“What do your members want out of this federal election?” I was asked by a respected print journalist recently. On the surface a very simple question and to some extent there is a simple answer. Our members want to be consulted about education policy that impacts on their work as teachers and support staff in schools. They want a seat at the table and they want an analysis of how any changes to policy or process will impact on them, the workers on the ground who have to implement proposed changes or ‘reforms’.
In addition, our teacher members want their professional judgement respected and acknowledged. The current government has totally ignored teachers, preferring to consult with themselves and various non teacher ‘experts’ about what works best in schools. In the life of this government there has not been a single stake holder consultation to consider any education policy or curriculum initiative.
Following ministerial meetings stakeholders have simply been briefed on decisions. This is the government that removed teacher representation from the board of AITSL, the body they claim defines and directs the teaching profession.
The recent budget announced the introduction of a NAPLAN style numeracy and literacy assessment for students in Year 1 to identify those who need additional support. Such an assessment for six year olds needs to be administered on a one to one basis. One teacher, one student. One UK testing instrument being proposed requires two phases of 15-20 minutes each and up to 30 minutes to create the report for each student. In total about an additional week of work for the teacher of a class of 30.
The budget provides no extra funding or resourcing for the test nor, importantly, to allow for early intervention once the need is identified. The test is merely more data collection for its own sake. Data which, if Year 1 teachers were asked, they could readily provide. Teachers know which of their students require early intervention. Government needs to trust teachers’ professional judgement and concentrate on resourcing programs to assist those at risk of falling behind.
Some months ago the branches of our Union around the country set out a number of key industrial, education and social issues which have been formulated into an ‘Ask’ of all political parties contesting the 2016 federal election. We are not satisfied to simply report their stated policy positions on matters that go to the heart of the work our members do and the conditions under which they carry out that work.
We have taken this proactive approach to ensure that those who are elected to the 45th parliament are in no doubt about what our members expect from government over the next three years. The full details of our ‘Ask’ were reported in the February issue of Newsmonth and are reproduced on our website www.ieu.asn.au . Six key issues are addressed: funding, access, representation,work/life balance, industrial legislation and humanitarian concerns.
Not surprisingly we are seeking the certainty and fairness of the needs based funding model established by the previous ALP government and agreed by most states. We ask that all parties commit to fully fund and index that model through to 2018/19. In addition, we seek commitments to full funding of the actual costs of learning adjustments for students with disabilities.
We demand also an unequivocal commitment to stability and certainty of resourcing for early childhood education and care, the continuation of universal access, the Early Years Learning Framework and guarantee of additional funding for professional salaries.
Our ask of the next parliament is that they ensure access to high quality, affordable continuing education and prioritise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, education and well being.
We insist that the current paid parental leave provisions be maintained, rights to return from parental leave to part time work are strengthened and paid domestic violence leave introduced.
Above all, we want you to be consulted by government before decisions are made that will add more to your workload.