Public education voice september 2011

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PUBLIC EDUCATION VOICE JOURNAL OF THE AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION UNION - ACT BRANCH • September 2011

OUR STUDENTS DESERVE THE BEST.

COMMUNITY

CAMPAIGN

PROMOTING

DIVERSITY

40 Brisbane Ave Barton ACT 2600 • P (02) 6272 7900 • F (02) 6273 1828 • www.aeuact.asn.au


OUR STUDENTS DESERVE THE BEST. SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION www.aeuact.asn.au Authorised by Penny Gilmour - AEU ACT Branch Secretary • 40 Brisbane Avenue, Barton ACT 2600


CONTENTS PUBLIC EDUCATION: OUR STUDENTS DESERVE THE BEST. Join Us on Facebook

Indigenous News: Page 10

From the Secretary

02

Sub-Branch News

04

Agreement Update

05

President’s Report

06

2011 Branch Council Meeting Dates

06

Privacy, Safety and Education

07

Promoting Diversity

08

Indigenous News

10

Focus on ESOs

12

O H & S

13

TAFE Works

14

TAFE VP Report

15

Latham Primary Salutes Volunteers

16

Help Students Buck Workplace Bullying

17

Lessons from Finland

18

AEU Position on School Autonomy

20

Member Profile

22

Latham Primary School: Page 10

Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 1


BUSY TIMES

As I write this column the Enterprise Agreement negotiations are at differing stages. The ACT Government’s offer of 3.5% + 3.5% with no trade-offs of conditions looks likely to result in a settlement for our Education Support Staff members, so that’s good news. Things are somewhat different at the CIT and ETD bargaining tables. CIT has made an unacceptable offer which includes salary increases for some classifications (not fully funded by Treasury so productivity savings are suggested), trade-offs of conditions and a massive restructure of the teacher classification structure. While the proposed restructure may have some minor benefits, the proposal to achieve it includes unacceptable trade-offs in order for CIT to fund the reclassification. TAFE members are not interested in CIT’s proposals if the trade-offs form part of the package. CIT needs to offer salary increases (with no trade-offs) that reflect at least a 3.5% increase each year to all classifications in line with the rest of the ACTPS. The ETD teaching staff negotiations are also in difficulty. Treasury funding equivalent to 3.5%p.a. for 3 years, and flexibility to apply the first instalment differentially across the salary scale allows the AEU Claim of parity with NSW to be met at most steps because steps 1-7 do not require a full 3.5% to bring them in line with current NSW rates for equivalent steps. The money left over allows 4% to be applied to the top-of-scale, SLC and casual rates, and

additional funding has been offered to boost the SLB rates by 10.05%. While these improvements are welcome, there is still an unacceptably large gap between the ACT and current NSW rates for casuals, SLCs, SLBs and the top-ofscale teachers. Principals’ salaries would remain in touch with current NSW rates at the lowest and highest categories due to a 3.5% increase, but the difference in salary structure makes a direct comparison at all steps of the SLA scale impossible. The AEU claim for school counsellor salaries that recognise their dual qualifications has not been funded either. The Minister has had these monetary issues affecting settlement drawn to his attention. The only solution is for the ACT government to look again at closing the salary gaps. To do nothing will simply leave a festering sore in the ACT, and create an immediately-larger disparity with NSW when that state achieves a salary increase for its teachers. The ill will and fallout from another unsatisfactory salary settlement is likely to be felt by the ACT Government at the 2012 elections, so there is a clear political incentive for Government to “do a deal”. There is also a moral and practical imperative to ensure the ACT offers comparable salaries to its nearest large market; if the gaps remain, the ACT is likely to attract fewer teachers and those already here are likely to look at their options to move where the rewards are better. There are a significant number of issues other than salary that remain unsettled, so the path to a settlement looks lengthy yet. With protected industrial action having been authorised in the recent ballot, school teachers may need to flex

their industrial muscle to achieve an acceptable outcome. The School Autonomy agenda is creating an impact at the bargaining table. ETD insists that they will continue to respect industrial instruments, but at the same time proposals that are inconsistent with currently-agreed processes continue to be rolled out in the name of autonomy. Staffing is a major concern, with ETD proposing that new applicants to the ACT should be able to apply for jobs at schools without gaining a recruitment ranking. ETD are proposing that a ranking will be provided by having a panel at the school assess recruitment suitability at the same time as they assess the specific job application. ETD want staffing to be done in the brave new world by schools forming their own internal panels – no need for external involvement here!!! Fortunately the AEU has been successful in convincing the Minister of the need for external involvement in panels to ensure moderation, consistency and transparency across the system, so entirely internal panels will not be a feature of this year’s staffing processes. While the system is in such flux around School Autonomy and changes to staffing procedures, there is only one sensible course of action for members: watch out for advertisements - because you don’t know what will be advertised and when, AND if you see a job you want - apply for it immediately. Only by applying for all positions of interest can teachers ensure the greatest likelihood of success in transfer or placement to new positions.

PAGE 2 • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • Public Education Voice

Continued next page


On a completely different note, the Bradley Report has recommended a merger between CIT and UC and this is causing anxiety. The AEU believes that CIT is more than capable of achieving a bright future as an un-merged entity, but if a merger is the path to be taken there are some key principles that must be observed, including (a) legislation must be finalised before steps towards a merger commence so that the rights, entitlements, expectations and obligations of all parties are clear; (b) there must be a new institution created with a new shared identity – to do otherwise will simply be a takeover that does not value CIT and UC equally in the process; (c) CIT’s VET identity must be protected and maintained; (d) no job losses or curriculum reductions as a result of the merger. These are just a few of the issues exercising the minds of members at CIT as they consider the future. The AEU will continue to work with members and the Federal AEU to ensure that the voice of the profession is heard in the discussions about the way forward. It promises to be an interesting time ahead!

Penny Gilmour Branch Secretary

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Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 3


SUB-BRANCH

NEWS By Schools’ Organisers

Protected Industrial Action: The AEU Executive has responded to offers by the government for a new Enterprise Agreement and on all occasions found the offers insufficient in relation to both salaries and conditions. The response from meetings held at Sub-Branches across the ACT have reinforced the position of Executive and Council that members are feeling devalued and unsupported by the government (especially the Education Minister) and ETD. This needs to be addressed by providing teachers at all levels with wage parity with NSW and responding to the AEU claim through a new and genuine offer. It is vital that members continue to recruit non-members to the AEU at this critical time. We will benefit from the added numbers to support our campaign. If or when we take protected industrial action, it is important that non-members understand they will have duty of care for students in their school.

involved in an incident at your school you should seek assistance. One way to do this is through the Employee Assistance Program. They will provide counselling assistance through Davidson Trahaire ph: 1300360364. It is also important to let the AEU and your employer know of these incidents when they occur.

Members can continue to email MLA’s through the AEU website: www.aeuact.asn.au/campaigns

The AEU and ETD are both supportive of employees seeking part-time arrangements in the work place. Principals/Managers are required to facilitate part-time arrangements if this is requested. In the transfer round many staff may be looking for a part-time placement elsewhere in the system. Teachers requesting a part-time or a job sharing arrangement should contact ETD Staffing regarding this matter.

Behaviour Management: The increase in the number of high needs students in our system has put pressure not only on classroom teachers, assistants and school executives but also on staff in the department. The government must acknowledge the hard work by Public Education staff in managing what can sometimes be extremely difficult situations with upmost professionalism. These situations, however, can take their toll on staff across the system. Many have had to take stress leave to manage the impact on their health and wellbeing and to enable them to have the strength to re-enter their workplace. If you are

Transfer Round: Many teachers are considering whether to apply in the transfer round at the end of this term. Teachers with an end date at the end of 2012 do not have to apply in this round but will have transfer entitlement if you wish to do so. If you are in your 5th year of your first placement you are required to transfer in this round and you have transfer entitlement. Teachers required to transfer who would like to remain at their current school will need an agreed extension with their principal. This extension should be in place before the round begins.

