Following the resignation of Mike Baird, Gladys Berejiklian assumed the role of NSW Premier just days prior to the start of the 2017 school year. The change in leadership sparked the usual cabinet reshuffle including the appointment of Rob Stokes as the new minister for education replacing Adrian Piccoli. This was a significant development, particularly for teachers in NSW, as the previous minister had made massive changes to the regulatory arrangements by abolishing the Board of Studies Teaching and Education Standards (BOSTES) and replacing it with the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) on 1 January 2017.
The new authority is far less representative of teachers and their issues, less democratic and has little legislative requirement to consult with stakeholders. The recent legislation provides that all significant positions are ministerial appointments. The new minister will be taking on these responsibilities with no experience in the portfolio and no knowledge of or relationship with key stakeholders such as the IEU.
Since the end of Term 4 2016, officers of BOSTES (now NESA) have taken advantage of the absence of a Quality Teaching Council (abolished by current legislation and replaced with a not yet appointed Quality Teaching Committee) to substantially rewrite policy and remove practicing teachers even further from any governance of their profession. The approval of professional development providers, formerly the responsibility of QTC, now rests with the authority itself.
The IEU NSW/ACT Branch will, as a matter of urgency, seek a meeting with the new CEO of NESA to raise our serious concerns and to pursue answers to outstanding questions. The Union will also continue to promote the voice of teachers and their interests through the IEU position on the board of NESA.
Raft of new legislation
The Victorian Government continues to introduce a raft of child protection related legislation. Since August last year changes to the requirements for school registration have meant that Victorian schools have had to attest that they met (or were in the process of meeting by the end of the year) nine child safe standards, including the development of a Child Safety Code of Conduct for Staff, procedures for responding to and reporting allegations of suspected child abuse, and staff selection, supervision and management practices.
Since late last year, legislation introducing a Reportable Conduct Scheme similar to that operating in NSW, has been tabled in parliament. Both the IEU Victoria Tasmania and the AEU (Victorian Branch) have raised a number of issues of concern with the Department of Human Services and the minister’s office. The unions are concerned about the definitions of reportable conduct which do not seem as clear as those in NSW. Mechanisms of appeal are also limited. Unlike NSW, where the scheme is administered by the Ombudsman, the scheme in Victoria will be overseen by the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People.
The scheme requires an employer to notify the Commission in relation to the allegations of ‘reportable conduct’ by an employee, and report the findings of an investigation carried out by the employer, and any subsequent action taken or not against the employee. The unions expect to be consulted further on guidance or practice notes that the Commission should develop to help clarify the definition of ‘reportable conduct’. (See p32 for more on reportable conduct schemes).
Most recently the Union has responded to a discussion paper on a proposed legislative model for Child Safety and Wellbeing Information Sharing which will enable prescribed bodies to share information on a child in relation to the safety and wellbeing of that child. The legislation will outline thresholds for sharing information. The organisations that are listed as prescribed, including schools, will be able, to request information. They will however be required to provide information requested by another prescribed body, except in certain circumstances. The proposed scheme is similar to that operating already in NSW.
Making a difference for refugees and people seeking asylum
IEUA-QNT members across regional Queensland have helped to provide much needed education resources to refugees and people seeking asylum as part of a new member donation drive.
The drive saw members in Term 4 donate non perishable items to assist with learning, such as pens, notepads, novels and children’s books, on behalf of the Teachers for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum (TRAPSA) network.
IEUA-QNT Regional Organiser Richard Pascoe said refugees and people seeking asylum often experienced mental and emotional distress and these donations were a significant contribution to helping improve their daily lives.
TRAPSA was created by the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) and the Union in 2015 to recognise the importance of school communities in supporting refugees and people seeking asylum.
TRAPSA aims to also provide support for representations to governments and employing authorities in relation to the implementation of policies and programs for refugees and people seeking asylum, and people from a refugee and asylum seeker background, in childcare centres, schools and TAFE institutes.
The terms of reference for TRAPSA can be found at www.qieu.asn.au/TRAPSA.
Education students burdened by literacy and numeracy testing
Aspiring teachers in the NT will be forced to sit a literacy and numeracy test before graduating university.
From 2017 the Literacy and Numeracy Test will become a mandatory requirement for all NT initial teacher education (ITE) students as part of university course requirements.
The test, to be administered by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), is designed to assess elements of an individual’s literacy and numeracy skills and will be used to demonstrate that ITE graduates are in the top 30% of the population for literacy and numeracy.
The Teacher Registration Board, together with Charles Darwin University (CDU), will ensure that all applicants for ITE programs after 1 January 2017 will meet the new federal government requirement.
