If the ACT Government believes in PLCs, it needs to resource them

In the Term 1 2015 ACT Educator Glenn Fowler writes: "The best way of improving our students’ outcomes and confronting excessive workload is to make our profession more collaborative."

Almost a year ago, AEU ACT Branch Council endorsed a log of claims that would serve as the foundation of negotiations for a new Enterprise Agreement. That document was the product of extensive consultation, discussion and debate amongst AEU members but at its heart was a very simple idea. The best way of improving our students’ outcomes and confronting excessive workload is to make our profession more collaborative. Thus, our core claim was to reduce face-to-face hours and set aside time for professional learning communities (PLCs). Where PLCs already exist, they are not ‘one more thing’ for teachers to do but a more efficient and effective way of structuring a teacher's working week, and a way of ensuring that this really important element of our job is afforded the time it deserves.

The Government’s first offer to school teachers and school leaders rejected our core claim. ETD acknowledged the evidence that professional collaboration improves student outcomes but was not prepared to seriously resource it. It did not acknowledge the evidence that ACT teachers are working an average of 50 hours a week (Staff in Australian Schools survey, 2014). For too long, workload has been a site-by-site proposition, and this has resulted in us working hours that are unreasonable; that are well above the national average; and that seriously undermine work-life balance.

Many other matters had not been resolved at the table and too few of the issues we raised in our log of claims had received due consideration. Consequently, Branch Council rejected the Government’s offer and negotiations continue. Discussions have been more fruitful since returning to the bargaining table but the proof will be in the pudding.

There has been no more important time to build our union and I can report with pleasure that this is occurring. Our efforts recruiting colleagues have borne fruit, as we approach 3,500 members for the first time. In this edition of ACT Educator, Andy Jennings’ provides a guide to the structured recruitment conversation. Please ask your new colleagues this year to join the AEU. As our CIT teachers and School Assistant members recently experienced through their negotiations, there is power in numbers and all we achieve, we achieve together.

For the ETD Teaching Staff Enterprise Agreement, your union negotiators could possess all the wit, astuteness and powers of persuasion in the world, but that would mean nothing without you behind us. The steady flow of resolutions of support from Sub-branches has been inspiring. I urge you to continue to engage closely with our campaign in 2015 by taking an active part in your Sub-branch. 


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