The inquiry into the management and minimisation of bullying and violence in ACT schools by the Standing Committee on Education and Youth Affairs presented an opportunity for the IEUA NSW/ACT Branch to highlight the findings of a number of recent reports, all of which revealed disturbing trends.
This year’s Principals Health and Wellbeing survey, undertaken by Australian Catholic University Professor Philip Riley, found in 2018 ACT had the highest incidence of threats of violence against school leaders anywhere in the country and that both threats and actual violence were on the increase.
The Union submission highlighted the societal context, quoting Riley’s comment that “this is not just happening in schools, with increases noted in all frontline professions and domestic violence rates that we should nationally be ashamed about”.
There is ample evidence that such violence and bullying is not restricted to those in leadership positions, a fact reinforced by a 2018 La Trobe University study into Teacher Targeted Bullying and Harassment which reported more than 71% of respondents had experienced bullying in the past 12 months.
Of particular concern to the Branch was the number of incidents which went unreported for fear of being blamed for poor management or leadership. There is fear also for the career safety of education staff where they intervene in violent situations and run a real risk of child protection allegations.
The Standing Committee is due to hold hearings shortly.
New South Wales
Bringing sustainability to life
IEUA NSW/ACT Branch offers annual Environment Grants to its members, who can apply on behalf of their workplace for one of five grants of $3000 each. Teachers Mutual Bank (TMB) is the sponsor of the program and works in collaboration with the Union to bring sustainability projects to life. The highly successful program is in its fourth consecutive year of operation.
Typical projects include habitat conservation, biodiversity and tree planting, outdoor learning areas, vegetable and kitchen gardens, organic produce, water and energy saving, waste, recycling and composting projects and Aboriginal cultural projects.
The grant program is one of the major initiatives of the IEUA Environment Committee and the winning project coordinators have made ongoing contributions to the work of the Union.
Their projects have been featured in IEUA publications and they contribute to the IEUA professional learning program, including the IEUA Biennial Environment Conference and the Environmental TeachMeet. The focus on the long term viability of the projects and their link to curriculum strategy create a cost effective program delivering an important contribution to sustainable education.
Backlog on Ochre Cards
Northern Territory members needing to renew their Ochre Cards should lodge their application as soon as they receive their renewal notice, after a massive backlog left hundreds of teaching and non teaching staff out of schools earlier this year.
The NT Department of Education had a major bureaucratic bungle, when it was reported over 500 staff across the independent and public education sectors were temporarily unable to work with children.
The issue occurred as a backlog of hundreds of Ochre Cards, which authorise clearance to work with children, were waiting to be renewed.
In the Northern Territory anyone who works with children must be authorised by Screening Assessment for Employment (SAFE NT), which issues Ochre Cards.
While the problem was much more widespread in the public sector, some independent schools were affected.
Teachers had to be sent home or were told to work from the staffrooms while the Department of Education, SafeNT and Territory Families worked to process temporary exemptions.
Assistant Director of SafeNT Donna Quong explained the backlog was caused by multiple factors including staff vacancies, an unexpected influx of work over the Christmas and New Year period and national delays in the National Police Check Service.
Reconciliation in action
IEUA-QNT has been proudly working on updating our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) this year with the consultation and contribution of members of our Union.
Members were invited to participate in a RAP Training and Planning Session during May with paid Union training leave made available to all participants.
A RAP is a strategic document that commits organisations to take practical action and make a contribution to reconciliation with First Nations peoples – both internally and within the communities in which the organisation operates.
IEUA-QNT’s initial RAP was implemented in 2016 and since then we have:
- established a working group to monitor and report on the progress of the RAP
- increased celebration and promotion of significant events including National Reconciliation Week, Close the Gap Day and NAIDOC Week
- developed relationships with First Nations people, communities and organisations
- supported the Narragunnawali Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning program
- held regular Yarning Circle meetings to facilitate networking opportunities and identify issues of significance to First Nations members, and
- initiated a Message Stick, which travelled across Queensland and the Northern Territory and created points of engagementwith school communities to promote our RAP and the importance of reconciliation.
