Did education win the election?

Teachers must reclaim their profession now or lose influence forever

The inconclusive federal election results provide little joy for members working in our schools or early childhood centres. The failure of either major party to win a solid working majority in the House of Representatives is problematic for delivering policy initiatives and a hostile Senate will likely be reluctant to pass legislation without extracting their ‘pound of flesh’ in respect of their own prized programs.

For the time being what we can expect is the status quo. On the matter of School Funding the relevant legislation the Australian Education Act 2013 (Cth) limits increased funding for most schools to an indexation of 3.6%.

Without new legislation there is little or no capacity for new money to flow to schools or to early education. The education community and particularly those who work in it are now in the hands of a new and largely untested Senate. Nick Xenophon and the Greens support the ALP on funding Years 5 and 6 of the Gonski needs based model for schools, however neither Pauline Hanson nor Derryn Hinch have published education policies and Jacqui Lambie restricts her stated policy to TAFE. Xenophon in particular has shown strong support for the community based early childhood sector, which could be good news for our members in that sector if he prioritises this support.

The capacity of the crossbenches in the Senate to show a positive and proactive role in proposing and amending legislation rather than the traditional ‘blocking’ approach will be interesting to see.

Which ever way our members voted, and whatever the policies that most influenced their vote, I very much doubt that any members voted to abandon control of their profession to the dictates of Canberra or Macquarie Street.

The teaching profession is owned by teachers, not by politicians, universities, employers or by bureaucrats. Teachers must reclaim their profession now or lose influence forever. Teachers know their students and how they learn, they know the content of their subjects and how to teach it. They need and deserve the opportunity and resources to plan and implement effective strategies to do those things.

It is time to trust the professional judgement of teachers in doing their work. Time to hand back the teaching profession to teachers. Certainly time to end the command and control from Canberra.

The Federal Government runs no schools and employs no teachers yet the Minister for Education, a career politician, is the sole owner of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

AITSL claims it provides national leadership in promoting

excellence in the profession of teaching and school leadership. The directors of the company are academics, employers, a school principal, bureaucrats and a journalist. None of whom have any processes or requirement to consult with teachers. The recommendations of this body influence federal government policy, which invariably when adopting that policy, ties the policy to funding. In this way schools and teachers with no tangible connection to the Federal Government, have their work directed, manipulated and increased with no consultation or serious consideration as to the impact on the end user. This is also true for the work intensification of support staff in schools.

At local level the registration or accreditation of teachers is in the hands of employers and bureaucrats. Where teachers are consulted on policy or practice their views can be quickly diluted as decisions pass through other bodies where few or no teaching professionals can contribute. Ultimately they arrive on the desk of the arbitrator of all things to do with teaching, the minister. In NSW the Education Minister is a former solicitor and rice farmer.

No other profession would tolerate being sidelined in such an arrogant fashion.

Government policy dictates that schools continuously apply standardised testing to students primarily so they can collect standardised data. This type of testing is useful when it is diagnostic, but if governments are not forthcoming with the resources to address issues that are diagnosed where is the value?

Let’s stop concentrating on weighing the pig and just trust the professional judgement of teachers.

John Quessy