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ACT EDUCATOR TERM 2

JANE CARO SPEAKS TO OUR NEW EDUCATORS Read her words of advice and find out why she is so passionate about public education

YOUR VERDICT ON NAPLAN AND MY SCHOOL The results are in from our member survey

2018

THERE IS POWER IN AN ACTIVE SUB-BRANCH Learn how to build and strengthen your sub-branch this bargaining year


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

INSIDE ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE | TERM 2 | 2018

ON THE COVER Prue Fabian at our 2018 New Educators Conference. Prue is a science teacher at Namadgi School.

OUR STORIES OUR LOG OF CLAIMS : A CLOSER LOOK 11

IT'S TIME FOR A NEW NAPLAN 28 Dr Les Perelman measures how the NAPLAN essay stacks up against similar international tests.

As we gear up for bargaining the school teachers agreement, we take a closer A UNION BY ANY OTHER NAME... 33 look at some of our claims and why they Teacher Daniel White spent a week in matter so much. the AEU ACT office. Find out how it reshaped his idea of what a union is. BUILDING SUB-BRANCH STRENGTH 14 Learn how to build and strengthen your sub-branch this bargaining year. NEW EDUCATORS CONFERENCE 18 Jane Caro shares some words of advice with our new educators and tells us just why she's so passionate about public education. NAPLAN AND MY SCHOOL SURVEY 24 We asked for your thoughts on NAPLAN and My School, and the results are in. NAPLAN HAS FAILED 26 DISCLAIMER: The assertions and opinions expressed in articles reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the AEU. We do, however, think that these issues are worthy of discussion in our union.

AEU ACT BRANCH

Read our position statement on the current national testing regime.

A WARRIOR FOR HER COLLEAGUES 36 Retired CIT teacher Moir Holmes is awarded AEU Life Membership. WOMEN WITH CENTS 38 We celebrated International Women's Day by building our members' financial empowerment,

THE REGULARS PRESIDENT’S REPORT 5 SECRETARY’S REPORT 6 UPCOMING EVENTS 8 YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED 42


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OUR LOG OF CLAIMS: CLASS SIZES 12

BUILDING SUB-BRANCH STRENGTH 14

NEW EDUCATORS CONFERENCE 18

NAPLAN & MY SCHOOL SURVEY RESULTS 24

AEU ACT BRANCH


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AEU ACT BRANCH

ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE


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PRESIDENT’S REPORT

W

e are now well and truly into the swing of the school year, and as the dust of term one settles, I hope you're able find some time to recharge and prepare yourself for the next round.

As educators and as unionists, we're in for a big and busy year. We'll be bargaining three enterprise agreements simultaneously, and we've recently launched our new school funding campaign, Fair Funding Now – the successor to the I Give a Gonski campaign. I know how difficult it can be for those in our profession to find extra time and energy, but I encourage you to throw your support behind these efforts as much as you can. At all times, but especially at times like this, we should take every opportunity to unwind and celebrate what we do as public educators. Public Education Week is coming up this term from 20-25 May, and there is no better chance than this to do both of those things. Aside from a much-deserved week of recognition for the valuable work we do every day, Public Education Week, of course, also means our annual Public Education Celebratory dinner. This year's dinner will be held at the Hyatt Hotel. It's a wonderful chance to get dressed up (if you are so inclined!) and share a few drinks and laughs with your colleagues. Comedian and actor Denise Scott will be our MC, and we're incredibly lucky to have as our guest speaker this year Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Sally is the 10th elected ACTU Secretary in the organisation’s 90-year history and the first woman to hold the position. Some of you may have heard her address at the National Press Club last month where she spoke of the shameful growing inequality in Australia that drives the Change the Rules campaign, behind which the AEU proudly stands. She's an inspirational figure to many in the union movement, and hearing her speak about the value of public education will no doubt be worth the ticket price alone. It's also the night that we present our Public Education Awards. Nominations are open now for the Public Education Award, the Friend of Public Education Award and the Reconciliation Award. If you know of a deserving colleague, please take the time to nominate them. If you haven't bought your tickets to the dinner yet, contact the AEU office to make sure you don't miss out. It's always a great night out – I look forward to seeing you there.

Angela Burroughs AEU ACT President AEU ACT BRANCH


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SECRETARY’S REPORT

ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

Between Council meetings, decisions are made by our Branch Executive, which meets once a month. Executive has 17 members, one of whom is me, and the rest of whom are rank-and-file members, elected by their fellow members. Meanwhile, sub-branches hold meetings at which members can carry resolutions to be debated at the next Council meeting and resolutions for the Executive to consider. Each of us should congratulate the members who participate in the decision-making forums of our union. They do so in their own time out of a commitment to the common good. They never cease to inspire me. As individuals, it's obvious we won't always agree with every decision made by the majority, but in a democracy, decisions are still made by those who turn up. If you disagree, argue your case, but accept the collective decisions while you enjoy the profound benefits of membership and collective action.

Over the years, I've heard teachers give all sorts of reasons for not being a member of our union. Not one of these reasons is convincing. One of the least valid reasons is that a personal disagreement with the AEU's stance on a particular issue means one simply doesn't join or, sometimes, even resigns their membership. I’ve heard it about our strong position on public school funding. I’ve heard it in the context of the marriage equality debate. I hear it occasionally around the Safe Schools program. I may hear it during the next federal election campaign. In fact, I can envisage hearing it about any number of issues on which multiple viewpoints are likely. The AEU is proudly democratic. Our mission is, in part, to be the most democratic and representative voice of the teaching profession. Our policy positions are not decided by me alone, or by our federal office, or by some small leadership group removed from the membership at large – you, as members, make the decisions. We are a representative democracy. Eight times a year, up to 220 members from around the ACT meet as our elected Branch Council to decide policy and action. A group of elected representatives from each sub-branch, they are the supreme decision-making body of our union. They are teachers, principals, deputy principals, school assistants and CIT teachers - rank-and-file members, at the chalk face, not paid officials. AEU ACT BRANCH

I’ll let you in on a secret: even I don’t agree with all the decisions that are made in our decision-making forums. I'll argue my corner, but at the end of the day, I will accept and implement the democratic decisions of our union. This is what solidarity means. We are larger now than we have ever been; our membership in the ACT stands at over 3,550, and the strength of our numbers has never been more important than in this crucial bargaining year. If you have colleagues who are not AEU members, now is the time to have a conversation with them and assist them in filling out a membership form. I can never accept that people don’t join our union simply because they have never been asked. Growing our union benefits all of us by increasing our power and influence, and it is every member’s business. The best reasons you can give your colleagues as to why they should belong? To have their say, to have an effective professional voice, and to stand alongside us when we win.

Glenn Fowler AEU ACT Secretary @GlennFowlerAEU


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5 THINGS YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT THE TURNBULL PLAN FOR SCHOOLS. 1. PUBLIC SCHOOLS MISS OUT ON VITAL RESOURCES

2018 should have been a year in which teachers and students benefited from the biggest investment of funds in a generation. Instead Malcolm Turnbull has cut planned funding for schools by $2.2 billion in 2018 and 2019. Public schools will bear the brunt of these cuts with a reduction in funding of $1.9 billion. Signed funding agreements with governments in NSW, Tasmania, the ACT, Victoria and South Australia have been torn up. The cuts mean schools across the country will miss out on vital resources that could have been used to improve literacy and numeracy teaching, cut class sizes and support children in danger of falling behind.

2. FUNDING IS NOT NEEDS-BASED Under the Gonski plan, all schools were to be resourced to the national benchmark the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). The vast majority of the funding required to bring schools to that benchmark would have gone to public schools. But the Turnbull plan caps public school funding at 20% of the SRS in 2023, regardless of student need. Private schools will receive 80% of the SRS in 2023.

3. RESOURCING GAPS WILL WIDEN The Turnbull plan to cap public school funding at 20% of the SRS will mean almost 9 out of 10 public schools will still be below that benchmark in 2023. That means the schools will not have the resources

required to fully meet the needs of all students. By contrast, on current estimates, two thirds of private schools will be over the SRS in 2023.

4. FUNDING FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITY WILL BE CUT Under the Turnbull plan, funding for students with disability in public schools in Tasmania, the NT, South Australia and the ACT will be cut in 2018. That is despite the fact almost 9 out of 10 principals say the funding they receive for students with disability is inadequate and they have to shift resources from other areas of their budget to stop thee children missing out. The students with disability cuts are greatest in the NT and Tasmania – the two places where student needs are greatest.

5. PUBLIC SCHOOLS WILL MISS OUT ON FUNDING FOR NEW CLASSROOMS Public school enrolments are rising fast across many areas of the country and new classrooms and learning spaces are urgently required for the new students. There is also a need to upgrade existing facilities and reduce the reliance on portable classrooms. But while the Turnbull plan will deliver $1.9 billion in capital funding for private schools in next decade there is nothing for public schools. This will worsen the inequity in spending on public and private schools. My School figures show that private schools in 2015 were able to spend almost five times more per student on capital works than public schools.

AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

2018 TERM 2 Upcoming Events RSVP at aeuact.org.au/events WEEK 2 BRANCH EXECUTIVE Wednesday 9 May 5.00pm - 8.30pm AEU Office, 40 Brisbane Ave, Barton

WEEK 3 NEW EDUCATOR NETWORK MEETING Wednesday 16 May 4.15pm - 6.00pm Kingston Hotel Function Room BRANCH COUNCIL Saturday 19 May 9.00am - 12.00pm J Block Theatre, CIT Reid

WEEK 4 PUBLIC EDUCATION WEEK Monday 21 - Friday 25 May PUBLIC EDUCATION CELEBRATORY DINNER Friday 25 May 6.30pm - 10.30pm Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

AEU ACT BRANCH

WEEK 5 SCHOOL ASSISTANT NETWORK MEETING Wednesday 30 May 4.15pm - 6.00pm Kingston Hotel Fuction Room

WEEK 7 BRANCH EXECUTIVE Wednesday 13 June 5.00pm - 8.30pm AEU Office, 40 Brisbane Ave, Barton

WEEK 8 BRANCH COUNCIL Saturday 23 June 9.00am - 12.00pm J Block Theatre, CIT


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2018

Public Education

Celebratory Dinner 6.30PM FRIDAY 25 MAY HYATT HOTEL CANBERRA PHONE 6272 7900 TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS $55 FOR AEU MEMBERS $80 FOR GUESTS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR AEU MEMBERSHIP

 With special guest speaker Sally McManus, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and comedian Denise Scott as Master of Ceremonies

AEU ACT BRANCH


Specialists in Federal Workers Compensation Claims

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Slater and Gordon is proud to partner with the AEU ACT Branch

GET IN TOUCH AEU ACT Branch

02 6272 7900

AEU BRANCH to Slater and Gordon forACT a referral

slatergordon.com.au

ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

If something’s happened to you at work, we’ll guide you through the legal process, every step of the way.


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OUR LOG OF CLAIMS: A CLOSER LOOK

SALARIES

A

s we gear up for enterprise bargaining, we will be taking a

closer look at some of the items in our log of claims for the school teaching staff agreement and why they matter. First up is salaries. Teachers' salaries must maintain national competitiveness.

The wage crisis in this country is real. Australians are paying more to see a doctor, more for childcare, more for electricity and gas – and wage increases are not keeping up. Over the last year, the price of electricity has increased 520% faster than wage growth. With the minimum wage in Australia slipping rapidly down the OECD rankings, and employers signing half as many agreements with employees as three years ago, there is no question that without change, the future is bleak. When agreements are being negotiated, they are resulting in an average wage increase of just 2.2%. In the private sector, newly approved agreements have hit a 25 year low of 2.4%, significantly below the 3.5% wage increase negotiated between employers and workers in September 2014. The government has predicted inflation will rise from 1.9% to 2.25% by next year, which could leave some workers with a pay cut in real terms. Educators are still at the top end of the scale when it comes to pay increases. This doesn't happen by accident. Across the country, our union fights for these increases to ensure educators are paid fairly and at a rate that reflects the invaluable work they do.

In 2011, ACT public school teachers waged a committed campaign that resulted in our top-of-the scale teachers moving from the worst paid of the eight Australian jurisdictions to the third best paid. Through bargaining in 2014, our union was able to maintain our position at Number 3 at the start of the current agreement. We must accept nothing less than the maintenance of the Number 3 position in the new agreement. In fact, we should be aiming higher Last year, after long and difficult negotiations, Victorian teachers won a pay rise of 13% over four years. Data suggests that this result has heavily influenced agreements negotiated in other sectors across Victoria, so that workers there are more likely to get a pay rise than anywhere else in the country. This trend demonstrates just why it so important for us to fight for these conditions, not just for ourselves, but for our fellow Australians. We take very seriously our responsibility, on behalf of all Australian workers, to fight for a fair share of the pie, and particularly for educators, who are perennially undervalued. We will explore all of our options to ensure we get the highest possible increase in salaries.

AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

OUR LOG OF CLAIMS: A CLOSER LOOK

CLASS SIZES

I

t's a perennial debate in education: class sizes and their impact on student

learning and outcomes. It seems an advocate with a conclusion in search of a study can surely find one to make their own case. The problem is the studies are of varying quality and often examine very different outcomes for different populations.

We've looked again at the evidence, with particular interest in applying it to what we do in Canberra. There is now conclusive evidence of the lasting effects of small classes in the early years, at least preschool to Year 3. The very latest analysis of research, published in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis late last year, confirms that low child–teacher ratios lead to better outcomes in classrooms by “facilitating high quality interactions between teachers, both those that are emotionally supportive and cognitively stimulating.” The international study found that “regulations that hold class sizes at or below 20 and child– teacher ratios at or below 10:1 are largely adequate for most children.” In fact, longitudinal research shows classes as small as 15 students would optimise long term benefits for students right up to Year 12. The ACT Education Directorate is to be commended for its policy to reduce class sizes to a maximum of 21 or 22 students in preschool to Year 3 classes. The problem is the government doesn’t insist on compliance until we raise it. Too many Year 3

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classes have more students than the funded maximum of 21. The most common composite classes include Years 3 and 4. Those classes are often too big for optimal results. Small class sizes, particularly in the first few years, can have a huge academic benefit with little additional cost. It needn’t require more teachers as classes can be divided up for specialist learning in key areas, numeracy and literacy. Ahead of fresh negotiations on firming up a new three year enterprise agreement, the AEU will argue for a firmer and enforced policy. The AEU's class size maximums should be inserted into our Enterprise Agreement. Respected education expert Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger concludes that on average, students who attend schools with smaller classes “tend to have higher academic achievement”. He notes that the relationship between class size and achievement is not as robust as, for example, the relationship between years of education and earnings. “But this is probably because relatively small gains in test scores from smaller classes


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translate into positive benefit-cost differentials.” He writes that “private schools often provide smaller classes than public schools so presumably parents feel they benefit from the extra expenditure. There must be a great deal of irrationality if smaller classes convey no benefits.” (Many teachers and parents also understand that there are benefits beyond academic outcomes. Education is about more than cognitive progress but is also about personal and social development.) The very latest study on primary years (elementary years in the U.S. system) has found lowering class sizes in California resulted in greater learning gains than previously thought. Economists at Duke, New York University and the University of Toronto (in work published by the National

Bureau of Economic Research in January) found students not only learnt better in smaller groups, but also benefited from the migration of new classmates who were drawn in from area private schools by the promise of a lower student-teacher ratio. California was inspired by Tennessee’s enormously influential Project STAR, which bolstered academic achievement in the state by reducing class sizes in the lower grades. What’s also clear is that economically disadvantaged and minority students gain the most from class size reductions. Monash University’s David Zyngier has distilled the research and found improvement is more than double that of other students. Zyngier also found the longer students are in smaller classes, the greater the benefits.

As the ACT Government reviews the education system (and we anticipate the results of the tackily-named ‘Gonski 2.0’ review at the federal level), it’s surely time we took the issue more seriously. We must mandate at least the selective and targeted use of class size reductions in the older years, combined with other programs that may bring similar or larger improvements in student performance including additional resources for teachers and for students with learning difficulties. Minister Yvette Berry is aware of the challenges of rising inequality in the territory and is determined to act. We have a rare window to either get things done or waste another decade paying lipservice to the notion of student equity and what it is proven to do for excellence.

AEU ACT BRANCH


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

THERE IS POWER IN AN ACTIVE SUB-BRANCH

W

e asked our members and Organisers for their

tips on keeping the AEU alive and well at their school. We’ve assembled their

2018 is a big year for our union. In February, Council endorsed our final log of claims, which we have served on the employer. A bargaining year presents unique opportunities for developing the engagement of our members and demonstrating to potential members the benefits of joining our union.

suggestions here as a guide for Welcoming new faces sub-branches in keeping our Since the start of the new year, members informed and strong as we prepare to sit down at the bargaining table.

RIGHT IMAGE:

Lyneham Primary Sub-Branch on one of their 'AEU Shirt Fridays'.

