Southern suburbs: How a huddle helps

Friday afternoons aren't always the best time to schedule a meeting. But not this time. Members were keen to take the time to talk to each other – and their union.

It’s unlikely that anyone in any workplace is eagerly looking to throw just one more Zoom into the end of another exasperating lockdown week, but on Friday 6 August, no less than 76 members from more than 10 systemic and independent secondary schools in the IEU's Southern Suburbs Sub Branch took up an invitation to join a Friday afternoon Zoom ‘huddle’.

A huddle isn’t strictly a meeting; it doesn’t follow an agenda and members are welcome to enjoy a beverage while they unite with others in their region to discuss, share, compare, advise, experience some solidarity and hopefully take something back to their individual workplaces.

School reps and members were interested to hear about operations and processes at other schools and many expressed similar frustrations. Duplication/triplication of roll taking and other data collection in the Catholic systemic schools was a real bugbear.

It was refreshing to hear that ‘reset’ and ‘consolidation’ days had been scheduled by many school leadership teams, which helps to address workload management.

Nevertheless, with increased emails, the challenges of engaging students remotely, catering for diverse student learning needs, more marking, more feedback and more contact from parents, there was widespread exhaustion.

Teachers talked about having worked 16-hour days. For many the switch to online Year 12 trial examinations means they now have the considerable task of exam writing to add to the load.

We know school staff are anxious about access to vaccinations, and we were appalled to hear that school staff members with long standing appointments had been bumped to prioritise student vaccination.

Naturally there were also queries around what sort of risk assessment would see 20 students from hotspot LGAs, after more than six weeks of lockdown, assigned to buses to travel en masse for their vaccinations.

The ‘on the buses’ project, however, seems to have joined the scrapheap of ill-thought-out plans.

Members expressed deep concern and regret for the lack of consideration of their Year 12 students and their families who have also had no consultation about what they want and need in the face of such uncertainty and chaos.

Sue McKay