There has been confusion regarding the employment process implemented for the eight Autonomy-trial schools. Those schools can and have advertised their positions ahead of the central transfer round. This enabled teachers currently employed or newly recruited to apply directly to the schools. The

AEU ensured that the selection panels formed at each site were comprised of internal and external panel members to maintain transparency in the process. Applicants with transfer entitlements were considered for the positions in accordance with the process detailed in our current EA. None of those vacancies in the eight Autonomy-trial schools will be re-advertised in the transfer round, unless they are unfilled. All schools, other than the eight autonomy-trial schools, were required to provide information regarding vacancies to ETD Staffing by September 2nd to facilitate the advertisement on e-mployment of all classroom teacher vacancies on September 15. The applications close on September 30th and the primary and secondary panels commence on October 19. Please refer to Section EE of the Enterprise Agreement information on transfer entitlements www.aeuact.asn.au/uploads/file/ SchoolsEA.pdf Hold the line during our EA campaign and don’t hesitate to call the AEU office if you require an update on EA negotiations or on protected industrial action. If you would like an Organiser to come to your workplace, contact the AEU on 02 6272 7900 or go to www.aeuact.asn.au

Sue Amundsen, Bill Book & Glenn Fowler - Schools’ Organisers

PAGE 4 • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • Public Education Voice


TEACHING STAFF ENTERPRISE

AGREEMENT UPDATE The salary and conditions offer for teachers in schools, made by the ETD on behalf of the ACT Government on 26 July, has been detailed in the Branch Secretary’s column (the latest offer at the time of writing). This offer has been rejected by Council as insufficient and lacking in detail. Through voting in the protected industrial action ballot, AEU members have demonstrated overwhelmingly that we, as a union, have no intention of agreeing to salaries which at key classification points leaves them considerably behind salaries in NSW. In a matter of months, this latest offer would once again leave most ACT teachers as the worst paid in the country. The proposals for variations to some conditions are unclear and therefore members don’t feel able to agree to these without seeing more detail before an agreement is signed off. Members are not amenable to having conditions finalised ‘during the life of the agreement’. Through correspondence and the poll conducted by independent polling group Qdos Research, we are confident that we have a high level of community support for our position. It appears that residents understand better than the Government that salaries need to be competitive in order to maintain the high quality teaching workforce that this territory has had for so long. Much of the 26 July offer is equally underwhelming. The AEU believes the Teaching Leader classification should be in recognition of teaching excellence and an incentive to focus on leadership in classroom delivery. ETD’s position is that it is irrelevant how many teachers meet the agreed professional standards, as

only a limited number of positions will be available over the life of the agreement. Another limited implementation of a promising idea is the proposal for accelerated incremental progression – the notion of teachers who exceed expectations being able to “skip a step” as they move up the classroom teacher scale. The Government has budgeted for 50 teachers to achieve this, out of a possible 1200 teachers who are not currently at the top of the scale. For first year teachers, ETD proposes a reduced teaching load of one (1) hour per week in secondary and an hour and a half (1 ½ hours) in primary in order for them to work with a mentor. The decrease in face to face teaching time is welcome (and a matter on which the AEU has campaigned for some time), but it is a fraction of the reduction new teachers enjoyed until the mid-1990s, and a fraction of the reduction available to Teach for Australia associates. Deputy Principals are currently paid 16.1% less than their equivalents in NSW. The offer of a 10% increase in the first year is significant, but would still leave them more than 5.5% behind NSW with NSW salaries set to move again soon. The Government will need to do better. When they do, a reassessment of principal salaries will need to take place. Currently there is nothing in this offer for our principals other than a 3.5% annual increase, which falls short of CPI. Proposed changes to the teacher transfer arrangements are not immediately objectionable and actually restore the

possibility of teachers remaining in a school for more than the current ten year maximum. The Government’s pursuit of school autonomy, beyond the School Based Management already enjoyed by schools, has led ETD to propose an end to the minimum executive structure which outlines the minimum number of School Leader Cs, Bs and As in each school based on its category. ETD has proposed a ‘minimum leadership structure’ which would do away with the requirement for a specific number of each school leader and just require a total number of school leaders. AEU members, including the majority of our principal members, remain sceptical of any proposals to increase autonomy as the international and interstate experience suggests it does nothing to improve student outcomes.

Don't put up with continued neglect! • Email your elected representatives, politely expressing to them why the offer is inadequate. Go to www.aeuact.asn.au/campaigns • Join us on facebook. Search for Public Education: Our Students Deserve The Best. • Talk to community members about the need for proper investment in public schools and the workforce within them. What's good for teachers has to be good for our students!

ACT Teacher • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 5


ROGER AMEY ACTING BRANCH PRESIDENT One of the reasons many of us belong to a union is for industrial protection. This protection doesn’t come from the fees we pay or from the people the union employs, it comes from our collective might. I have always been proud to be a member of the AEU, not just because we have always used our collective might to protect the industrial and professional rights of our members, but perhaps more so because we have used our collective conscience to promote the benefits of public education and more importantly to ensure the wellbeing of future generations. Today we face unprecedented attacks by our employers, not just on our industrial wellbeing but more importantly, in my opinion, on the rights of current and future generations of the country’s most important resource, it’s young. We have a Prime Minister who believes what you and I do every day in our schools can be simplified to sets of numbers which can be used to compare students, with no concept of the situations in which they might exist. She has publically stated she wants every child to be above the average. She thinks that education can be fixed with computers and bricks and mortar. Yet every piece of meaningful research into effective educational outcomes shows that the success of the job we do is determined primarily by two factors:

• The environment in which a child is raised and • The quality of the teacher/s they are exposed to It is vital that you and I fight to: • Protect the future of our young, nonvoting members of society and • Ensure all teachers are appropriately remunerated, have adequate resources and safe and productive learning environments.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS? • Act as a collective at all times. • Participate in a supportive manner in all actions of the Union. • Participate in the decision making bodies of the Union. • Recruit non-members so that they too can benefit from being a member of the collective. • Educate the community about the vital need for a strong and effective public education sector. Remember Public Education is the Foundation of a Strong Community

Roger Amey Acting Branch President

2011 BRANCH COUNCIL MEETING DATES: Branch Council meets on the following Saturdays in 2011 at J Block Theatre, Reid Campus CIT from 9:00am - 12 noon. Please arrive by 9:00am as a quorum must be present by 9:30am or the meeting lapses. Papers are available from 8:45am. Tea and coffee is also provided but please bring a mug. • 17 September • 22 October • 19 November For the information of new Councillors, Business Papers are forwarded through the Union’s maildrop via Sub-Branch Secretaries at least 1 week prior to the meeting. This is your chance to have your say!

CIL N U O C DER N I M RE

urday t a S 9am ember t p e S 17 eid CIT R

Next Journal Deadline: 24 October. Contributions to the journal can be sent to: priority1@aeuact.asn.au

PAGE 6 • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • Public Education Voice


PRIVACY, SAFETY AND

EDUCATION ROBERT COEN, MAURICE BLACKBURN

The ACT and NSW public school enrolment forms are quite similar. Where they differ is that the NSW Department of Education requests parents to disclose certain information about their child such as their child’s previous history (behavior, medical etc), any violent behavior, suspensions or expulsions. The purpose of collecting this information is to ensure that NSW DET can carry out its responsibility to manage any risk of harm to staff or students. The information is also collected in order to support the student’s smooth transition into a school with an appropriate plan, strategy, resources and support. Until recently* the ACT Education and Training Directorate (ETD) has not sought this information on its student enrolment form due to concerns about student privacy in combination with the legislated entitlement of every child to receive a high quality education - s.7(1) Education Act 2004 (ACT). How are the rights to privacy, safety and an education balanced?

Rights are Not Absolute Legislation and the common law recognise, both expressly and by implication, various rights of an individual including the right to an education, the right to privacy and the right to a safe workplace. None of these rights are absolute. Each is interpreted in the light of and consistent with other rights. The right to an education is also limited by considerations of cost, community values, available resources, etc. The health and safety of students and staff does not come second to the right to an education but must be protected while at the same time providing a high quality education system. The failure to promptly identify students with a history of violent or other seriously disruptive behaviours hinders the early implementation of a management plan for the integration of such students into the school population. This can adversely affect the educational outcome for the student

concerned as well as fellow students. It can also negatively impact on the work environment of teachers at the school.