Raft of improvements achieved
On 29 April the Fair Work Commission ratified the Agreement covering Catholic schools in Tasmania with date of effect back to the beginning of 2019. Amongst the improvements, a new POL structure and additional deputy principal positions in primary schools are rolling out, and the IEUA and TCEO reached agreement on the content of deputy principal contracts to ensure consistency with the Agreement. Term 2 should see a working party established, as per the provisions of the Agreement, on staffing ratios for laboratory technicians.
In addition, some patient IEUA members working in school libraries and doing ICT jobs recently won a significant increase in wages. More than two years after the new support structure was implemented, the Union and TCEO were still in dispute over a number of support staff and their proper classification. The IEUA filed a dispute in the Fair Work Commission to win level 3 classification for a handful of Library Technician members and level 2 for one lCT member. The case was listed for four days of hearing and 18 witnesses. The employees concerned and their line managers gave strong and compelling evidence in the Commission about the complexities and responsibilities of their jobs. By the time they had all given their evidence it must have been obvious to all concerned that their case was very strong and overnight, after the second day hearing, the TCEO and Union hammered out an agreement to settle the dispute with all five of the Library Tech and ICT members involved receiving the increase they had claimed.
Graduate data concern
For the past three years, researchers at IEU Victoria Tasmania have conducted an annual survey focusing on the experiences of graduate teacher members. The survey collects data about the type of contracts graduates are on, the severity of their workload, whether they are being supported in their workplace, and how their wellbeing is impacted by work during their first year of teaching.
The most recent results have revealed concerning trends developing in our schools. The combination of more insecure fixed term contracts and increasing workload pressure reveal why so many graduate teachers are reporting dangerous impacts on their health or are leaving the profession. 72% of graduate members reported to have been on fixed term contracts in 2018, compared with 57% in 2017 and 64% in 2016.
The 2018 cohort of graduate teachers also reported the highest inability to cope with workload (28% reporting ‘not well’) and almost one third of them did not have a mentor or equivalent support.
The highest reported additional workload issues that affected graduates were assessment and reporting (affecting 70% of surveyed graduates in 2018 and 47% in 2017) and VIT/TRB requirements (affecting 54% of surveyed graduates in 2018 and 53% in 2017).
Last year’s graduates also reported feeling less valued by leadership within the school and were less able to maintain a healthy work/life balance than previous cohorts. 50% of 2018 graduate members felt their mental health was adversely affected by their job compared with 44% the previous year. A whopping 35% of our most recent graduate cohort are either thinking about leaving the profession or are not teaching this year, compared with 11% the year before.
Members surveyed on key issues
On a fairly regular basis, IEUA members in Western Australia are surveyed as to the key issues that are having a significant effect on their work and workplace conditions.
This is a very effective exercise in tracking the increasing or decreasing relevance and effect of key issues such as work intensification, the effect of violence in schools and security of employment.
This information informs and to a large extent directs both bargaining priorities and organising at the workplace level.
Key points that came forward strongly in the 2019 Member Survey included:
- 22.24% of members are employed on temporary contracts; almost 8% for more than five years
- there is a high level of demand for IEUA advice and support on professional issues
- members are strongly committed to collective bargaining, including members at schools that are currently ‘award’ schools
- increasing workloads and work intensification are the two most significant workplace issues, closely followed by a lack of consultation by school management with staff, and
- members feel strongly that their Union should be represented at a peak level on decision making bodies such as ACARA and AITSL.
Teachers Registration and Standards Act
The Teachers Registration and Standards Act 2004 has not had a substantial review since it came into operation. The Act established the Teachers Registration Board to provide oversight of the profession to ensure teachers met appropriate professional competency standards as well as being fit and proper persons to fulfil the roles of caring for and educating children. Since its inception there have been a number of reviews into aspects of the profession including the quality of initial teacher education programs, the strengthening of child protection legislation and AITSL’s development of the national teacher standards.
The state government has distributed a discussion paper and held consultation meetings across the state for stakeholders prior to making recommendations to ‘enhance’ the profession. Two key consultation questions of particular interest to the IEUA related to a proposed shift in focus to the ‘interest of children being paramount in the Board’s function’ and what that might mean, and the composition of the board. Currently the SA board has the largest number of members of any of the state registration authorities. It has a total of six practicing teachers appointed by the IEUA (two) and the AEU (four). One of the considerations of the review was to reduce the number of members and include more parent representatives. It is not too much of a stretch to wonder who will be prime targets to lose places. Education unions will obviously not agree to their professional role being eroded.