AEU ACT BRANCH

there has no doubt been an influx of new staff at your school. Many of them will likely be AEU members already, however we also know that each year sees new teachers join the profession and a significant number move to the ACT from interstate. Nick Maniatis, president of the Campbell High Sub-Branch, recognises that the start of the school year is a timely opportunity to take stock of who is and isn’t a member of the sub-branch. “Approaching new staff

allows the sub-branch to quickly identify who was a member at a previous school, or who we need to have conversations with about joining. I try to approach my union work from an advocacy and knowledge access perspective, thus, it’s important to approach new staff as an AEU member so they know who they can talk to if they need any support. "When I talk with new starters at the school, I always have a membership form in hand as it has a great summary of membership benefits! I focus on a few items that are directly relevant to their work, such as journey cover insurance, as well as current events such as collective bargaining or national campaigns.” Inviting potential members to join the AEU The number one reason that people don’t join their union is because they haven’t been asked. Almost every week our membership grows, and this is due in no


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small part to efforts of our members in extending the invitation to potential members to join the AEU. Starting the conversation can sometimes be the tricky part; in a bargaining year, our enterprise bargaining claim can be a great way to start this conversation. However, as Sarah Warren from Florey Primary points out, there are almost endless reasons for potential members to get on board. “I tell people our union is responsible for advocating for us as people working in public education and improving our conditions so that things are better. I make it clear that we cover teachers, school leaders and school assistants to correct the impression that we are exclusively the 'teachers union'. Being part of the AEU has different levels of involvement (sub-branches, Executive, Branch Council, AEU office staff, events, training, etc) and people can be as involved as they are comfortable with. I’m also careful to point out that the AEU has no

political affiliations - our AEU fees work to support an office and a movement that advocate on our behalf and enrich our profession." Keeping members up to date There are a couple of straightforward things that can be done at your school to keep members in the know about what is happening in their union. Noticeboards are a simple way to way to make the union visible in your workplace and keep members abreast of upcoming events and AEU developments. When asked about what makes for an effective noticeboard, Malisa Lengyel, AEU Organiser for schools on the southside, shared her observations. “In my experience, the noticeboards in schools that are most eye-catching are the ones that are current and well populated. Our office now provides noticeboard headers that clearly mark out AEU noticeboard space and we

routinely produce flyers, materials and updates that we deliver to schools. Other items that are common to see are membership forms, extracts from the ACT Educator, select sections from our agreement and, this being a bargaining year, copies of our final claim. "One school I’ve visited posts weekly media articles that are of particular interest to the membership at that site. In these cases, it usually means that there is one person in the school who has taken on the role of keeping members updated. It makes a real difference.” Sub-branch meetings are another useful vehicle for keeping members informed. As the Organiser for schools in the north, Sean van der Heide attends a variety of sub-branch meetings across different schools. “I think the key is to have a clear purpose for any meeting you hold," he says. "Provide an agenda ahead of

AEU ACT BRANCH


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time and limit the number of items you hope to get through one to three items per meeting is more than enough. Meetings don’t have to be held for the same reason each time. Feedback from Council, passing a motion, discussing developments in enterprise bargaining - all of these can be good reasons for getting members of your sub-branch together. "I’ve attended some gatherings that put on morning or afternoon tea to build some

ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

interest in the meeting and make it more of a celebratory affair. Of course, as Organisers we are always on hand to attend sub-branch meetings or morning teas to present updates, such as developments in bargaining.” Celebrate the AEU in your subbranch Lyneham Primary Sub-Branchhas a mission this year: they aim to have every teacher in their school be a member of their union. One of the ways they are trying to achieve this is by raising the profile of the AEU in their workplace.

Mitch Bartholomew is the new Sub-Branch President at Lyneham Primary and tells us, “Every Friday we encourage all our AEU members to wear their AEU shirts. We call it ‘AEU shirt Fridays’. It’s a sign of commitment amongst the sub-branch and instils a feeling of unity - that we’re in this together. It also demonstrates to other staff and members of the community that we’re passionate about our profession. "The number of staff wearing AEU shirts has quickly risen this term, from three or four at the beginning of the year, to as many as 12-13 currently. Staff want to participate and be part of something bigger than their classroom. But the major outcome has been membership. We’ve had three more staff join the AEU because of our ‘AEU shirt Fridays’ which puts us a step closer to reaching our target of 100% teacher membership.” Fill sub-branch positions Even though the official nomination deadlines have passed, there may still be vacant positions in your school. If you’re interested in becoming more involved and helping grow our union and build engagement in your sub-branch, its not too late to step up! Talk to your subbranch president to find out if there are any positions still available, or how else you might get involved. These are just some suggestions for keeping our union strong and on the agenda while we bargain for our pay and conditions. If you have any ideas that you use in your sub-branch to build our union, we’d love to hear from you! Send your suggestions to aeuact@aeuact.org.au.

AEU ACT BRANCH


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If you are injured at work – some practical tips It’s always a scary thing when someone is injured at work or suffers from a condition, psychological or otherwise, because of work. Unfortunately, what can sometimes feel even scarier is deciding whether to make a claim for workers’ compensation. It’s the Australian way to simply “get on with it” but such an approach can unfortunately do more harm than good. Therefore, here are just a few of my tips to ensuring you protect yourself as much as possible:

TIP 1: Even if you do not wish to pursue a claim for workers’ compensation when you are injured, you should always report your injury to your manager immediately and fill out an incident report. Sometimes managers will wish to fill out the form on your behalf. While that is kind, only you know how you were injured and by allowing the form to be filled out on your behalf, you can invite an incorrect description of the cause of your injury to plague you. Further, even if an injury only seems minor at the time, it can unfortunately develop into something much more serious over time. By reporting your injury and lodging an incident report as soon as possible, you are protecting yourself for the future.

TIP 2: Seek medical treatment as soon as possible after an injury. Many a claim has been denied because the injured worker only sought treatment from their doctor days or weeks after the injury. Contemporaneous medical evidence is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that can be used to substantiate your injury if you make a claim for workers’ compensation. You should report to your doctor how your injury came about, your symptoms and ask the doctor to provide you with a diagnosis of your injury. Don’t forget to obtain a medical certificate with this information.

Abe Ghaleb TIP 3: Particularly with psychological injuries the workers’ compensation insurer will often ask an injured worker to provide a detailed statement explaining how their injury came about. While such a request can appear innocuous, your statement should not be used to air every grievance you have ever suffered in your employment. Rather, it is important to keep your statement clear, concise and focused on the specific incidents which caused your injury. This is because most workers’ compensation schemes (for example Comcare) have exclusionary provisions within which allows the insurer to deny liability for an injury if they arise as a result of a reasonable management action (for example, if the employee was formally or informally counselled, or if the employee failed to obtain or retain a “benefit”). By raising every issue ever experienced in your employment without proper consideration of what has actually caused your injury, it gives the insurer more ammunition to deny your claim.

Associate Comcare Practice Group Slater and Gordon Lawyers

TIP 4: Workers’ compensation insurers don’t always know what they’re doing. Or perhaps, it might be more accurate to say they know exactly what they’re doing. If your workers’ compensation claim is denied it doesn’t mean you don’t have a claim. If you are injured at work you should always make a claim for workers’ compensation. While it is hoped you never need the assistance of a lawyer, you should remember that we are here to help you. Please contact the Union about getting a referral to Slater and Gordon if you need our assistance or if you want to ensure you are receiving the AEU ACT BRANCH correct benefits.


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

PUBLIC EDUCATION: KEEPING DEMOCRACY ALIVE Jane Caro Social commentator and public education advocate

A

t our New Educators Conference earlier this month, we were

delighted to have Jane Caro deliver the opening keynote address. An author, social commentator and staunch advocate for public education, Jane shared some words of advice and encouragement, and told us just why she is so passionate about the work you do as public educators.

AEU ACT BRANCH

I’m going to start by telling you, I am not a teacher. I have never been a teacher. So you will be delighted to hear that, almost alone amongst the non-teachers in Australia, I’m not going to tell you what you should do in your classrooms, or what you should teach, or what you should add to the curriculum, or what you should not teach or how you should teach it – I have a very, very old-fashioned

attitude: I regard you as experts at your job. You are new educators. You thought to yourself, I’ll be a teacher. I’ll have young people and children to educate, and nothing could be more exciting than opening up young minds to the world and helping them to learn how to learn, think critically, ask questions and skill themselves up so that they can be ontributing citizens of Australia.


19 If any of you thought you were doing it for the holidays, you won’t last long, but certainly none of you are doing it for the money, we know that. So usually there’s an idealistic basis – a sense of vocation, a sense of wanting to do something that matters and makes a difference. When people decide they’re going to go into corporate law, they tend not to have any idealistic drive or vision; that’s why so many of them are so unhappy and, interestingly enough, often become teachers later in life. They do a Masters of Teaching in despair, because they’re sick of spending all their time making rich people richer. People look for meaning.

We need educated voters. So the principle of public education is nothing at all to do with creating worker bees for the military-industrial complex. It is, in fact, about making democracy robust, strong, rational and evidence-based, by making the citizenry educated.

I want to tell you why I’m passionate about public education, why it really matters to me. And I want to go back to when public education was established all over the world, in what was basically an outgrowth of the growth of democracy.

Religious organisations have run schools for some time. But the truth of it is, very few people got an education. And when people lord private education as something special, they know nothing of history, they know nothing of democracy, and clearly went to a private school, because if they’d gone to a public school, they’d be much better educated.

Way back when the UK, of which we were then a dominion, decided that basically every (male) citizen could vote, Prime Minister Lord Palmerston said, "In that case, we will have to educate our masters." What he meant was, if everybody’s going to get a say in how the country is run, then we need an educated citizenry.

Education existed before there was universal, secular, free and compulsory education for every child, paid for by the taxpayer. Private education is the easiest thing in the world to provide, and it’s been provided ever since kings and noblemen could hire a tutor or teacher of some kind for their sons (it was usually their sons).