Privacy The Privacy Act 1988 (Cwlth) (the “Act”) regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Personal information is widely defined and would include information contained in student records. However, the Act recognises the need for, and permits the collection of, personal information where the information is necessary for one or more of its functions or activities (National Privacy Principle 1.1). Access to the personal information contained in a student’s prior school records is directly within the ambit of the functions and activities of the ETD and therefore may be collected. Further, the Act allows an organisation to disclose personal information where there is consent to the disclosure (National Privacy Principle 2.1(b)). Accordingly, as part of the enrolment process parents can be asked to authorise a former school to release a student’s school records which will contain information, not just about student behaviour, but also academic results, medical issues and other matters which may require special consideration by school authorities. This information enables the ETD to fulfil its mandate to provide a high quality education to the newly enrolled student in addition to providing a safe learning and working environment for all other students and staff. The Act requires an organisation collecting personal information to detail the reasons why the information is required, such as the NSW Department of Education does on its website.

Duty of Care It is well established that a school system owes a high duty of care to children attending its schools. A similarly high duty of care is owed by an employer to its employees. Courts require a school

authority to ensure that reasonable care is taken to protect students and teachers from dangers of which the controlling authority is aware or ought to be aware. If asked to consider whether a school has fulfilled its duty of care in a situation where a newly enrolled student has attacked and injured another student or teacher, a Court would expect the school to have made all reasonably necessary enquiries to ascertain the offending student’s propensity to violence including obtaining prior school records. The failure to seek such information would likely to be considered a breach of that duty.

Limits on Disclosure Newly enrolled students are entitled to the opportunity of making a fresh start. Teachers and students are entitled to be safe at school. Accordingly, the extent of disclosure of a student’s background must be limited to the degree necessary to achieve the purposes which made the collection of the information legitimate in the first place. Care needs to be taken that the information is only made available to persons who fulfill some role in this regard. In these circumstances the collection and disclosure of student information will conform to the requirements of the Privacy Act so long an explanation of the intended use of the information is provided. *The Australian Education Union and the ETD are currently negotiating a new enrolment form which will seek additional information about a child than that which is currently sought. This information will assist the school in planning for the success of each student. ETD has said it will provide training to School Leaders in the appropriate use of this information. For example, parents will be asked about whether their child has a disability; any emotional/social/behavioural issues; any particular talents or interests and some details about each of these. Principals will then be able to refer this information to the appropriate staff member/s to ensure support for the student is provided.

Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 7


PROMOTING

DIVERSITY ENSURING SAFE SCHOOLS FOR ALL

In the last edition of the Public Education Voice (June, 2011), we reported on the Stamping Out Homophobia Conference held on 17 May. The conference was attended by secondary students, teachers, pastoral care coordinators, counsellors and ETD officers. Schools attending the conference developed action plans to continue their work in ensuring all students and staff members feel safe at school, including those who identify as gay or lesbian. Read about how these schools are promoting a safe school for all. Diversity United Matt Noonan, Stromlo High School Stromlo High School sent a large group of students to attend the conference and they were enthusiastic to work towards ensuring every student at Stromlo feels safe and able to be themselves. The research presented highlighted the importance of young people having both supportive peers and supportive adults when grappling with identity issues and dealing with abuse. We also heard about anti-homophobia policies currently in place for schools in other states, which have had great success. In response to this identified need, and from the discussions and feedback by Stromlo students at the conference, we are beginning a student and staff school community group the students have called “Diversity United”. The group meets every Wednesday at lunchtimes and is designed to give all interested students a safe place to work on homework, chat with each other and staff, access local services, promote acceptance, understanding, safety, and

respect within the school community. Refreshments will be provided and the Minister has pledged his support!

• Invite community groups to speak to pastoral care groups and provide resources.

Other actions we have started or plan to do:

• Invite the Minister for Education to events at the school, show support for promoting diversity and safe school environment.

• Conduct a survey of students to gain resource ideas (for the library) to be purchased that provide positive examples of students from diverse identities and can act as teaching tools. • Display anti-bullying and prodiversity posters that promote diversity, inclusivity and a safe school, created by students. The posters would generate positive ideas behind diverse identities, generate discussions about labels and homophobia, challenge narrow mindedness, and get the message into all parts of our school. • Share posters with our feeder colleges, other network high schools and primary schools. • Promote the school’s contact officers via the posters to encourage all students and staff to approach these officers if they want someone to talk to, seek advice or get resources. • 3 staff members are being released from classes for 2 days to work with the 21 students who attended the conference to develop staff professional development workshops designed to raise awareness, equip them to deal with homophobia and develop a school Diversity United plan. • Present workshops to staff at our feeder schools. • Train our school SRC and Peer Support school leaders.

Promoting Equity and Diversity in the Early Years Meredith Regan, Narrabundah Early Childhood School Teachers at Narrabundah Early Childhood School (P-2) are encouraged to value living and working in a world that honours and acknowledges children from diverse families. These include children who are raised within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered (GLBT) and queer communities. We honour the courage that some children must call on daily as they simply go about their regular lives in a dominant culture that does not always see them as regular. I wish for them a world where they don’t have to explain themselves and deal with negative reactions, which result from fear, prejudice and ignorance. We understand that knowing about a child and their family is a key to their identity and crucial to understanding them. Strong relationships are at the heart of good teaching We are supported to have the courage to say, ‘We need to work beyond dominant cultural ideas around issues such as cultural practices, gender stereotypes and heteronormativity in working in schools and early childhood centres, we are taking a stand in addressing the right of all children and their families to take

PAGE 8 • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • Public Education Voice


Challenging Gender Stereotypes Peter Curtis, Namadgi School

their rightful visible place in the learning communities in which they spend many years of their lives. At Narrabundah Early Childhood School we endeavour to: • Be mindful of the language we use, the questions we ask, the stories we read and the resources we choose to use and display. • Stamping Out Homophobia does not always have to be done loudly. It is often done quietly as we go about our daily classroom business. As teachers, part of our core business is to ensure that we reflect and include each and every precious child that we are given the privilege to teach and nurture each day. • We believe it is our responsibility to ensure that our classrooms are inclusive, to educate ourselves to do this respectfully and appropriately and to advocate for and search out resources that will enable us to do this. • At Narrabundah Early Childhood School there are posters in my classroom that reflect all family constellations, including GLTB families. We consciously read books that represent a broad range of families.

What might ‘stamping out homophobia’ in the preschool setting mean for an early childhood teacher? An intrigue and joy of early childhood is that young children pay scant regard to the limits of our adult imaginations. The painter, Picasso, reiterated this sentiment when he remarked that he thought it was a shame that it took half a century to learn to paint like a child. Boys will happily throw on frocks and dance the fandango and girls can be princesses and blokes if their play or story requires them to be so. For children, gender is very fluid; denying adult stereotyping. Mind you, in my Navy days, when only males went to sea, sailors, like children, had to cross-dress for the entertainment of the crew when the part required. Generally early childhood teachers are careful not to make judgements about children engaging in benign exploratory play. Curiosity about gender roles and sexuality may be explored and enacted by children in their play. Many young children have siblings and may have been present at a child’s birth; they share and discuss with their peers from where

babies are born and so on. That said, I am often surprised by how even very young children tell me what are acceptable norms; “boys don’t wear earrings”, “only ladies wear two earrings”, and “one means you are gay”. Of course gender, despite adult and media stereotyping, remains fluid throughout our lives. Freud described this as polymorphous perversity, not to imply that such human behaviour was wrong or sick, but rather to describe diverse human behaviour. From an early age we can provide situations that encourage children (and adults too) to think about and become aware of what ‘diversity’ may mean. In the early years we can, for example, study the natural world and relate it back to our own lives. This way we can build and strengthen the connections we have with nature and so better appreciate that we too are a part of nature’s rich diversity. For more reading and a range of useful links go to a new Equity and Diversity page on the AEU’s website: www.aeuact.asn.au/member-groups/ equity-and-diversity/

• We support GLTB staff and their families. • At the Stamping Out Homophobia Conference we asked Minister Andrew Barr to support a conference that targets the Early Childhood and Primary Sector. We hope he encourages the Education and Training Directorate to treat this suggestion seriously.

