Valuing the teaching profession

– Gallop Report

The IEU was invited recently to the launch of the Gallop Report, Valuing the Teaching Profession. It is a significant work that grapples with the increasing complexity of a teacher’s role.

The report hinges on the last NSW Industrial Relations Commission work value case (2004) for teachers. The IEU ran a parallel case to the NSW Teachers Federation and achieved 12% to 19.5% salary increases over 18 months.

Since no capacity now exists to run such a case, it is incumbent upon the profession to take action. The dire need to change how teachers are valued both professionally and financially is abundantly clear.

More release time is crucial

The Gallop Report highlights that allowing additional time for teachers to plan lessons, engage in professional development and collaborate with colleagues is essential.

This thinking parallels that of Dr Saul Karnovsky, a lecturer in pedagogy, professional practice and classroom management at Curtin University in Western Australia. “We need to look at the structural conditions that are shaping teachers’ work in this country,” Dr Karnovsky has said.

He also notes an “ever-growing performance and accountability regime, high-stakes testing, mandatory curriculum content, strict registration requirements and a growing population of students with a diverse variety of learning needs”.

Collegiality in such an environment is severely constrained. Team these constraints with the NSW Curriculum Reform being implemented with undue haste, and the significance of additional release time for teachers becomes plain.

The dire need to change how teachers are valued both professionally and financially is abundantly clear.

The work of implementing revamped syllabuses commences – of course – when the syllabus arrives in the school. Release time for teams of teachers to undertake planning is critical, as is releasing teachers from other initiatives the school may have adopted.

The new syllabus for K-2 literacy and numeracy commences in 2022. Arrangements for K-2 where there are composite classes will require additional planning time.

Curriculum reform aside, the climate for ensuring teacher workloads are manageable is upon us. School structures must be reviewed and additional time provided.

Austerity is only injurious

The NSW Government’s wage suppression policies will not assist the COVID recovery process.

The IEU is also encountering significant downward pressure on wages. Major employers are citing the low-wage environment as the chief reason for denying salary increases. This is a race to the bottom.

The lack of certainty and stability in salaries going forward doesn’t assist the community and it certainly doesn’t assist the small businesses serving those communities.

For the NSW government to further restrict public servants’ salary outcomes is entirely unreasonable. The non-government education sector is immediately impacted by cuts to NSW public servants.

Wages growth nationwide is running at the lowest rate on record and, as economist Ross Gittins pointed in the Sydney Morning Herald on March 12, “business needs to remember that its sales won’t grow strongly if it keeps sitting on its customers’ wages”.

Put simply, wages growth is the road to recovery.

The union is still agitating for salary increases in independent schools where, for the first time, the Association of Independent Schools has not provided advice to its member schools that a uniform 2.5% increase is warranted. Instead, the AIS has indicated it is incumbent upon individual schools to make a determination.

This austerity approach is counterproductive and will result in uneven outcomes that will not serve the sector well.