Because it is the easiest thing in the world to create a highlyeducated elite. Every tin-pot dictatorship creates a highlyeducated elite. That is no kind of a goal. What is difficult, and what is the mark of a civilised society, is a highly-educated

general population. And that is what you’ve signed up to do. Private education does not, and has never, shouldered the responsibility for the education of all children regardless of who their parents are. There is a huge difference – and I’m putting my marketing hat on here - between the ‘customers’ or ‘target audience’ of public schools and those of private schools. Public schools are primarily about children. That’s not because they’re 'nicer'. That’s because they have a legal obligation. Every single child in Australia has a right to a place in their local public school, in their own right, as a citizen or resident of Australia. It is virtually the only right that every child has: a right to a place in their local public school. That is why the children are the focus of public education. Because they are who you are created to serve. No child has a right to attend a private school. They either gain that right through their parents’ ability or willingness to pay fees, or they may gain it by passing some exam, or having some special talent the school wants. Private schools, therefore, have their focus and concentration not on the children who attend the school. It’s on the parents of those children. It must be. That’s

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20 just sheer marketing. It’s the parents who make the decisions, who sign the cheques, who donate to the sinking fund – it’s the parents who must be pleased and catered to. This is something for you to be proud of. You are educators in the system which is about children and young people. The great thing about that is that it actually increases your skills. It’s not easy to just get rid of a child from a public school. If children have disadvantages of any kind – behavioural, psychological, emotional – public schools have to stick with them. And that’s how you learn to be a really good teacher. Because it’s easy to teach the well-behaved. It’s easy to teach the motivated. It’s easy to teach the ones that come from families with high social capital and lots of books in the house. That’s downhill racing with the wind behind you and a motor on the back of your skis. Where you get your skills is in having to struggle with the kids who don’t have those advantages. Who are harder to teach. Who do need more input, do need more of your time and more of your devotion. And by the end of it, that’s why you will be more accomplished teachers. You’re giving yourself a greater test. However, I don’t think every child in a private school is a goody two-shoes. I don't think that because I live on the lower north shore of Sydney, where virtually all my friends except me sent their kids to ridiculously expensive private schools. We sent ours to local public schools from kindergarten to Year 12. It was ok in kindergarten – that was regarded as only mildly neglectful. But a RIGHT IMAGE:

Glenn takes the requisite selfie with Jane: "If it's not on social media, it didn't happen."

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE public high school? Basically, you were condemning them to a life of crime, drug addiction and, if they were girls, prostitution. Apparently they're the choices for graduates from public education. Occasionally, along the way, my daughters went out with boys who went to some of these very posh schools, so I'd get a bit of an insight into just how much of a goody two-shoes their boyfriends were. And the answer was: not at all. In fact, some of them were a really, seriously bad influence, despite the money being thrown at their education by their desperate parents. My daughters are now 29 and 26. If you lined them up now next to the children of those friends who spent $30,000 a year sending them to high-fee schools and tried to pick out which ones went to private school and which went to public, you couldn't. There is no bloody difference. They're just kids; some of them are doing well, some of them are

could think, "She's a bad mother!" There's a reason these parents think this way. No-one likes to feel they've been conned. When you hear rumours about the school in which you teach, always remember: if the negative talk is from people who don't send their children to your school, but send them to a feecharging school, there's a really solid reason why they have to say your school is inferior. If you're spending thousands of dollars a year for something you could get for virtually nothing down the road, then you have to say the school down the road is absolutely ghastly, otherwise what kind of an idiot are you? It's worth pointing this out to people. The talk about public education in our community, particularly by people who don't choose it, is self-serving. It is to justify what they're doing. And it is very damaging, and has been damaging to the children you are teaching.

The talk about public education in our community, particularly by people who don't choose it, is selfserving. doing not so well. That's right across the board. I sometimes wonder, what did my friends get for the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent? You know how you sometimes see those cars with little stickers on the back that say, 'Riverview Mum'? Sometimes I think that's what they got. The world's most expensive bumper sticker. And bragging rights at dinner parties. They could sit next to me and when they heard where my children went to school, they

One of my daughters is now in her eighth year of teaching. When I asked her what advice she thought I should pass on to you, here's what she said. "Pace yourself. Don't be hard on yourself. You're learning, and that's perfectly fine. Turn to your more senior colleagues for advice, help and support. Teaching is an incredibly emotionally demanding job. It asks of you not just your brains, not just your physical energy, but your heart and your soul. There's


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always more work you could be doing and that feeling can keep you awake if you let it." We live in a world now which tries to tell teachers they are derelict in their duty if they don't go the little bit extra for every child in their care. But the thing is, you're human beings. You need to relax; you need to turn off from your workplace; you need to sleep; you need to look after your own health and your own safety. And sometimes that may mean you need to prioritise your needs ahead of your students' needs. It's the same lesson that feminism keeps trying to teach women about parenting: you are a better mother if sometimes you are a 'selfish' mother, because it means you have more energy when you return to the task of mothering. Same with teachers. You are a better teacher if sometimes you are a 'selfish' teacher, because you have more energy when you return to the task of teaching. It is not about turning yourself into martyrs. You should be proud of working in public education. You are keeping our democracy strong and alive. You are the reason it continues to operate. Lose

teachers in public schools, and we lose our democracy. The two things are indivisible. This is missed by many of our politicians; they seem to believe democracy is about freedom to choose in the market. That is not what democracy is. That may be part of what democracy is, but to reduce it to that is to reduce it to some sort of economic commodity, and it's bigger than that.

account, and to be critical of authority, whereas private schools teach students to be the authority.

Choosing to be teachers in public schools means that you have a vision about how the world could be bigger than just an economy. You see that it is a community, a society, and that, to some extent, we all have a responsibility towards one another if we want this society to operate as effectively as it can.

Once when I was on Q&A, a young man got up and asked the panel, "I'm a young person about to go out into the world. What do you think the most important thing I could do for my community would be?" I told him to become a public school teacher. There is no more worthwhile thing you could do than to open up young minds to the world of culture, education, thought, ideas, and debate.

I think your job in terms of what society wants from you, is to turn out people who can think. Who know how to think. How to find out, how to learn, how to be curious, how to ask questions, how to hold authority to account. Somebody asked me the other day, "Why do our politicians seem to hate public education so much?" I said it's because public education teaches its students to ask questions and hold authority to

It's much more vital to a robust democracy that we have people who will question. Who will not just accept what they are told by the powerful. That way lies autocracy, theocracy, totalitarianism, and deep danger for all sorts of people.

Be assured there are a whole lot of young people out there who will be affected by the work you do. I congratulate you on your choice. This is an edited version of the address delivered by Jane Caro at our New Educators Conference.

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

NEW EDUCATORS CONFERENCE:

A NEW TEACHER'S SURVIVAL GUIDE Prue Fabian Teacher, Namadgi School, and new educator

N

ew Educators Conference attendee Prue Fabian told us what she

gained from this year's event. If you're eligible to come along next year, make a note in your diary now!

If you are a new educator, you will no doubt have felt at some point that you are drowning in marking and lesson planning. If you're anything like me, you're probably consuming way more than the daily recommended amount of coffee to counterbalance your lack of sleep. If you have experienced this, I would highly recommend that you attend the next AEU New Educators Conference. It is a wonderful opportunity to network and meet new people people who understand what it’s like to be a new educator. The conference is a new teacher’s survival guide. Experts and experienced teachers share advice and tips in a range of sessions designed to help you get through the first few years of your teaching career.

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You'll learn ways to ensure you care for yourself and avoid burnout and how to protect yourself from occupational violence. The union's Industrial Team will also help you to understand your rights and entitlements as a classroom teacher. There are so many protections in place designed to look out for us that as new educators we may not be aware of. Importantly, it's also a great chance to find out more about the AEU, what they do, and how you can be involved. This conference’s sole goal is to help you survive and succeed as a teacher, so don’t miss your opportunity to gain some great advice from those who have been there before.


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

NAPLAN HAS FAILED

T

he results of our member survey say it loud and clear. Educators

see NAPLAN as, at best, a failure, and at worst, harmful. The following is a position statement on the current national testing regime, as endorsed by the AEU's Federal Executive.

A generation of proliferating mass basic skills testing has failed. It has narrowed the taught curriculum; it has corresponded to an inexorable decline in outcomes across the performance spectrum. It has failed the nation. Most grievously, it has undermined the quality, depth and breadth of education that students experience and it has thereby limited their capacities and futures. The NAPLAN testing regime has failed to lift national performance as measured by global tests; it has failed to enrich the quality of teaching practice; it has narrowed the range and depth of what is taught in the nation’s classrooms; it has caused a culture of shaming vulnerable children and communities with a profound human cost; it has led to a decline in the educational experience of school children in the creative, performing and imaginative arts and in parts of the curriculum that are intangible and immeasurable but vital to the human and ethical development of young people. NAPLAN has failed by every criterion that it has set itself. The current approaches to this type of assessment and testing must be replaced.