Photo: The rainbow flag, is a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) pride.

Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 9


Great Support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students in Public Schools

Alison Reid and Rebecca Hanrahan, Student Aspirations Coordinators, report on the support available to Indigenous students in ACT public schools. Now in its second year, The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Scholarship Program has once again invited Year 11 students who are interested in pursuing a career in teaching to apply and present evidence to demonstrate their commitment to their studies. The aim of the scholarship is to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers in ACT Public Schools. The five scholarships of $5000 per annum support college students to focus on their studies and enables them to purchase a laptop or other equipment to support their educational pathway. This year, a strong field of candidates applied and the application process was rigorous. Students presented evidence

across seven key competencies at a roundtable selection panel. The panel reported that all applicants presented very well, making the selection process difficult. The 2011 scholarship recipients: Alex Leon, Kiriwai Howe, Jesse Williams (formerly Stromlo High School students, now attending Canberra College), Jinneecka Klenka (formerly of Canberra High School, now studying at Melba Copland Secondary School) and Stephanie Pollard (who attended Campbell High School and is currently studying at Dickson College). The scholarships were awarded at the Legislative Assembly in early March by Minister for Education Andrew Barr MLA. At the ceremony Aunty Agnes welcomed guests to country and Alinta Barlow, a scholarship recipient from 2010, stole the show playing the guitar and singing.

Alinta has been accepted to study at The Australian Institute of Music. Another previous recipient Emilie Fletcher is now attending Macquarie University studying arts and living on campus. Emilie fell in love with the university while visiting with the Student Aspirations Program Universities Trip which supports Year 11 and 12 students to look at interstate and local tertiary options. Student Aspirations Program Update In April 2011, 21 senior public school students visited Melbourne universities including RMIT, Melbourne, Monash, La Trobe and Deakin Universities. Each university presented insight into their campus, courses and a general overview of what they offer. Students gave up their holidays to participate in this academic study tour. During Term One, Year 5–10 students involved in the Aspirations Program attended introduction days at Birrigai. Each cohort participated in group work and leadership activities. Year 5–8 students did the Crate Climb and campfires and Years 9 and 10 students attempted the Leap of Faith. All students extended themselves and many were the only student from their school connecting with other students from across Canberra. More activities that have supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander public school students in the last 12 months:

Photo: 2011 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scholarship recipients with Andrew Barr, MLA.

• Ongoing links with the ANU Secondary College which enables students to study one unit at ANU and gain credit to university entry.

PAGE 10 • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • Public Education Voice


• ANU School of Art visit for Year 9/10s exploring visual arts. • Sydney Universities Trip for Year 11/12s - investigating six universities and hearing about what each campus offers including student housing and courses. • Careers in media at the National Portrait Gallery - Year 9/10 workshop with Tanya Denning from National Indigenous Television.

• Planning 2012 Academic Challenge teams of 4 students from Years 7-10 competing in a number of academic tasks. • Melbourne Universities Trip for Years 10-12 - students investigating five universities, learning about what each offers including accommodation options. • Planning with Dr Anita Heiss to deliver two literacy and creative writing

workshops for primary and high school students.

Alison Reid Rebecca Hanrahan Student Aspirations Coordinators Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education and Student Support ACT Education and Training Directorate Ph. 6205 9195

• ABC NAIDOC Week Careers Day for Year 9/10 students – insight into the life of a journalist, media technician, television presenter and ABC support staff. • UC Student For a Day - Year 7/8, 9/10 students exploring university options in Canberra. • CSIRO Year 5/6 Exploring Science – hands-on workshop building on school based science lessons and inspiring students to pursue a career as a scientist.

Photo: Paige Martin Year 10 Gold Creek School and Kyneisha Murray Year 10 Calwell High School

• ANU Medical School Open Day for Years 10-12 - supporting students to explore study options in health and medicine in Canberra. • Supporting Year 11/12 university entry - liaising with students, universities and Indigenous Centres at tertiary institutes. • Working with interstate colleagues - Queensland AITAP program, The Aspiration Initiative (national organisation), NSW Department of Education (Western Region), Macquarie University, University of Technology Sydney.

Photo: Michael Cooper Year 10 Amaroo School jumps the Leap of Faith

Photo: K aitlin Winters and Ieasha Williams both Year 8 students at Kingsford Smith School

ACT Teacher • Official Journal of the Australian Education Union • PAGE 11


FOCUS ON

ESO’s POSITIVE OUTCOME ACHIEVED FOR EDUCATION SUPPORT STAFF

Peter Malone, Assistant Secretary (Industrial), reports on the negotiations on behalf of education support staff (assistants, youth workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Officers/ Workers). Enterprise agreement negotiations are always complex and protracted. The AEU, as part of the whole-of-government bargaining for a set of new ACT Public Sector common core conditions, commenced negotiations with the ACT government representatives in March this year. Thirteen other Unions, together with a few individual bargaining reps have been involved. The government’s opening offer was 2.5% from 1 July 2011 and 2.5% from 1 July 2012 for a two year agreement, with a large range of conditions to be removed from the agreement. Through the work of all the Union representatives the government offer was revised on the 20 July to: • 7% over 2 years paid as instalments of 2.5% + 1% + 1.75% + 1.75% • Removal of the following limited number of provisions from the Enterprise Agreement: (a) Termination of Employment; (b) Employment Types; (c) Filling Nominal Vacancies; and (d) Joint Selection Committees.

• Finalisation of some agreed technical & operational amendments currently being drafted. The feedback we and the other Unions received from members was that this offer remained unacceptable. In order to place further pressure on the government we then instigated Protected Action Ballots of our members to authorise the taking of industrial action. While those ballots were being conducted, negotiations continued with the government in an effort to achieve a better outcome. A breakthrough occurred on 9 August when the government finally agreed to drop its attempts to remove important conditions and to make a wage offer of 3.5% from 18 August 2011 and 3.5% from 1 July 2012. There also remains the need to finalise some agreed technical & operational amendments to the common core conditions. The AEU office sought feedback from Education Support Officers (ESOs) on this offer in order to provide a response to the Head of Service, Mr Andrew Cappie-Wood by 18 August. The AEU’s response to the offer was detailed in the following letter: Dear Mr Cappie-Wood

• Standardising allowances for Fire Wardens & WISE Co-Ordinators by phasing the allowance out in some cases.

In response to your letter dated 9 August 2011 the AEU, on behalf of our Education Support staff members in the Education and Training Directorate, advises that the new wages offer is acceptable, on the basis that the 7% is fully supplemented by the ACT Government Budget.

• Removing provisions for a substitute holiday when Anzac Day falls on a Saturday.

We understand that this does not preclude changes to Directorate specific terms and conditions being agreed provided

no additional budget supplementation is required to meet the change. Once those Directorate specific changes are negotiated, it will, of course, be our members who determine through the required voting processes whether the new proposed Enterprise Agreement is acceptable. Given the support for the proposed settlement, it is not surprising that the recent ballot for protected industrial action, which concluded on the 17 August, was unsuccessful with the ballot return falling short of the 50% of ballots required under the Fair Work Act. Nevertheless it was important that AEU members, together with all other ACTPS staff, were prepared to consider industrial action in order to win a fair outcome in these negotiations. Members are to be congratulated on the support they have shown for the campaign without which the Government would not have moved from its previous unacceptable proposals. Now that an “in principle agreement” has been reached over the salaries and common core conditions, the AEU will negotiate with the Education and Training Directorate over specific matters only affecting our members in that Directorate. Every effort will be made to conclude these negotiations as quickly as possible, so that a final proposed agreement can be sent out for a vote by all Education Support Officers. ESOs are encouraged to keep an eye on the latest updates at: www.aeuact.asn.au, AEU emails circulated by Sub-Branch Reps, and SMS messages sent by the AEU.

