QTU President's comment | 25 October 2018
After several months of uncertainty, the Queensland Government has today released the evaluation of the Independent Public Schools (IPS) program and mapped a process to determine the future shape of state school autonomy.
The recommendations of the evaluation report provide a useful starting point for consideration of the future of autonomy for schools in Queensland. They deliver a platform to address the concerns of 80 per cent of schools that we need to address how some state schools are being privileged over others – beyond the advantages that postcode already delivers due to socio-economic status and location in the south-east corner. 209 of the 250 IPS are in the North Coast, Metro and South-East regions.
The QTU has long held the view that real autonomy is created when schools have the financial resources to deliver for the needs of their students. The Fair Funding Now Campaign has been focused on overturning the Morrison government’s school funding policy, which will condemn 87 per cent of state schools to never achieving the minimum resourcing level recommended by the Gonski Report in 2011.
All Queensland schools have benefited from the Investing for Success funding arising from the Gonski school funding model, to which Queensland was never a signatory thanks to the ideological myopia of the then Newman government. Our whole state school system has demonstrated wide-ranging improvements in student outcomes, leading the Grattan Institute to recommend Queensland state schools as the place to send your children to school if you want to get the most out of their education. Further enhancements to funding will underpin continuous improvements in all Queensland state schools.
The QTU has long held that schools freed from unnecessary interference (especially random policy interjections from government) and supported by a strong system, can and will make a difference to the lives of every student in state schools. That freedom to exercise professional judgement is the kind of autonomy that allows school leaders, working collaboratively with classroom teachers, to deliver education that best suits local circumstances. Professional autonomy also helps ensure that education professionals’ workloads are not impacted by unnecessary administrative expectations.
The QTU welcomes the focus on the need for marked improvements in human resources practices within the department – an unfulfilled recommendation of the 2015 evaluation of IPS. The QTU considers that such changes should enhance the strength of the state school system, ensure allocation of personnel with required skills to schools and treat individual teachers and principals with respect and dignity.
The commitment to deep engagement with stakeholders over short timelines to recommend a formal government response to the evaluation is important. This includes ensuring that the voice of the almost 46,000 members of the QTU is front and centre.
However, after more than $64million in state and federal money has been invested in IPS over the past six years, there is little to show by way of improvements specifically attributable to the IPS initiative. The report confirms the experience of similar programs in other Australian jurisdictions and internationally – no demonstrable difference in student achievement when compared to all Queensland schools or in IPS schools from prior to the program commencing in 2013. The decision of the Palaszczuk government to extend the funding and operation of IPS up until the end of this term of government (October 2020) is that much more surprising and regrettable in light of this finding.
25 October 2018