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Assessment and testing must remain as a central though proportional element of education policy and practice. As educators, we have an obligation to assess the progress of existing programs and practices. As a public system, we also have a unique obligation to locate areas of greatest need and to devote resourcing and support to where the challenges are great. A better way A new approach to assessment and testing needs to be developed as a matter of urgency. Such an approach needs to incorporate the following processes and principles: • Respect for the privacy of children and school communities at a time when privacy is emerging as a fundamental concern and human right both nationally and across the globe; • Alignment of testing and assessment processes with high quality syllabus and curriculum development and what is consequently taught in classrooms; • Consistent provision for differentiation in system-wide testing and assessment so that the full range of capacities can be closely developed, monitored


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and supported so that students can demonstrate what they know, what they understand and what they can do;

• Teachers are to be deeply involved in developing and reviewing curriculum and assessment at all levels;

• Allowing for schools to request the specific, diverse and culturally appropriate assessment profiles in testing items to correspond to the needs of students within a particular school and the teaching programs and differentiation that have been developed to respond to these needs and capacities. Banks of assessment items, based on the relevant mandatory syllabus and curriculum documents, should be centrally and continuously developed and schools can then draw from the range of these to match the nature of their local school and student profile;

• Teachers actively write, mark and moderate assessments throughout stages of schooling.

• Establishing an appropriate system-wide balance between costs allocated to identifying and addressing student need. Governments and education departments have become more and more preoccupied with allocating funding, personnel and resources to the external testing of student achievement, and the collection and analysis of the resultant data, at the expense of investing in direct teaching and learning support to meet student needs. This imbalance must be corrected so that a minimal proportion of funding is allocated to assessing student needs and the maximum proportion is allocated to remedying these needs. All system level testing must be true to its original stated purpose of being diagnostic. The diagnosis should reasonably attract a small proportion of the investment. The remedies should attract the great bulk of the investment; • Teacher professional judgement of student learning be systemically restored;

NAPLAN Online Conditions do not yet exist for a move to mass online assessment systems including NAPLAN Online. There are major professional concerns about its inequity, the unequal technical capacities of schools, the self-serving goals of edu-businesses in the entire continuum of such processes, the prospect of exacerbating inequality in outcomes and reinforcing privilege and the uncertainty in the uses of the data being collected. NAPLAN Online is opposed and will be resisted. Computer robot marking of student writing Computer robot marking of creative and extended prose is totally unacceptable. It reinforces a tendency towards mediocrity by favouring the narrow and low-grade assessment items that a computer can handle. It diminishes the deeply human basis of the teacher-student relationship. It is based on a deceitful proposition that robots can adequately assess the full range of student performance in assessments. Algorithms do not exist to appreciate the deeply rich and personal capacities that higher forms of human expression entail. The academic research of Dr Les Perelman, a world leader in the assessment of writing, confirms that robot marking of student writing should not be implemented.

Diagnosis in the true sense The current modish obsession with “evidence” in the form of data needs to be replaced by a more sophisticated understanding of what truly constitutes evidence in education. Data is one, relatively low grade, element in evaluating student progress and refining teaching programs but it is only useful in context when deployed with respect for teacher judgement. As the leading research indicates, data collection on its own is of relatively minor efficacy. Diagnostic tests should return to being just that – private assessments of the progress of various groups of students to determine their growth against professionally set objectives. They need to reflect the differentiated teaching programs that the profession has been encouraged to develop for most of this century and to accordingly have differentiated content and levels of intellectual demand. Diagnosis and testing for credentialing or the achievement of 'targets' are quite distinct and often contrary processes. Diagnostic tests are completely inappropriate for establishing some form of 'pre-qualifying' for the award of a credential on the completion of secondary education. Whilst the establishment of a 'minimum standard' has appeal as an equity measure to ensure all students in need attract sustained, systemlevel support in order that they can have the skills to thrive in their years beyond schooling, the actual time to qualify for a credential should be within the coursework and assessment and testing processes associated with that credential.

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IT'S TIME FOR A NEW NAPLAN Les Perelman, Ph.D.

I

n a new report commissioned Achievement tests have beby the NSW Teachers Federation on behalf of the

teaching profession, internationally-renowned expert Dr Les Perelman has found that that the NAPLAN writing test is, "By far the most absurd and the least valid of any test that I have seen". In this excerpt from his report, Dr Perelman measures how the NAPLAN writing task stacks up against comparable tests around the world.

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come an almost universal feature of primary and secondary education in industrialised countries. Such assessments, however, always need to be periodically reassessed to examine whether they are measuring the relevant abilities and whether the results of the assessment are being used appropriately. Most importantly, the assessments must themselves be assessed to ensure they are supporting the targeted educational objectives. Contemporary concepts of validity are considered as simultaneous arguments involving the interpretation of construct validity, content validity, and external validity, along with arguments involving fairness and appropriateness of use.

As points of comparison, the examination of six different writing tests from the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom produced observations directly relevant to an evaluation of the NAPLAN essay: • The majority of tests, and all the tests specifically for primary and secondary schools, are developed, administered, and refined within the context of publicly available framework and specification documents. These documents articulate, often in great detail, the specific educational constructs being assessed and exactly how they will be measured. They are not only an essential tool for any assessment design but also their publi-


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cation is vital for the transparency and accountability necessary for any testing organisation. • In some cases, these documents are produced with collective input from stakeholders and academic specialists in the specific disciplines. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) writing assessments made use of large panels of teachers, administrators, parents, elected officials, and academic experts. • Several of the tests unreservedly mix reading and writing. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium reading test incorporates short-answer writing (constructed response). The texts in the reading exercise form part of the prompt for the long essay, and the short written answers to the reading questions serve as prewriting exercises. Integrating writing and reading in assessments makes sense. Children acquire language through exposure to speech. Eventually, reception leads to production. Although writing is a technology that is only approximately 6000 years old, it is an analogue to speech, albeit not a perfect one. Indeed, students will have extreme difficulty writing in a genre if they have not read pieces in that same genre.

• Writing tasks are designed and employed for specific classes or years. With the exception of NAPLAN, I know of no other large-scale writing assessment that attempts to employ a single prompt for different age groups. • Similarly, most tests tailor their marking rubrics for different classes or years. For example, the scoring rubrics for Grades 4 and 7 in British Columbia’s Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA), displayed in Appendix D (see online report), vary significantly, consistently expecting a higher level of performance from the higher grade. • Informative writing, in addition to narrative and persuasive writing, is a common genre in school writing assessments. Much of the

writing students will do in school and then in higher education and in the workforce will be informative writing. • Several of the assessments explicitly define an audience and, often, a genre as part of the writing task. One prompt from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments asks students to write a letter to the school principal on a specific issue. A Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium informative writing task for Grade 6 students asks the student to write an informative article on sleep and naps (the topics of the reading questions) for the school newspaper that will be read by parents, teachers, and other students. • All of the other assessments that employ

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multi-trait scoring use the same or similar scales for all traits. Moreover, they all employ significantly fewer trait categories. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium employs three scales: two are 1-4, and the Conventions scale is 0-2. British Columbia’s Foundation Skills Assessment uses five scales, all 1-4. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) has three 1-4 scales that are not summed, and UK tests such as A and AS Levels have multiple traits, usually four to six, that are always scored on scales that are multiples of 1-5 levels. • Most of the assessments, and all of the assessments that focused on the primary and secondary years/grades, allowed students access to dictionaries and, in some cases, grammar checkers or thesauri. Some of the assessments are now on networked computers or tablets that include standard word processing applications with spell-checkers or dictionaries and other tools for writing. Comparison of other Anglophone governmental and non-government organisation essay tests along with an analysis of the NAPLAN essay demonstrate that the NAPLAN essay is defective in its design and execution. • There is a complete lack of transparency in the development of the NAPLAN essay and grading criteria. There is no publicly available docu-

ment that presents the rationale for the 10 specific criteria used in marking the NAPLAN essay and the assignment of their relative weights. This lack of transparency is also evident in the failure of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to include other stakeholders, such as teachers, local administrators, parents, professional writers, and others in the formulation, design, and evaluation of the essay and its marking criteria. • Informative writing is not assessed although explicitly included in the writing objectives of the Australian Curriculum. Informative writing is probably the most common and most important genre in both academic and professional writing. Because that which is tested is that which is taught, not testing informative writing devalues it in the overall curriculum. • Ten marking criteria with different scales are too many and too confusing, causing high-level attributes such as ideas, argumentation, audience, and development to blend into each other even though they are marked separately. Given the number of markers and time allotted for marking approximately one million scripts, a very rough estimation would be that, on average, a marker would mark 10 scripts per hour, or one every six minutes (360 seconds). If we estimate that, on average, a marker takes one-and-a-half minutes (90

seconds) to read a script, that leaves 270 seconds for the marker to make 10 decisions, or 27 seconds per mark on four different scales. It is inconceivable that markers will consistently and accurately make 10 independent decisions in such a short time. • The weighting of 10 scales appears to be arbitrary. The 10 traits are marked on four different scales, 0-3 to 0-6, and then totalled to compute a composite score. Curiously, the category Ideas is given a maximum of 5 marks while Spelling is given a maximum of 6. •

There is too much emphasis on spelling, punctuation, paragraphing and grammar at the expense of higher order writing issues. While mastery of these skills is important, the essential function of writing is the communication of information and ideas.