Peter Malone Assistant Secretary - Industrial

PAGE 12 • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • Public Education Voice


Managing Workplace Stress and the Precautionary Principle

The AEU recently held its annual Work Safety Forum on Thursday 16 June, with a focus on Managing Your Workplace Stress. The incidence of workplace stress is the fastest rising area of compensation claims in the country and is particularly high in the education sector. Respect Equity and Diversity [RED] programs or the equivalent are either established or being established across all jurisdictions as employers struggle to address the issues.

There is a growth in complex, wondrous information about nanotechnology. In essence the ‘world of nano’ is smaller and stronger than any known elements - construction at an atomic level. The uses to which nano-particles are already put in communications, medicine, manufacturing, cosmetics, sunscreens and sports equipment are exciting and their potential applications are seemingly endless. However, enthusiasts working in the development of nanotechnology deny the possibility of negative impacts that should be considered and managed. There is increasing evidence to indicate unique health and safety hazards associated with nano-materials that require regulation and protections.

At the forum, the Heart Foundation and Nutrition Australia provided participants with useful practical strategies designed to help people manage their stress and health. People indicated that the number of meetings they are required to attend each week contributed to an overwhelming administrative workload. ‘Walking Meetings’ were trialled as an alternative to the ‘sit down and be talked at’ format that teachers have become accustomed to at the majority of workplaces. Individuals’ stress levels have been shown to decline when exercise is factored into the daily work routine. For further details contact bill.caddey@heartfoundation.org.au or diane.percy@heartfoundation.org.au. Nutrition Australia presented advice on good nutrition including the “Swap It” campaign which encourages healthy food and activity choices, as we reach out for comfort foods during periods of high stress. Go to: www.nutritionaustralia.org/ act/act-workplace-community-services for further information. Both the Heart Foundation and Nutrition Australia are keen to visit schools to work with you to regain control over your workload and stress levels and manage your personal and group health. Invite them along to your next staff professional development session.

Nano-particles are much smaller than asbestos fibres and can be internalised through the skin, inhalation, and ingestion. The issues confronting workers and the wider community in regard to the application of nano-particles are that there are many unknowns including the critical dose of particles that initiates inflammation. We don’t know what the exposure limits are at this stage. But there appears to be a strengthening correlation between the use of carbon nano-tubes, for instance, and mesothelioma and Australia is close to declaring those a hazardous substance.

Guide produced by the Friends of the Earth.” The motion acknowledges that nano-technology has important potential but there is safety, environmental and social challenges. Until those challenges are met we advise members to inform themselves of the issues before purchasing products such as sunscreens for your schools and families. On another potential health issue, there are a number of countries around the world that have acknowledged that there is sufficient uncertainty about the potential hazards associated with the wide spread exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, that it is best to apply the precautionary principle.

Applying the precautionary principle, it is the responsibility of the manufacturers using nanotechnology in their products to provide the proof that it is not harmful to workers in the manufacturing process or to the consumer.

Since 2005, schools in Canada, Austria, Germany, England, Switzerland, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Wales, Israel, and USA have opted to place bans on WiFi and mobile phone use particularly in primary schools but more widely in some countries. The French government is requiring manufacturers to offer phones that can be used only for SMS and others that work only with headsets to reduce exposure to radiation. Frankfurt, Germany banned WiFi in public schools [2006]; Saanich School District in Victoria, BC, Canada banned WiFi in primary schools and has limited access in middle schools [2011]. There is a growing body of evidence that presents a strong correlation between wireless communication devices and an increased risk for cancers.

The AEU Federal Executive endorsed “... the ACTU recommendations to protect Australian workers and communities;” [and] “recommends that workplaces use only nano-particle free sunscreen as highlighted in the Safe Sun Screen

For further information you may wish to go to the following sites: www. stayonthetruth.com/wifi-removed-atsurrey-bc-school-2010.php ; www. youtube.com/watch?v=KN7VetsCR2I ;

ACT Teacher • Official Journal of the Australian Education Union • PAGE 13


TAFE COUNCIL REJECTS CIT’s DEMANDS TO CUT TEACHING CONDITIONS

At the time of writing, the progress of the CIT Enterprise Agreement negotiations has stalled and the CIT and AEU, while still negotiating, are reaching a stalemate. The ACT government has offered all ACTPS staff 3.5% from 18 August 2011 and 3.5% from 1 July 2012 with no trade off of any conditions.

In essence CIT demands members to trade off all these conditions in return for an additional 1% pay increase compared with the rest of the ACT public service.

However, CIT has offered a 3.5% pay increase to all classifications from the date of ‘in principle agreement’ and a 4.5% pay increase to permanent and contract teachers only on 1 July 2012 (casuals will receive only 3.0%. This offer is conditional on agreement that members accept a significant and new reclassification of teachers’ roles. There are some minor benefits to this model but it includes many undesirable tradeoffs which CIT require to fund the reclassification.

• T he same wage offer as the rest of the ACT public service with NO trade-off of conditions.

Proposed cuts to conditions are: •R eduction in teachers’ annual professional development teaching reduction allocation from 36 to 16 hours pa • I mplementation of a sliding scale for allocation of Paid Non-Attendance for all Band 1 to 2 teachers. This policy introduction would preclude many teachers from accessing the full 4 weeks Paid Non-Attendance and would act as a deterrent for teachers to engage in coordination or entrepreneurial roles within CIT. • R emoval of daylight equivalent hour allocations for Monday to Friday from 1 January 2012. • U nder the new reclassification, AST positions would no longer be criterionbased but merit-based and the number of positions would be limited.

Your representatives on our union’s TAFE Council have rejected this position and put forward a counter offer that includes:

• S ome agreed changes to improve some current clauses. • A greement to negotiate over the next six months a new classification structure. Protected Industrial Action Ballot CIT members have been quarantined for more than a decade from the necessity to take significant industrial action. The focus of your successive AEU Enterprise Agreement negotiators has centred on the maintenance of teachers’ working conditions and the avoidance of the membership needing to take industrial action. Consequently, CIT teachers have not had to deal with the vile industrial laws instituted by the Howard government’s Work Choices and largely maintained by the Gillard government’s Fair Work legislation (termed by many as “Work Choices Light”). No longer can ACT Union members simply hold a mass meeting and vote on and take industrial action. Under the Fair Work Act, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is available to ballot members on Protected Industrial Action. Recently, AEU members were required to vote on which types of industrial action they would support and return the ballot paper to the AEC. If less than

50% of distributed ballots were returned, the ballot, under the Act, is considered lost. AEU schools members’ in the Education and Training Directorate voted overwhelmingly to support protected industrial action to pressure the ACT Government to fund the EA claim. However, the recent ballot for protected industrial action by CIT members was unsuccessful as the ballot return fell slightly short of the required 50% return of ballots. Hence the CIT teacher membership technically failed to support taking protected industrial action, despite the fact that those members who did vote overwhelmingly supported protected industrial action. Consequently, the AEU will continue negotiating with CIT to try to reach an “In Principle Agreement”. The option of conducting a second ballot on protected industrial action remains and, if agreement is not reached in the near future, will be actively pursued. AEU-ACT Branch members retain the best TAFE conditions in the country at present but these could be lost if members do not actively engage in the Enterprise Agreement campaign. It is a slippery slide down to poor conditions and members have a right to be angry at the tenuous position they find themselves in. The AEU has instigated many Sub-Branch meetings to discuss this situation and to suggest possible future action to retain the current teaching conditions. Members are urged, for the sake of their colleagues and students, to actively engage in the Enterprise Agreement process. All teachers need to be informed that their conditions will be deteriorated unless we are prepared to fight against it.