Testing students’ language and literacy skills is not unusual in other professions and all educators should have high literacy and numeracy skills. However, the timing of these tests is critical.
Our Union recommends the test should be given in the first semester of initial teacher training – not at the end of their course.
The introduction of early testing should also have an emphasis on follow up examination for at risk students.
The Board has stated that testing is a retrospective requirement for the current group of ITE students.
While the Board encourages all current ITE student teachers to take the test, it will not be mandated for this group of student teachers as a condition of registration.
The plan for graduating teachers to sit a compulsory literacy and numeracy test at the end of their studies is questionable as it does not improve the morale of practising teachers nor public perceptions of the profession.
While it is desirable that students entering education courses have a record of high academic achievement, this in itself does not guarantee the student will be a good teacher.
Government and media rhetoric implying that those currently working in teaching are deficient in skills and knowledge fails to acknowledge the professionalism of practising teachers.
For more information, visit the Department of Education and Training website at www.studentsfirst.gov.au/teacher-quality .
Measuring professional boundaries
The Teacher Registration Board WA (TRBWA) released their Teacher Student Professional Boundaries resource on 23 January 2017. The document was developed in consultation with key stakeholders.
IEUA WA provided written feedback on the draft document in June 2016 and met with the TRBWA to discuss our feedback in September 2016. The resource reflects the feedback of IEUA WA with many of our suggested amendments taken on board.
The resource provides information about professional boundaries. It seeks to raise issues, prompt reflective behaviour and provide some guidance.
The TRBWA is clear that the resource is not a statutory code and that it sits alongside a school’s code of conduct. It does not claim to be exhaustive and encourages teachers to seek advice about situations they find themselves in if they have any concerns.
The release of the resource has resulted in media claims about teachers needing explicit instruction about friending students on social media and warning them against buying lunch for disadvantaged students. The challenges for teachers in navigating social media norms are clearly addressed in the document and it recognises the challenges of the digital age, as well as a world where teachers’ interactions with students come under close scrutiny and interactions need to be documented and transparent.
The resource provides a measured and practical approach to recognising and maintaining professional boundaries. As indicated in the IEUA WA submission this is a resource that should be included in initial teacher training and provides professional learning opportunities.
Review of school registration requirements
The Education Standards Board is consulting on its proposed revised requirements for the registration, review of registration and endorsement of registration of schools in SA from mid 2017. The proposed requirements will apply to all government and non government schools operating in SA at any year level.
The revised requirements do not constitute an increase in regulatory requirements. The revisions are intended to clarify and formalise current arrangements and enable the Board to more effectively undertake its legislative responsibilities. It is also the Board’s intention to streamline its regulatory processes to ensure the efficiency and cost effectiveness of regulation.
Eligibility for registration is assessed against criteria determined by the Board based on the parameters set by the EECSRS Act. Registration may be with conditions, but there is no time limit to registration; once registered, a school’s registration remains in place unless cancelled. It is part of the Board’s regulatory responsibilities to monitor schools’ compliance with the requirements of the EECSRS Act which it can do at any time and in a manner it determines appropriate. Once registered, schools may apply for endorsement to offer education services to full fee paying overseas students.
Standards for schools are of critical importance to the proper provision of education and it is the Union’s position that all schools operating (or proposing to operate) in SA should be held accountable for not only initial compliance, but ongoing compliance as well. It is hoped the risk based approach will be sufficiently rigorous to identify problems at an early stage, while keeping the administrative burden to a reasonable level for schools which consistently operate at a high standard.
The three standards relate to: school governance, student learning and assessment and student safety, health and welfare.
The criteria outlined against the three standards seem to be quite sensible and sufficient, and the IEU makes no further comment on them.
The IEU does not have a high level of confidence in schools self reporting. The self interest is all too obvious. Visitation would give an insight into the tone of a school and from a visitation program involving all schools (over a cycle of say five years) the Board would be able to select some schools for more thorough inspection. The IEU experienced this approach through its membership on the now defunct Ministerial Advisory Committee for Non Government Schools.
New rates for support staff
An amendment to the current Tasmanian Catholic Education Single Enterprise Agreement 2015 (TCESEA 2015) was ratified by the Fairwork Commission on 16 January, significantly improving the classification structure for support staff.
IEU Victoria Tasmania negotiated the new structure, which replaces four separate structures covering different occupational groups eg clerical, administration, teacher assistants etc. Wellbeing employees, such as counsellors had not previously been classified.
Improvements include better salary rates and access to improved career paths for each occupational strand of employee; improved parity of salaries with government school employees doing the same job for administration, laboratory, library and ICT and teachers aides and wellbeing employees; and classification levels for each occupational strand which detail typical capabilities, roles and duties.