The calculation of the spelling mark, in particular, may be unique in Anglophone testing. It is as concerned with the presence and correct spelling of limited sets of words defined as Difficult and Challenging as it is with the absence of misspelled words. Markers are given a Spelling reference list categorising approximately 1000 words as Simple, Common, Difficult, and Challenging. The scale for the spelling criterion is 0-6. A script containing

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

no conventional spelling scores a 0, with correct spelling of most simple words and some common words yielding a mark of 2. To attain a mark of 6, a student must: spell all words correctly; and include at least 10 Difficult words and some Challenging words or at least 15 Difficult words. 8 Towards a New NAPLAN: Testing to the Teaching • The NAPLAN grading scheme emphasises and virtually requires the five-paragraph essay form. Although the five-paragraph essay is a useful form for emerging writers, it is extremely restrictive and formulaic. Most arguments do not have three and only three supporting assertions. More mature writers such as those in Year 7 and Year 9 should be encouraged to break out of this form. The only real advantage of requiring the five-paragraph essay form for large-scale testing appears to be that it helps to ensure rapid marking. • Although “audience” is a criterion for marking, no audience is defined in the writing prompt. There is a significant difference between a generic reader and a specific audience, a distinction that the current NAPLAN essay ignores but is essential for effective writing. • Specificity in marking rubrics on issues of length and conventions not only skews the test towards low-level

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skills, it also makes the test developmentally inappropriate for lower years or stages. Several of the marking criteria specify at least one full page as “sustained writing” or “sustained use” necessary for higher marks. It is unrealistic to expect most Year 3 students to produce a full page of prose in 40 minutes. • The supplementary material provided to markers on argument, text and sentence structure, and other issues is trivial at best and incorrect at worst. It should to be redone entirely as part of the redesign of the NAPLAN essay. Markers should be surveyed to discover what information would be most useful to them. • The 40 minutes students have to plan, write, revise and edit precludes any significant planning (prewriting) or revision, two crucial stages of the writing process. In summary, the NAPLAN essay fails to be a valid measure of any serious formulation of writing ability, especially within the context of its current uses. Indeed, NAPLAN’s focus on low-level mechanical skills, trivialisation of thought, and its overall disjunction from authentic constructs of writing may be partially responsible for declining scores in international tests. There should be an impartial review of NAPLAN,

commencing with special attention being paid to the writing essay, leading to a fundamental redesign of the essay and the reconsideration of its uses. Such a review should also consider the way in which NAPLAN is administered and marked, its current disconnection to a rich curriculum and the specific and diverse teaching programs that children experience in classrooms. Such a review should be an inclusive process encompassing all elements of the educational and academic communities with the key focus areas identifying the particular needs of students, how they have progressed in their class with the programs they are experiencing and how systems, jurisdictions and the nation can further support their intellectual growth and futures. A principal emphasis in this review should be to promote alignment of the curriculum, classroom pedagogy, and all forms of assessment; that is, to test to the teaching. If students consider classroom exercises and outside assessments to be indistinguishable, and both reflect the curriculum, then assessments reinforce teaching and learning rather than possibly subverting them. Dr Perelman's full report is available on the NSW Teachers Federation website.


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A UNION BY ANY OTHER NAME... Daniel White Teacher, Gold Creek School

W

hat do you think a union does? For me, prior to experiences

gained from the Bill Book Program, my idea of a union was a sort of necessary evil.

In the hustle and bustle of the working day, wasn't union membership just an added expense with little actual sizeable reward? That is not to say it wasn’t necessary, but necessary in the same way that insurance was necessary: you had it but hoped you would never need it. For the most part, to me the union was a sort of sleeping giant, inactive but a deterrent to the slow erosion of workers’ rights that seem to be almost policy for governments these days. I didn’t see unions as an active organism. Certainly, in ye olden days when worker exploitation was ripe, unions were a force to be reckoned with; fast to respond and ready to strike at any injustice. But these days, when negotiations are civilised and workers are respected, unions are pretty much a remnant of a bygone age, aren’t they? Surely

they're not a workplace necessity - after all, it’s voluntary to be a member. If it was that important, wouldn’t it be compulsory? Which, as a beginning teacher, raised the obvious question: what exactly is the AEU doing for the chunk of my hard-earned salary that they are taking? Luckily, I was given the opportunity to peek inside the AEU ACT branch office and see, at least in part, where some of that money was going. I have not been a teacher for a long time, but I really love the experience so far (for the most part anyway!) and being an enthusiastic newbie to the field I’m always on the outlook for ways to expand my high school horizons and figure out a little more about the whole teaching community.

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From the outset of my teaching career, the union has been a presence, be it in the numerous newsletters I subscribe to, recruitment drives at school and workshops, or simply in discussions with other teachers. Having the AEU constantly on my radar meant that I was continually wondering, what exactly does this union do? I know that the public perception of the ’teachers union’ is that it is very strong and powerful but what does that mean? How does it maintain its position of strength and when does it flex its muscles? This is why when the Bill Book Program popped up on my email feed, I jumped at the chance. Named after a former AEU organiser, the program offers an AEU member the opportunity to work in the branch office for a week. So what did I expect? Of course, my preconceptions of unions clouded my expectations, and the way the media represents unions does not help. Judging by these sources, you'd be forgiven for expecting the union to be a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare: a combination of special interest groups running wild and idealistic hippies from a bygone era trying to revitalise interest in the communist manifesto. Or maybe a political machine kowtowing to some industrial agenda full of backdoor deals and dodgy contacts under the guise of protecting workers rights. That is not what I encountered. So what did I encounter? Well, let’s start with the people. What I didn’t expect was the range of people involved and the background and experiences they brought to the table. The AEU office staff isn’t just drawn from the teaching profession.

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Professionals from many walks of life are represented in the office, resulting in a melting pot of ideas, expertise and passions to draw from. While the staff I encountered had strong ideals and views on how public schools should be run, these ideals were tempered with a real-world pragmatism that made them focus on practical and attainable goals. There may have been plans for a workers’ revolution somewhere in a back room but, if so, it would be well-organised, efficient and effective, with a reasonable timeframe and clear key performance indicators to reflect the goals defined in the project outline.

The other preconception the week challenged was the idea of the union being a dormant entity. The AEU ACT office is an incredible hub of constant activity. From the first hour in the morning to the very end of the day, people are on the move constantly. Even during lunch breaks, staff are running in and out asking questions, checking facts and organising activities between mouthfuls of coffee and sandwiches. One of the key aspects of my week at the AEU was a number of school visits, including: a visit to a college where the union conducted a recruitment drive and took the opportunity to


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discuss some of the latest developments with college staff; a visit to CIT to chat with their representatives; a meeting at a local primary school with union members; and, finally, a frank and important staff meeting at a school to deal with a local issue of occupational violence. Between these visits I was privy to the day-to-day running of the AEU office, learning how staff prepare for site visits, what their respective roles are and how the myriad opportunities afforded to teachers in the ACT are catered for. I was also invited to observe the process of preparing for bargaining the new teachers' enterprise agreement, particularly the massive effort made to ensure that members have an opportunity to have input and feedback in developing our log of claims.

During these discussions. it became apparent just how well the AEU staff had combined their high ideals with practicality, discussing what could be achieved and what couldn’t and what could be done if negotiations fell down. Could the members be expected to endure ongoing strikes, was this issue or that one something they felt strongly enough about to risk their jobs and careers? Were there other ways or methods to achieve the desired outcome? I was also invited to participate in a protest as part of a joint union delegation, because - let’s face it - waving a flag at a protest for better working conditions is all part of the union experience, isn’t it? So in the end, what did I learn about the AEU ACT Branch? Well, I think as members of the edu-

cation profession, we are lucky to have a strong and incredibly active union. While it fights for high ideals in education, it is grounded enough with a diverse background and experiences to ensure that this fight is done in a realistic and pragmatic manner. Your AEU membership fees don’t go to maintaining a sleeping giant, they provide the fuel for a dynamic and energetic engine, constantly in motion, working for its members. I was incredibly lucky to be able to peek behind the curtain and see some of this in action, and I recommend anyone who gets the opportunity to take it as well. The Bill Book program runs annually. Expressions of interest to take part will open later in the year - keep an eye out!

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MOIR HOLMES: A WARRIOR FOR HER COLLEAGUES

A

fter almost 40 years of AEU membership, CIT teacher and activist

Moir Holmes retired last year. Already an AEU ACT Branch Associate Member, Moir was awarded AEU life membership at the recent Annual Federal Conference. In seconding the motion to award life membership, Glenn Fowler reflected on Moir's years of commitment to the union movement.

RIGHT IMAGE:

Moir with ACT Branch Secretary Glenn Fowler and AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe

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In my first few years as Secretary of the ACT Branch, and prior to Moir Holmes’ retirement, it is difficult to remember a TAFE council meeting without Moir being present, active and impassioned.

Ths week I mentioned Moir's life membership nomination to our three most prominent TAFE teacher activisits. Two of the three said, 'Moir was the one who got me into this.'

