the Teaching in State Education Award 2016 (Qld)
- any changes to the length of the school day must be subject to consultation and agreement at the local consultative committee (LCC) (in schools required to have one)
- consultation must occur with the school community (however, the outcomes of community consultation cannot change the working conditions of teachers, school leaders and other employees as prescribed by the relevant industrial instruments).
Ultimately, any decision to vary the standard hours of instruction (the industrial term for changing the start and finish time or lengthening a school day) should only occur if it provides educational benefits for the students within the community and provides a healthy and safe work environment for teachers, school leaders and other employees at the school.
The QTU has been advised that some members have been told that they are no longer required to use curriculum activity risk assessments (CARA) for science practicums and can now use other programs to assess these risks. The issue with this advice is that it results in duplication of workload in some schools. The Union is currently working with the department to address this issue.
The Omnibus Bill – Working conditions under threat
QTU Officers and members are currently working with other unions to defeat the federal government’s proposed changes to the Fair Work legislation. While the QTU is a state registered organisation and most of our members are not employed under the federal jurisdiction, what happens to industrial relations in the federal jurisdiction matters.
Currently, QTU members employed in TAFE at Central Queensland University are in the federal jurisdiction. They are facing an uphill battle in enterprise bargaining (EB) negotiations, given the current issues within tertiary education. For this reason alone, we should be concerned, but there is more at stake than that. We cannot forget the attempts of previous governments to strip away working conditions under the auspices of “harmonising” with the Fair Work Act. If we let bad laws exist federally, someone will try to make them exist in Queensland too.
The proposed changes include:
- rolling back penalties for wage theft in Queensland (and other states that have similar legislation)
- eroding job security by allowing workers to be classed as casual, even though they have ongoing, regular hours
- requiring workers to work in different locations or perform different duties without the oversight of an industrial body
- removing overtime pay from awards
- extending the length of a greenfields agreement to eight years – meaning that these employees will have no ability to negotiate new workplace conditions to address workplace health and safety (WHS) concerns.
The bill also proposed that employers would be able to bring in agreements that did not meet the better off overall test (BOOT), which would mean they could cut pay and conditions, but the government has been forced to reconsider the inclusion of this in the proposed legislation.
The bill seems reminiscent of attacks on working conditions experienced by workers in Queensland just under 10 years ago. These attacks must be stopped.
If you are interested in finding out more about The Omnibus Bill and the campaign to stop it, information can be found on the Queensland Council of Union’s (QCU) website.
With the roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations, focus has been brought to the timing of the vaccinations for school and TAFE employees. Currently the government plans to include teachers and school leaders in the roll out for the general population (unless they fall into another category). The QTU has expressed the view that, while health advice will determine the priority groups for the vaccine, members of a frontline profession such as teaching should be a higher priority than the general public, with particular emphasis on members who work in hospital schools, special education, bio-security restricted communities and other facilities such as correction centres, where protocols are necessary to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
The QTU will continue to work with the Australian Education Union (AEU) to pursue this position.
Request for Australian teachers to join international research study
Relationships Australia is partnering with the University of Worcester and Relate in the United Kingdom, as well as Griffith University in Australia, in an independent international long-term research study. The study aims to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on relationships and family life and the influence it continues to have across the globe. We encourage everyone to take part in this research and have a particular interest in ensuring the voices of teachers and their families across Australia are included.
If you’d like to contribute your experience and help us all navigate the future in a better way, you can participate in the survey here.
Authorised by Kate Ruttiman, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union
21 Graham Street, Milton, QLD, Australia, 4064