2015 In Review
Our collective action has made a huge difference this year.
Resources to Reduce Workload
Through enterprise agreement negotiations, we won $7 million dollars of new money that will provide the equivalent of almost 60 new school assistants across the system. The new Section Q Guidelines specify the tasks where teachers will now have a limited role or no role at all. Dozens of school workload reduction plans have been submitted in Term 4, meaning new resources will be available to those schools at the start of school year 2016.
ETD has instituted a central function, the System Workload Leadership Team, to monitor teacher workload reduction across the system, to locate best practice and to report to the AEU on a quarterly basis.
Nationally Competitive Salaries for Teachers and School Leaders
A settlement of 12.6% over 4 years is a salary outcome that will retain our nationally competitive position as number three in the country over the life of this agreement.
More School Psychologists
Four new full-time equivalent school psychologists will start working in our system at the beginning of 2016, as a consequence of our enterprise agreement campaign. This is a win that will provide much-needed additional support for students with mental health issues, learning difficulties and disabilities. The Shaddock Report, handed down in November, found that this is an important step in the right direction but only a step. To ensure adequate care, the report found, we need one qualified school psychologist for every 500 students in our system. We are committed to achieving this outcome.
Improvements to the Healthcare Access at Schools Program
The HAAS program, introduced without proper consultation in 2014, required educators, rather than appropriately trained nurses, to provide complex and invasive healthcare to students. Affected members worked together to address multiple concerns regarding the program:
- That it puts vulnerable students at risk
- Creates additional and unreasonable workload for school assistants, teachers and school leaders
- Impacts on quality of education to all students.
In response to AEU concerns, nurses were reinstated in special schools. In three schools, nurses are now back in situ and are providing care to both those students who are in the HAAS program and those who are not. At the fourth special school, a nurse is available on call as before, in accordance with local wishes. This arrangement significantly enhanced the care available to students with severe disabilities and helps educators focus on education. That improvement is a credit to the thoughtful and committed activism of affected members.
There’s more to do early in the new year to ensure that all workers in the program are appropriately qualified, trained and remunerated.
Win on Preschool Funding
In the first half of the year, the then Abbott Government refused to commit to guarantee funding to ensure every Australian child has access to 15 hours of free preschool each week, despite extensive research indicating that high quality preschool education leads to improved learning outcomes for all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds and with additional learning needs.
Sustained community pressure – including over 500 postcards from the ACT Branch alone – proved decisive. In a win for parents and educators, the Commonwealth Government relented in the budget provided funding for 15 hours of pre-school for four-year-olds in 2016 and 2017.
The AEU is now calling for the funding to be made permanent. AEU Federal President, Correna Haythorpe, said: “The AEU has been campaigning strongly on this issue, because we know parents feel strongly about the value of quality pre-school to prepare children for school. This decision is a relief, but it does not deliver the long-term certainty that we need to establish high quality early childhood education for all four-year olds.”
AEU Pressure Resulted In Significant Improvements in Regulation of Private Schools
Private schools in the ACT now have to report critical and non-critical incidents in the same manner as ACT public schools and must submit annual assurance statements. The Minister also announced a more transparent and proper process for the assessment of applications to establish new private schools. Basic things like identifying where a new proposed school will be located and demonstrating that there is community demand are now part of the process. These new guidelines resulted from a concerted campaign by the AEU, Save Our Schools and the ACT Council of P&Cs in the wake of a series of controversial approvals in 2013.
There is still considerable room for improvement. The new guidelines still do not require an assessment of the impact of new private schools on existing public schools and nor is there a guarantee that the first school established in a new area will be a public school, free and secular. The AEU will continue to campaign to ensure that all schools that receive public funding are publicly accountable.
Campaigning For the Full Gonski
Success stories are starting to pile up from around the country as additional billions of dolalrs of needs-based funding have flowed into schools around the country. Tragically, the Coalition Government has confirmed its intention not to deliver the final two years of Gonski funding in 2018 and 2019, ripping two thirds of the additional Gonski resources from Australian schools. If the Coalition is able to proceed with its current plans, approximately $3.8 billion will be cut from schools in 2019 and 2020. For public schools alone this is the equivalent of cutting 20,000 educators. Actions all around the country during National Gonski Week in October heaped sustained pressure on Malcom Turnbull. In the face of a chorus of community concern the new Prime Minister expressed support for needs-based funding and explained that the Government is “considering” funding the 5th and 6th years. This is a good basis on which to pursue the campaign in the lead-up to the 2016 federal election.
Commonwealth Government Held To Account on Students With Disability Funding Failure
The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) statement delivered in December confirmed the Turnbull Government will not deliver on the 2013 election promise to introduce the needs-based disability loading recommended by the Gonski Review. This compounds the damage done in the first Abbott budget when it terminated the More Support for Students with Disabilities Program, worth $100 million a year. To highlight the damage the lack of funding is doing to children with disability, the AEU, together with Children with Disability Australia, took a delegation of parents and students with disability to Parliament House to meet with MPs and media. Additionally, thousands of Australians signed an online petition at I Give A Gonski.
Defending Paid Maternity Leave for ACT Educators
Failed former Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, attempted to deny access to the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave Scheme to all workers who have paid maternity and carer leave in our Enterprise Agreements. Hockey, who is now enjoying a substantial parliamentary pension in addition to his ambassador’s salary, had the temerity to describe women who accessed the Commonwealth and employer-based schemes as double-dippers. Through lobbying the Senate cross-bench we, along with millions of concerned Australians, have succeeded in preventing Hockey’s proposed reform passing the parliament at this point. The December MYEFO relaunched a slightly modified version of the Coalition's push to reduce maternity leave entitlements - so our campaign will continue in 2016.
Campaigning to Stop TAFE Cuts and Defending CIT
While the the Canberra Institute of Technology and TAFEs nationally continue to suffer as public funding is diverted to private VET providers, the debate has turned significantly. A plethora of public concern over dodgy private providers has got wide-ranging media attention. AEU National TAFE Secretary, Pat Forward, described the ALP commitment to allocate guaranteed funding to TAFEs, including CIT, as a first step back from the brink.
Financial Rewards for Achieving Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher Certification
This will consist of an additional salary increment for classroom teachers on the salary scale. For teachers already at the top of the scale and Executive Teachers, the benefit consists of an allowance paid over one year equivalent of more than $5600.
Provisions For Maximising Permanent Employment
We now have a new clause in our Agreement which states: “The decision to engage a teacher as a temporary teacher rather than as a permanent teacher will be made on sound workforce planning grounds and in accordance with sub-clause A2.2.” (N3.1 Temporary Employment, p.112). Clause A2.2 in turn states that the ACTPS will only use temporary employees when no qualified permanent officer is available and there is urgent, specialised work which is temporary in nature (A2.2 Retaining our people, p.10). The net effect is to maximise our access to the security and peace of mind that comes from permanent employment.