I don’t need to tell you about the tough times TAFE has gone through, and is still going through, but no amount of government strangulation of the sector was ever going to convince Moir that the Canberra Institute of Technology should be able to compromise the needs of students nor the high regard in which TAFE teachers must be held.

Moir was the ACT Branch's TAFE Vice President and she fought for a time allowance to do that work. Moir sat on dozens of selection panels as the AEU representative, again insisted on time credit for doing so, and demanded that teachers not be expected to do things like this out of the goodness of their hearts.

Moir Holmes has been a warrior for her colleagues, always powerfully articulating the conditions teachers required to be able to do their jobs well. She would vigorously persuade waverers to join our union and she would mobilise her colleages to stand up for themselves, with their colleagues in tow.

Moir saw her industrial battles as something of a 'giving back' to all of the activists who had been before her, giving her access to equal pay, maternity leave and the right to part-time work. Moir's mother was a teacher also, and she had been forced to re- sign when she married. Moir has a deep sense of gratitude to the movement and a respect for the legacies of unionised


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teachers and other working people, and this was a significant part of her inspiration. In correspondence last year, Moir wrote that she had done 'nothing spectacular'. Who of us is spectacular? We join our union, we perform roles for our union, we convince others to get involved and then become active, we say no to stupid ideas by government and we lend our

support to good ideas. We turn up, and turn up, and turn up again. We support every rally, every strike and every campaign. We talk to our colleagues, we fire them up when needed, we don't spit the dummy when something goes wrong or we don't get a result, we persist and we never question the impenetrable logic of being a unionist.

Whether someone is 'spectacular' or not is largely a moot point. What is important is that we are union. Always union. Moir Holmes is union to the shoelaces, always has been, and she always successfully combined her role as a rank and file activist with her role as a teacher. She is a most worthy recipient of AEU life membership.

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

WOMEN WITH CENTS Malisa Lengyel AEU ACT Organiser and Women's Officer

I

nternational Women’s Day was a celebration to remember with guest speaker

Natasha Janssens, founder of Women With Cents, a Canberra-based organisation that empowers women to achieve financial independence.

Natasha shared her financial expertise with attendees, outlining the best and most practical ways to enhance their financial status. For women, superannuation can be a huge financial issue. Women face varying challenges when it comes to making super contributions over the life of their careers, especially as they often have lengths of time off work taking on carer roles. This can leave them with no super contributions during those periods. Natasha provided members with four practical steps to success when it comes to increasing or enhancing super contributions, and a discount for those who attended on her programs to support them in making those changes. Complementary to Natasha's presentation was an information session from Jennie Murray from First State Super, who talked our members through the ways that

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First State Super can support women in making the most out of their super contributions. The sessions drove home the vital importance of our current log of claims in addressing the super gap for our members. Overall, the sessions provided members with practical advice, tips and resources to give them greater financial empowerment. Erin O'Connor, a teacher at Mount Stromlo High School, found the session a useful reminder to plan for the future. "As someone in their mid-20s, it’s not something that is on the forefront of my mind but it is a good reminder that every investment I make today can impact my future in a positive way." It was great to meet so many of our members at this event, and through this and other events like it, I look forward to seeing the profile of the AEU Women’s Network growing and evolving over the coming years.


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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

FIGHTING FOR WORKING WOMEN Vanamali Hermans Anna Stewart Intern with UnionsACT

O

ver two weeks in March The project is a two week paid myself and another young woman, Rachel

Burgess, took part in UnionsACT’s Anna Stewart Memorial Project.

RIGHT IMAGE:

UnionsACT interns Rachel Burgess (left) and Vanamali Hermans.

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internship founded in memory of Anna Stewart, a passionate unionist who worked in the Victorian trade union movement from 1974 until her death in 1983. Anna continually sought to include women directly in decision-making within their unions, and it is in this spirit that we are completing work at UnionsACT and placements at unions like the NTEU, IEU and CPSU, to better understand what unions can do to address the oppression of working women. During our time with UnionsACT we are designing and launching ACT-specific Women’s Rights at Work (WRAW) chats, based on the successful model rolled out by the Victorian Trades Hall. It is important that when the union movement seeks to represent

the issues that working women face, they have direct contact with such women. Often times we may come across a diverse array of experiences that women have, especially when we engage LGBTQI, minority and migrant women in our communications, from which we may understand the workplace dynamics that continually enforce the oppression of women workers. WRAW chats will allow us to speak to women from an range of different occupations and industries, and record the experiences and challenges working women face. From discussions about workplace harassment and safety to the struggles women face in juggling caring responsibilities and work, the information collected by these chats will help better inform UnionsACT


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campaigns and ensure that when they promote the values of unionism, they do so with intersectionality in mind. Rachel and I both believe that explicitly feminist programs like the Anna Stewart Memorial Project are vital to the ongoing strength of the union movement, which historically has not always prioritised women’s ongoing fight for justice and equality. For years, discussions around workplace health and safety have been silent on the verbal, physical and sexual assault women face in professions like hospitality and teaching, and failed to recognise issues like family violence as workplace issues too. It is important that when unions talk about workplace health and safety, they both understand and consider the gendered element that so strongly influences women’s experiences in the workplace. Opportunities like this internship that allow us to learn about, observe and provide critiques to the union movement about their relationship with working women are therefore invaluable in centring women’s issues in union campaigns. Importantly, the Anna Stewart Memorial Project internship is also a great example of what an internship should be. We are receiving an adequate wage and have been given a range of tasks to complete and various opportunities to learn about various campaigns, computer programs, and organising practices. It is important when young

people are given internships that the internships are not cheap or free labour an employer may use to get menial and undesirable tasks completed. Internships should be treated as an opportunity to train and upskill young people entering the workforce, and interns should be

properly compensated for the labour they provide. The Anna Stewart internships are leading the way in terms of what should be expected from employers and are at the forefront of what UnionsACT are fighting for in their Exploitation Free Canberra campaign.

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED Our best advice for your concerns. For more detail, call our AEU ACT Office on 6272 7900.

Q

I've just been advised by the DIrectorate that they have overpaid me at some point last year, and now I'm being told i have to repay the amount. Is this correct?

A

The short answer is yes. In the event that an employee recieves an overpayment, accidental or not, the ACTPS will recover the overpaid amount. However, aside from in some very specific circumstances, you do not have to pay back the amount as a lump sum. You and the head of service can agree on a reasonable recovery rate, taking into account all of the cicrumstances, prior to any recovery being made.

The recovery of an overpayment can be made as a lump sum or by payroll deduction from your pay, usually over a period of up to 26 pay periods (or 52 weeks). The 10% rule applies, where no more than 10% can be deducted each week from your pay,

Q

How much release time am I entitled to as a full-time teacher in a school?

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A

The term 'release time' may be used simply to describe the time within your standard working hours when you are not doing face-to-face teaching. If you work part-time, your 'release time' would be reduced on a pro-rata basis in line with your standard hours. You should negotiate with your supervisor or principal when is best for you to take 'release time'. Bear in mind that this time will still include other work-related tasks that aren't face-to-face teaching, like playground duties and staff meetings.

Q

I work part-time, and my school's regular staff meetings are scheduled for a day I don't normally work. Am I required to attend these meetings?

A

You do not need to attend staff meetings on your days off. If your principal or supervisor says that you are required to, you should ask what time in lieu you will be given.

You have every right to refuse to attend a staff meeting on your day off if the school doesn't provide you compensation in the way of (for example) time in lieu, and you agree to it. To accommodate attendance at meetings for you as a part-time employee, your principal may negotiate a variation of attendance at another time so that your normal hours of work are not exceeded, or elect to pay you for attendnce beyond your usual hours of duty on the day of the specified activity.

Q

I'm an LSA working in a primary school classroom. Can I be asked to supervise students without a teacher present?

A

No. As a school assistant, you cannot be responsible for supervising students without the presence of a teacher. This is because there is no policy, recognition or remuneration for school assistants to perform these duties. It is also against TQI registration require-


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ments, as it would be considered teaching, and therefore requires a teacher. If you are instructed to supervise a student on your own, you should refuse the request and speak to your supervisor. I'm in my first year of teaching. What are the guidelines around using my new educator days over the next three years?

Q

A

New educator days are the 15 days over three years that are allocated to new educators for professional learning (PL) and support. This means that your school has been allocated resources to allow you to have these 15 days off over three years for the purpose of professional development, The days are often allocated as follows: six

days in your first year; five days in your second year; and four days in your third year. Any days you don't use in one year will roll over to the next, and if you move to another school, your unused days travel with you. You should speak to your school about your individual development plan. It is important to keep track of your PL to ensure that your days are not wasted. It is up to the individual teacher to speak with their supervising teacher about the use of their new educator days. Often these days are used for things like: observations; coaching; co-planning; evaluation and reflection; and attendance at professional learning activities.

Q

I'm a permanent employee returning to work after maternity leave. I was

working full-time before I went on leave. Can I request to return to work part-time?