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TAFE VP CIT SERVES THE COMMUNITY With the public having access to the highly anticipated Bradley Report, the AEU is now able to weigh up proposed options for future collaborations between Canberra Institute of Technology and University of Canberra. At the recent TAFE Council, disappointment was widely expressed by members about the lack of recognition by Professor Denise Bradley’s report of the remarkable contribution which CIT has provided to the wider community of the ACT by the innovative and highly skilled teaching practices of the educators at the Canberra Institute of Technology. TAFE Council motion: “While rejecting the version of autonomy for CIT proposed in the Bradley Report, TAFE Council does not believe that the only future for CIT is as an institution merged with UC. TAFE Council believes that CIT has a strong and vibrant future as a stand-alone entity. However, in considering the recommendations of the

Full contestability of VET funding The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting scheduled for July 2011 was postponed until September. One COAG agenda item of interest to CIT and the ACT community is the proposal for full contestability of Vocational Education and Training (VET) funding in all Australian TAFEs. This policy is said to receive the general support of Education Ministers across the nation. The full impact of this process on CIT is as yet unclear but similar initiatives in Victoria have seen significant rationalisation of VET offerings by TAFEs and the sky rocketing of student fees payable for Certificate IV and Diploma

Bradley Report for a merger, a number of matters need to be clarified, including the form of the new institution, the industrial implications of a merger, and the effect of a merger on CIT’s curriculum offerings. In addition, the ACT Government must clearly articulate the educational rationale and educational objectives of a merger” With so much media hype around the Bradley Report, we are in a rapidly changing VET landscape and how these changes impact members will be at the forefront of the AEU agenda. The short week consultation process to provide feedback on the Bradley Report closes on 23 September. That said, the fear often associated with change does not constitute a reason for immediate deviations to your workplace agreements in which many teachers have found themselves recently. An example of such a situation is when agreed

programs (in the order of thousands of dollars as they approximate full fee payments). The Victorian government instigated a HECS-type loan arrangement for students enrolling in these programs but the net result is that less wealthy students would likely emerge with their VET qualification and a significant loan to repay, as is the case with their University counterparts. Such a scheme would constitute a radical privatisation of VET provision. Clearly, a government supporting this direction would be responsible for putting another nail into the coffin of affordable VET training and education. Such action would represent a shirking of the government’s responsibility to provide

workload requirements include hours for project management or coordination duties which are then removed without consultation, after the agreed workload has been undertaken. Many members have stated this action has created a workload burden that has left teachers in some areas of CIT with large “catch up” teaching loads in the latter half of the year, impacting significantly on teacher health and work-life balance. Such underhanded work cultures are not supported by the AEU and our advice to members is to ensure all agreements of workload are in writing at the time of an agreement and to have an AEU representative involved as a support person in such meetings. These are your rights as an AEU member.

Tracey Dodimead - 6207-3137 tracey.dodimead@cit.act.edu.au

affordable public education and training for ACT citizens. If full contestability of VET funding occurred in the ACT, it would impact on the broader ACT community and industry; especially in areas of skill shortages which rely on affordable TAFE training to support their apprentices and workers. In addition, expensive VET programs would come under scrutiny and may be in future jeopardy. The AEU cautions prudence by the ACT government when considering any such policies and calls upon the government to meet its responsibility to provide effective and affordable VET education and training for the ACT community.

Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 15


LATHAM PRIMARY SCHOOL SALUTES

SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS Teacher Robina Jeffs and Principal Fiona Allan describe the benefits of having volunteers at their school. Latham Primary School is one of the ACT schools to benefit from participating in the School Volunteer Program ACT (SVPACT). Volunteers are indeed valuable resources in a school. These people have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to share. Often they have retired from interesting careers and are ready to act as mentors and role models for students in a school. The area that many of the volunteers have a special interest in is literacy and many undertake training provided by SVPACT in reading to maximise the positive impact they can have with students. At Latham we have volunteers who mentor our students in our Brightsparks reading program. Volunteers participated in specific school-based training sessions and now mentor students three times a week for 30 minutes. These volunteers have been continuing to do this for several years so they are definitely dedicated!

Photo: Margaret Duffy helps Tazmin with her reading

the skills developed through Meccano, students also extend their ability to communicate with older people. Our 97 year old volunteer, Keith, has just “retired” from Latham to move to Newcastle! We have an historian who conducts Australian History focus groups as well as a retired soldier who conducts a Military History group. Two woodworking sessions are conducted by mentors at lunchtime and the waiting list for this group never diminishes.

Some of the other volunteers who can only commit to one session a week build a rapport with students by regularly talking with them and listening to them read.

At Latham we consider ourselves very fortunate to have our volunteers who are valued members of our school community. The rewards are plentiful - for students, the teachers and the volunteers.

At our school the expertise of our volunteers has enabled us to offer a variety of extension and interest groups on top of the literacy program. Every Wednesday morning, our budding engineers participate in a Meccano session where they have one to one assistance with a volunteer. As well as

What is SVPACT? SVPACT recruits, trains and manages volunteers who mentor students in ACT public schools in school hours. The program was formally launched in 2005 by the then Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery, who has been

the Patron of SVPACT Inc. since January 2009. Volunteer mentors are required to attend an orientation seminar, undertake a police check (funded by SVPACT Inc.) and sign an undertaking to comply with the Education Directorate’s Code of Conduct. Mentors work with students on a one to one basis for one hour each week. Students are selected by teachers because they are in need of a mature role model, lack self esteem, and/or have difficulty coping with the classroom environment. Some mentors work with their students for a number of years which can extend to high school. Activities include literacy, numeracy, building with Meccano, woodcraft, Lego, cooking and gardening. All of these activities are aimed at building a rapport and mutual respect between mentor and student. In this way the mentor is able to exert a positive and long lasting influence on the student resulting in a benefit to the community beyond the classroom.

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Some Principals have allocated a time allowance to the school liaison role which ensures that the mentors feel welcomed as part of a team. SVPACT Inc. is managed by a committee of 12 volunteers. Members include current and former principals and teachers, Rotarians, retired professionals, and a representative from the Department. The Teachers Credit Union has been the major sponsor in recent years, meeting the annual insurance costs of $2400. Other support has come from the Education Directorate and Rotary, which has helped meet the cost of staging training seminars, purchase of Meccano sets and some administrative costs. Currently there are over 100 volunteers active in 25 primary, 3 secondary and three K-10 schools. An audit at the end of 2010 showed that mentors contributed 4070 voluntary hours in 2010 with an additional 600 voluntary hours contributed by committee members. Some mentors work with several students on a one to one basis each week and around 200 students are participating in the program. The SVPACT Committee is confident that the mentoring program delivers a valuable service, not only directly to individual young people, but also to teachers, parents and the general community. A successful partnership between mentor and student also benefits the mentor through his or her engagement with young people and witnessing their development in a positive direction. It is also important that all staff in participating schools are introduced to the mentors, even if they don’t work with them.

iPHONE APP HELPS STUDENTS BUCK THE WORKPLACE BULLY

A new iPhone app and survey from ACTU Worksite is helping young workers across Australia to put a stop to workplace bullying. The survey invites secondary school, TAFE and university students to share their experiences and ideas on how to deal with workplace bullying in a confidential and non-confrontational manner. The best suggestions will be published on the Worksite blog. The iPhone app includes the survey, facts sheets, case studies, short skit videos, Twitter feed and other resources to keep young workers informed about workplace rights and issues. A special mobile-friendly website is also available for people with devices other than iPhones. Links: iPhone app download: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/worksite/id451348713?mt=8 Web survey: https://edunity.wufoo.com/forms/buck-the-bully/ Mobile-friendly site: http://winksite.com/site/site_profile.cfm?susid=37814 ACTU Worksite website: www.worksite.actu.org.au

Our challenge is to promote the growth of the program to all schools and ensure that individual teachers are aware of the wider community benefit as well as the direct benefit in the classroom. More mentors are required to meet requests from schools wishing to participate in the program. Further information is available at: www.svpact.org.au. Persons interested in volunteering in a school should contact: Mal Ferguson ferguson_mal@hotmail.com or phone 0405732837.

Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 17


LESSONS FROM

FINLAND AN INTERVIEW WITH HENNA VIRKKUNEN

It’s well-known that Finland’s teachers are an elite bunch, with only top students offered the chance to become teachers. It’s also no secret that they are welltrained. Hechinger Institute Teachers College, Columbia University, interviews Henna Virkkunen, Finland’s Education Minister (reprinted with permission). Q: T ake us inside that training for a moment – what does it look like, specifically? How does teacher training in Finland differ from teacher training in other countries? A: It’s a difficult question. Our teachers are really good. One of the main reasons they are so good is because the teaching profession is one of the most famous careers in Finland, so young people want to become teachers. In Finland, we think that teachers are key for the future and it’s a very important profession—and that’s why all of the young, talented people want to become teachers. All of the teacher-training is run by universities in Finland, and all students do a fiveyear master’s degree. Because they are studying at the university, teacher education is research-based. Students have a lot of supervised teacher-training during their studies. We have something called “training schools”—normally next to universities—where the student teaches and gets feedback from a trained supervisor. Teachers in Finland can choose their own teaching methods and materials. They are experts of their own work, and they test their own pupils. I think this is also one of the reasons why teaching is such an attractive profession in Finland because teachers are working like academic experts with their own pupils in schools.

Q: How are teachers evaluated in Finland? How are they held accountable for student learning? A: Our educational society is based on trust and cooperation, so when we are doing some testing and evaluations, we don’t use it for controlling [teachers] but for development. We trust the teachers. It’s true that we are all human beings, and of course there are differences in how teachers test pupils, but if we look at the OECD evaluation—PISA, for example—the learning differences among Finnish schools and pupils are the smallest in OECD countries, so it seems that we have a very equal system of good quality. Q: How does Finland incorporate immigrants and minorities into its educational system? A: We haven’t had so many immigrants in Finland, but we are going to have more in the future—and we need more because we have an aging population. In some schools, in the areas around Helsinki, more than 30 percent of the pupils are immigrants. It seems that we have been doing good work, also with the immigrants, if we look at PISA results. Normally, if children come from a very different schooling system or society, they have one year in a smaller setting where they study Finnish and maybe some other subjects. We try to raise their level before they come to regular classrooms. We think also that learning one’s mother tongue is very important, and that’s why we try to teach the mother tongue for all immigrants as well. It’s very challenging. I think in Helsinki, they are teaching 44 different mother tongues.

The government pays for two-hour lessons each week for these pupils. We think it is very important to know your own tongue—that you can write and read and think in it. Then it’s easier also to learn other languages like Finnish or English, or other subjects. Q: What roles do teacher unions play in Finland? In the U.S. right now, unions are seen as a big problem standing in the way of reform. What’s it like in Finland? A: It’s a totally different situation in Finland. For me, as Minister of Education, our teachers’ union has been one of the main partners because we have the same goal: we all want to ensure that the quality of education is good, and we are working very much together with the union. Nearly every week we are in discussions with them. They are very powerful in Finland. Nearly all of the teachers are members. I think we don’t have big differences in our thinking. They are very good partners for us. Q: What do you think [we] can and should learn from Finland when it comes to public education? A: It’s a very difficult question. An educational system has to serve the local community, and it’s very much tied to a country’s own history and society, so we can’t take one system from another country and put it somewhere else. But I think that teachers are really the key for a better educational system. It’s really important to pay attention to teacher training, in-service training and working conditions. Of course, the teachers always Continued next page

PAGE 18 • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • Public Education Voice


say we also have to pay attention to their salaries. But in Finland, it seems that the salaries are not the main reason it’s an attractive profession. Teachers aren’t very badly paid. They earn the average if you look at other academic professions. Q: In the U.S., it’s estimated that 50 percent of new teachers quit within five years. I suspect it’s different in Finland. Is teaching seen as a lifelong career in Finland? A: Teaching is a lifelong career in Finland, but right now we are doing an evaluation of why some teachers leave their jobs. The rate isn’t very high. It’s often men who leave, as they find jobs with higher salaries. We have to develop some kind of mentoring system because the new, young teachers need support. Often the feedback I hear from young teachers is that it is not easy to cooperate with parents, for example, so that is one of the areas where young teachers need support from their colleagues. Q: What’s something important but not widely known or well understood about public education in Finland? A: We teach all pupils in the same classrooms. We don’t have really good, top schools and very poor, bad schools. We are quite good at giving special support to students with learning difficulties. About 25 percent of our pupils receive some kind of special support, but in regular classrooms—often the teacher has an assistant in the classroom. We also think it is very important that there aren’t too many pupils per teacher. We don’t have legislation limiting class size, but the average class size for all grades is 21. In first- and second-grade, it’s 19. We think we can have equality and good quality at the same time—that they are not opposites. Our students spend less time in class than students in other OECD countries. We don’t think it helps students learn if they spend seven hours per day at school because they also need time for hobbies, and of course they also have homework.

EAST AFRICA FAMINE APPEAL Donations can be made through Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA to assist victims of the famine in the Horn of Africa. Donations are being directed to APHEDA’s partner on the ground the German Workers’ Samaritan Federation - who is working to provide food, water and healthcare assistance. Both APHEDA and the German Workers’ Samaritan Federation are members of SOLIDAR - a network of progressive civil society organisations, trade unions and NGOs working to advance social justice around the world. If you wish to donate, please contact Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA on

1800 888 674 email office@apheda.org.au www.apheda.org.au

Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 19


AEU POSITION ON SCHOOL

AUTONOMY

Cathy Smith, Assistant to the Secretary (Professional).

ACT Public Schools have for many years been operating under a system of School Based Management which has provided considerable autonomy to each Principal. The ACT and Federal Governments are seeking to extend this autonomy. There is growing evidence which indicates that governments’ push for school autonomy is not about improving student outcomes but rather: • D evolution of government responsibility to schools. • B udget cuts to the central office and negligible resource provision for schools to take on additional responsibilities. • I ncreased administrative workload for school leaders and teachers, taking them away from their core work. Workloads for business managers would also increase. This is despite calls from the AEU to reduce compliance and accountability measures in schools. The AEU has sought for administrative processes to be streamlined, for duplication to be removed and for economies of scale across the system to be strengthened. • S ide-stepping around Enterprise Agreements by establishing unique/ school-based staffing arrangements, classifications/titles, continuous transfer and recruitment of teachers etc. • A ‘divide and conquer’ approach, thereby undermining collective action and union involvement. The evidence shows that school autonomy (particularly in Victoria and Western Australia) has caused irreversible damage to public education and that increased school autonomy does not improve student outcomes. Instead, increased school autonomy fosters

competition between public schools and reduces collaboration across the system.. The AEU-ACT Branch Position on School Autonomy As stated in the AEU-ACT Branch Enterprise Agreement Claim 2011 (Schools Sector Claim 2), endorsed by Branch Council in November 2010, the AEU affirms: That any proposed changes to school autonomy: (a) Must be the subject of broad consultation (in accordance with the current Enterprise Agreement); (b) bring about improvements for staff and students; (c) ensure that ACT public schools operate effectively as a system, (d) Must not jeopardise the ability of the ACT education system to meet the needs of all staff and students and (e) Must not lead to a decrease in funding to individual schools. The Schools Sector Claim also states; That the current Section EE - Teacher Transfer of the Enterprise Agreement be deleted and the AEU and DET negotiate and agree a simpler process that enables all teaching staff to voluntarily apply to transfer to known vacancies within the system or otherwise in their current placement. At June 2011 Branch Council the following additional position was endorsed: That further to the EA Claim the AEU – ACT rejects any form of school autonomy that: [1] decreases funding to schools; [2] increases workloads in schools; [3] discriminates against staff on the basis

