Letters to the editor

End the HSC exam

Last year was remarkable in a number of ways – no more pointed than in education.

But one of things that was made crystal clear was that there was no way to make the HSC fair over the entire state, due to the following inequities:

Schools that had easy and complete access to online learning compared to those who had a majority of students who did not have their own devices.

Students with their own rooms and access to wifi compared to those in apartments where two three or four people were trying to access wifi.

Schools that could bring students in for practice exams in the second and third school holidays compared to those that did not have the money or facilities to give students that practice under exam conditions.

Students who had a harder time dealing with the vagaries of the situation – look at the statistics for adults and the pressure felt by many families even without an exam to work towards.

Families whose members were isolated and thus family bonds that would serve as an anchor were instead a source of angst and uncertainty.

Some of these points were unique to this year but others aren’t.

Increasingly we need to look at how fair or unfair is this exam which takes so much ‘air’ in school planning.

Do we really want or accept the league tables and constant publicity which puts 17 and 18 year olds (as well as their families) under a spotlight they did not ask for?

Do we really think that any exam ‘block’ can be fair when some students will have three or four exams in a week and others one or two spaced out – who knows which is better?

Do we really think that a block that goes over three to three and a half weeks is equally fair by gender?

Do we really think there is a fair way to judge Visual Arts versus Physics,in terms of academic prowess needed for future employment? Does an engineer need the science or the ability to visualise potential buildings or both equally?

Do we really trust numbers and more importantly the hidden system that produces them that much that we distinguish ‘achievement’ down to the decimal points?

Do we trust a system where 90 percent of those who deliver curriculum – maybe more, have little or no idea how numerical ‘grades’ are turned into a godlike ATAR number? Can you explain it? Ask any student who receives 75 in every course and yet has an ATAR nowhere near 75.

There are so many wonderful potential ways to assess ability rather than a one off exam – we are letting down our students with an exam system that is inherently unfair no matter what year in the 21st century.

If it were a sport where the same team ‘won’ for over 25 years, would we accept it as we do the HSC standings published every year? Wouldn’t this fact alone tell us the system is hardly fair nor equitable!

It is time to change – now so more students do not suffer – not just as they did in 2020 but this year and beyond – with all that is possible it is time to look to a new potential, not back at what has always been. Surely our students deserve far more - and if we do not change then we are complicit in every aspect of the pressure and stress it creates…now is the time.

End the HSC Exam!

Larry Grumley
IEU member, teacher and parent

Professing to be wise, they become fools

Two recent controversies involving the Federal Government clearly show the hypocrisy of their treatment of workers and teachers by comparison to the manner in which they treat themselves and big business.

Arbitration: the apparent preserve of the rich and powerful

The Federal Government recently caused Facebook to impose a ban on news sharing. Why? Because it had insisted on doing the bidding of large media companies by legislating to require Facebook to strike a bargain with media companies over payment. But the critical piece of the picture was that our Federal Government was going to legislate the compulsory arbitration of unresolved bargaining, bearing in mind that these are commercial disputes between large, wealthy and powerful players.

Contrast that with the situation in industrial relations where workers have to bargain with employers. Employees are at a significant disadvantage to large, wealthy and powerful employers, yet there is no capacity for the compulsory arbitration of bargaining disputes let alone disputes arising under those agreements that actually do get made.

To avail themselves of the right of compulsory arbitration, workers must first bargain to obtain the right, and of course you can’t compel anyone to resolve deadlocks about that issue. Certainly not this Federal Government … unless you’re a large media corporation wanting to be paid by Facebook.

Last year the Attorney-General concluded a process of ‘consultation’ regarding a range of proposed industrial relations reforms, many of which are now contained in a Bill that has been introduced to the Parliament. The compulsory arbitration of bargaining disputes or disputes about the basic entitlements of workers is not only absent from that Bill, it continues to be actively resisted by this same government that insisted upon it in support of the poor media barons.

The presumption of innocence and the protection of careers

More recently the Federal Attorney General refused to relinquish his position in the wake of historical allegations of sexual assault, for what he asserted was the protection of all citizens. He said he would not step down because “then any person in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life’s work based on nothing more than an accusation that appears in print”.

Which is precisely what happens to workers in schools when false allegations are made and they are sacked or stood down without pay while court proceedings grind their way to an eventual conclusion.

If a teacher is charged with a certain type of offence they can have their Working with Children Check clearance (WWCC) immediately cancelled. Even where charges are dismissed or court proceedings result in no conviction, members have been the subject of excruciating screening processes and years later find themselves still unable to obtain work, even where they manage to obtain a WWCC and weave their way back through with NESA accreditation.

Sometimes it’s because they’re forced to disclose the fact of a prior allegation (albeit unsubstantiated and unproven). Sometimes it’s because of a former employer’s protected capacity to communicate unproven concerns to a prospective employer, all under the protection of it being done allegedly “in good faith”.

In the worst cases a worker is dismissed by an employer that makes a finding of “sexual misconduct”. Such a finding cannot be appealed unless the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) refuses to grant the worker a WWCC and even then the worker is simply appealing the decision about the refusal.

This union has seen employers make findings of ‘sexual misconduct’ which the OCG does not accept as requiring the cancellation of a WWCC. Yet the workers must then honestly answer questions about whether they have ever been the subject of a sexual misconduct finding; you can imagine what happens to their job application from that point.

So, the Federal Attorney General’s impassioned appeal undoubtedly draws equal measures of empathy, anger and frustration from those teachers who have lost “their career, their job careers, their life’s work based on nothing more than an accusation” by reason of the imperfect systems established by his state based counterparts.

Iain Bailey
Industrial Officer