A

Following maternity leave, you are entitled to return to work part-time. However, your entitlement must be balanced against the operational requirements of the school. If the school cannot accommodate your return to work parttime for operational reasons, you may be placed at another school. Your part-time hours and days upon return to work will be agreed upon between yourself and your principal or supervisor. These hours should be agreed upon in writing. You can remain part-time for up to three years from the birth or adoption of a child or the granting of parental responsibility of a foster child.

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

WELCOME TO OUR NEW MEMBERS Congratulations to everyone who joined or re-joined since the beginning of the year! By joining our union, you’re helping us all win better pay and conditions, as well as ensuring our students have the learning conditions they deserve. CONGRATULATIONS AND WELCOME TO THE AEU! Bernadette Driscoll, Thomas Mulquiney, Melissa Sheldrick, Jaspreet Kaur, Aleesha Boye, Katherine O'Brien, Charlotte Egli, Samuel Bryant, Madeline Thorne, Lloyd Scroope, Mikaela Walsh, Sarah O'Brien, Reuban West, Justin Gibson, Ashleigh van Kemenade, Grayce Cooper, Samantha Thompson, Chloe Callaghan, Teegan Blakers, Stacey Wellings-Deaton, Holly Barron, Jordan Muench, Danielle Rapone, Liana Marin, Stacey Griffiths, Nicola Althaus, Hayley Stensholt, Edward Bassanelli, Rebecca Cartwright, Michael Vitek, Monique Pasfield, Joshua Mackenzie, Gabrielle Brewer, Madeline Jacob, Kiralee Nolan, Kate Monckton, Sean Yeo, Sue Holmes, Josephine Lolicato, Tina Middleby, Morgan Williams, Natasha Muller, Timothy Maloney, Albert Hogan, Kate Mathison, Allyson Bissell, Angela Rega, Jalpa Patel, Peter Roughley, Rachel Salter, Cassandra Blewitt, Richard Burgess, Liam Biti, Mitchell Robinson, Carly Maddalena, Mariola Patejuk, Elizabeth Dryden, Erika Alling, Rebecca Legge, Ronald Amaladass, Ellie Mostyn, Arthika Prasad, Rebecca Manley, Matthew Madsen, Caitlyn Brooks, Jennifer Batt, Louise Lynch, Galen Ashley, Georgina Sofatzis, John Hohnke, Mara Nagaki, Foster Townsend, Connor Brebner, Emily Bissaker, Elissa Blowes, Nehal Trivedi, Tina Nguyen-Tran, Pernille Oldham, Holly-Maree Trindall, Dee-Anne Nelson, Joshua Leach, Penny Bennett, Evan Gilson, Tina House, Michael Dawson, Nathaniel Oliver, Peta Weisfelt, Craig Roxburgh, Kian Grainger, Samantha Gazzard, Glen Parr, Robyn Copland, Jodie Watt, Sarah Wilson, Peter Anderson, Erin Flux, Alanah-Rei Castledine, Kay Websdale, Andrea Rowley, Anna Prescott, Zhe Wang, Louise Tarrant, Tammy Charalambous, Lisa Harvey, Thomas Langman, Carey Hill, Phillippa Scott, Christopher Shaw, Brooke Brown, Nicola Buckler-Jones, Jessica Negline, Amy-Louise Evans, Bridget Knagge, Christopher York, Jaimie Horrobin, Katherine Moore, Kristine Koerper, Scott Ridd, Fiona Smith, Jordan Windley, Maree Fawke, Sian Buggy, Sarah McDonald, Taylor Armit, Kylie Koeford, Timothy Butland, Lauren Slater, Rachel Mian, Cindy Somenek, Kate Coen, Peta James, Natalia Nedic, Carmel Dinn, Charlotte Moody, Tarana Anand, Gemma Bernasconi, Taylor Peacock-Britton, Emily Munyard, Sarah Conway, Jennifer McGann, Stefano Bloisi, Freya Bundey, Georgia Starling, Kellie Lambert, Lauren O'Brien, Laura Chibnall, Brittany Ashman, Jack Bayley, Johanna Barling, Louise Coombes, Shelley Bradshaw, Felicity Watson, Esther Ferraris, Aaron Scarcella, Michael Henderson, Samuel Bartholomeusz, Ryan Gowing, Molly Feltrin, Tessa Challis, Alice Green, Lauren Hill, Jacinta Scott, Thomas Arbant-Zaalen, Tehliah Dundas, Sam Burke, Renee Phillips, Kristie Pope, Veronica Briggs, Owen Carpenter, Stacey Meyer, Sylvia Hribar, Mohammed Shah Alam, Alison Reid, Kylie Giltrap, Brent

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Greer, Samantha MacKenzie, Mark Semmler, Eloi Nsanumermyi, Andrew Stuart, Joanna Muller, Amie Nebauer, Elysha McPherson, Elizabeth Finlay, Robert Jones, Kaitlin Flannery, Elysia The, Francis Ventura, Benjamin Raven, Elizabeth McArthur, Georgina Meyers, Scott Quilty, Lindsey Pike, Amy Seymour, Holly Edney, Biljana Dimoska, Peter Miller, Savannah Burge, Emily Clark, Jonathan Zalunardo, Emma Snowden, Thembi Compton, Belinda Esler, Deanne D'Ambrosio, Hugh Walker, Natalie Archer, Georgia Kearney, Josephine Taylor, Ingrid Brett, Lauren Hargreaves, Lucy Hayes, Lauren Markland, Matthew Pressley, Andrew Ellicott, Caitlin Collins, Katherine Perumal, Jake Blackshaw, Nicolas Rose, Wei Zhang, Jennifer Blaylock, Kira Waddell, Fiona Snaidero, Jiyang Li, John Black, Karen Rowe, Kwan Ling Ho, Sussan Wilkinson, Meaghan Jones, Joanna Finlayson, Wasantha Davidlage, Kristina Quinell, Courtney Bedford, Leonie Finn, Kathryn Sheridan, Emma Woollaston, Justina Li, Esther Packard Hill

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

MEET OUR NEW OFFICE STAFF If you ever need to phone our office, chances are you'll end up speaking to one of our two newest staff members. ROBBY MAGYAR MEMBERSHIP COORDINATOR Robby is a self-described “union movement tragic”, having been a union member at every stage of his working life, and twice employed in unions in the education sector. Before joining the team at the AEU, Robby worked at the Australian Republic Movement and at the National Union of Students. Both roles gave him the ability to run campaigns, attend rallies and partake in one of his favourite pastimes: yelling through a megaphone about inequality in our society. Beyond activism, Robby clocks an excessive amount of time playing video games, reads comic books (for the limited text), and studies law at the Australian National University. If you ever want to find Robby he’ll likely be at a cafe encouraging patrons to join their union, or pay for his coffee if they refuse.

KRISSI BREWSTER ADMINISTRATION ASSISTANT Hailing from Western Australia, Krissi was seconded to the ACT by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service 20 years ago. She's been an athlete since a very young age, competing for WA in both speed skating and hockey, and represented Australia in the taekwondo squad for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She now competes in XC and Enduro Mountain Biking and the occasional running event. Krissi loves motivating others to be the happiest and healthiest versions of themselves - something she has done daily as a fitness trainer for almost 20 years now. She is incredibly passionate about animal rights and welfare. A true animal lover, Krissi can't help but fuss over our AEU office dogs, despite it resulting in an allergic reaction every time! AEU ACT BRANCH


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OUR AEU ACT OFFICE TEAM

GLENN FOWLER Branch Secretary

Glenn.Fowler@aeuact.org.au

VINCE MCDEVITT Lead Organiser

Vince.McDevitt@aeuact.org.au

PATRICK JUDGE Industrial Officer

JACQUI AGIUS Senior Industrial Officer

Jacqui.Aguis@aeuact.org.au

JACOB DUNNE Case Support Officer

Patrick.Judge@aeuact.org.au

Jacob.Dunne@aeuact.org.au

Sean van der Heide Northside Organiser

Malisa Lengyel Southside Organiser

Sean.vanderHeide@aeuact.org.au

Malisa.Lengyel@aeuact.org.au

MONIQUE MORTON Member Services Officer

ROBBY MAGYAR Membership Coordinator

Monique.Morton@aeuact.org.au

Robby.Magyar@aeuact.org.au

DAWN NIXON Business Manager

Dawn.Nixon@aeuact.org.au

GERARD DWYER CIT Organiser

Gerard.Dwyer@aeuact.org.au

MEAGAN PEARCE Communications Officer

Meagan.Pearce@aeuact.org.au

KRISSI BREWSTER Administration Assistant aeuact@aeuact.org.au

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ACT EDUCATOR MAGAZINE

21 - 25 MAY 2018

5 GREAT REASONS TO SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION 1 PROMOTING EQUITY AND RESPECT 2 OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVERYONE 3 EVERY CHILD GETS THE EDUCATION THEY DESERVE 4 BETTER OUTCOMES THAN PRIVATE SCHOOLS 5 BUILDING AUSTRALIA’S FUTURE

Public Education Celebratory Dinner - Hyatt Hotel Canberra - 25 May, 2018 Call 6272 7900 to book your tickets by credit card.

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Profile for Australian Education Union ACT

ACT Educator Term 2 2018  

ACT Educator Term 2 2018  

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