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of their pay scale; [4] removes responsibility for student outcomes from the Minister and DirectorGeneral and places it on Principals and their staff. School-Based Management – School Autonomy by another name ACT DET Review of School Based Management (2009) In its submission to the ACT Department of Education’s Review of School Based Management (2009), the AEU made the following points: • P ublic schools in the ACT tend to (already) operate with relative autonomy. • T he AEU hopes that a review of SBM will bring changes that will encourage ACT public schools to work more efficiently and effectively as a system as opposed to operating as individual schools. • O ver the last decade the workload of principals, teachers and office managers has intensified. This is partly due to the further devolution of SBM administrative responsibilities in 1997. The AEU strongly believes that centralisation of a number of responsibilities will allow principals to focus more on educational leadership and for teachers to concentrate on teaching. There is also a need for processes to be streamlined, for duplication to be removed and for economies of scale to be strengthened. The AEU believes that School Based Management funds should be targeted towards meeting the needs of students in each school. This includes ensuring: • A guaranteed minimum number of school leaders to provide educational leadership to all staff (minimum Continued next page


Executive structure must be protected) and adequate resourcing to ensure minimum administrative support. • T argeted funding for English as a Second Language programs. This funding must continue to be protected and the AEU calls for increased ESL funding to meet needs of the increasing number of ESL students in public schools. • p rovision for a minimum teaching staff structure to ensure class sizes are capped at a maximum of 21 students in Preschool to Year 3, and 25 students in Years 4 to 12 (as per AEU policy). • S taffing provision is made in each school to ensure that such programs as Languages and Information Literacy (Teacher Librarian) are guaranteed. The ACT Government’s Response to the DET SBM Review The AEU repeatedly sought access to the School Based Management Review report since its completion in September 2009. Despite this, the Minister refused to make the report public. Finally on 20 May 2010, the Minister released the findings of the review and gave the first glimpse of what he planned, stating: “Principals will get more say over who teaches in their school. Principals will take greater responsibility for the performance of their staff who will in turn take greater responsibility for the performance of their students.... The new system would begin at both the new Gungahlin College and the Kambah School in Tuggeranong from next year.... The new system will move schools to a funding based ‘real world’ accounting system, replacing the current points based staff budgeting system... (which) will increase accountability, making it clearer to everyone involved in managing our education system what is required.” The full SBM Review Report can be found at: www.det.act.gov.au/__data/assets/ pdf_file/0010/191476/2010_SBM_ Review_Report.pdf As a result of the ACT Education Minister’s decision to increase school autonomy, a School Autonomy Reference Group (SARG) was established to discuss the detail behind this initiative. The AEU has representation on this group. Any staffing processes contained within the

current enterprise agreement must be adhered to, until such time as changes, if any, are negotiated within the next agreement. It is important to note that the SBM financial arrangements are not enshrined within any industrial agreement. School Autonomy Trial in 2011 ETD is currently developing a model for school-based staffing and dollar based budgets (as opposed to the current point system) for staffing. There are eight ACT public schools that are trialling different arrangements around staffing and a dollar budget. Although any changes must be negotiated with the AEU in accordance with the current Enterprise Agreement, the department has attempted to implement some changes which are in breach of the Agreement. Consequently the AEU has expressed concerns. As possibly the only ones with an eye on stability within the public education system as a whole and for students, schools and all staff, Branch Council passed the following resolutions: AEU Decisions in Relation to Staffing ACT Public Schools Future Permanent Employment Offers to Pre-service Teachers: [Branch Council decision, June 2011] Council supports in principle the ability to make offers of employment to the ACT public education system to practicum teachers. However, Council cannot endorse the ETD proposal in its current form because it restricts the right of all teachers to apply for transfer to vacant positions as required under Section EE of the current Enterprise Agreement. Filling Classroom Teacher Vacancies Outside the Transfer/Placement Round: [Branch Council decisions, June 2011] Council notes the negotiations with Education and Training Directorate to ensure that the proposed policy document adheres to the requirements of the current Enterprise Agreement. However, given that the policy undermines the stability of educational programs for students during each school year (by enabling continual transfers throughout the year), the AEU rejects this policy as not in the best interests of public education.

School Autonomy [Branch Council decision, 13 August 2011] The AEU ACT has significant concerns with the current and future proposals for school autonomy in the ACT and believes that they do not follow adequate consultation as required by the current Enterprise Agreement. The AEU ACT requires the following issues to be resolved before any further consideration can be made in relation to School Autonomy: • A clear analysis of all aspects of current proposals has been provided for discussion. The AEU does not accept that determining what autonomy means and the objectives to be achieved as implementation programs is an acceptable way to introduce a new initiative or to test its validity. We demand a clear rationale and implementation proposal. • T hat the benefits for positive student outcomes have been clearly demonstrated for the ACT. • T hat the process for recruitment and appointment of staff to these schools is demonstrated to be transparent and fair. • T hat resources for the management of the process have been transferred to schools. • T hat appropriate training has been provided to school based staff for the management of the process. • T hat it can be demonstrated there will not be a deterioration in working conditions for school based staff. • T hat the Minister and Director General indicate they remain fully responsible for everything that happens in schools under the process and will not seek to blame school communities for any negative issues that arise. • E TD has proposed mechanisms that will: [a] m itigate against the incentive under autonomy to employ cheaper, inexperienced teachers [b] E mpower schools with a high number of students with complex needs. • T hat ESL students and IECs are provided with an appropriate level of funding and clear guidelines on how this funding is to be allocated to address the gradual decline that has occurred in this area. Read more about School Autonomy at: www.aeuact.asn.au/news/?news=36

ACT Teacher • Official Journal of the Australian Education Union • PAGE 21


MEMBER

PROFILE AEU Officer Glenn Fowler recently caught up with AEU member Ben Rigg, who came to the ACT from Queensland. Ben teaches at Kingsford Smith School.

I am aware that not all schools possess such things. I would love to see equitable distribution of resources coupled with teacher training that targets mathematics and the sciences. Equity in education is paramount for Australia’s future. We must do everything we can to avoid a school system where the wealthy receive the best opportunities.

Ben, tell us about your pathway into teaching. Before I began teaching I was a practicing artist and taught drawing classes at Brisbane’s Metro Arts. This experience and the lasting memories of several great teachers I had at school and university prompted me to become a school teacher. In 2006 I enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Education at the University of Queensland. I was impressed by ETD representatives who visited to speak about teaching in the ACT, so I decided to move here. How does teaching in Queensland compare to teaching in the ACT? Colleagues and students don’t change too much from one system to another. But the Queensland and ACT systems are very different and can, therefore, influence your teaching. ETD is smaller and more flexible than Education Queensland, which has allowed it to respond more rapidly to changing educational needs including the building of new schools. With a flexible system, fabulous facilities and resources, there is so much you can do to meet the needs of your students. In the ACT there appears to be more opportunity to work closely with expert educators who can guide you in your teaching practice. I have worked closely with Helen Cox, the Executive Officer for Gifted and Talented Education in ETD, in

setting up the G & T program at Kingsford Smith. What are the best things about your current job? I have really enjoyed the challenges of developing the school from its first day in 2009. Being in a new school has afforded me opportunities to shape school direction in a way that may be much harder in an established school. Kingsford Smith School is a dynamic, exciting environment with great teachers and educational leaders. What areas of school education require greater investment by government? What do schools and teachers need? As the world moves from an industrialagricultural economy to an electronic one, great social and political changes are taking place here and across the globe. We are now competing in an international market place that requires new skills and a new outlook on our place in the world. Our students, therefore, need to develop skills that will ensure that they can successfully compete in an international job market. To this effect, Kingsford Smith School has wonderful facilities and resources, but

What does AEU membership mean to you? At an individual level, AEU membership means that someone will give you advice and support when you need it. In a broader context the AEU keeps abreast of important changes and problems facing the education profession as our economic and social structures change, thereby ensuring that we educators can make informed decisions about future directions. The Queensland Teachers Union has even better membership density than that in the ACT (about 96%). Is there anything we could learn from Queensland that could take us to that sort of level? I have not observed the Queensland Teachers’ Union in great detail, as I only taught there for a short time. But I would say that there is a strong culture of union membership in Queensland across many professions and occupations. It just seems to be ingrained in the people, which may account for their greater membership density. I don’t know that the AEU’s ACT Branch could do any more than it already does. I know that it took the old West Moreton Teachers’ Union a very long time to build up its numbers. We need to persevere in advocating for fairness and excellence in education.

PAGE 22 • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • Public Education Voice


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Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 19


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