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Secretary’s Report: Term 3

Glenn Fowler
AEU ACT Secretary

There is a sense at the moment that the days of educators having things done to them are on the wane, and educators are now demanding with more effect that things be done with them.

We see this demonstrated at the national level in the conversation around needs-based funding, which has now become an orthodoxy after many years of choice and competition being the mantra – it’s just a question of whether governments will step up to live out the promise and be true to the notion of needs-based funding.

There has been a very quick turnaround in political and public opinion on the concept of
national testing, with support dwindling for NAPLAN and particularly the reporting of the
data. The position that teachers have been putting forward for the better part of a decade
is finally accepted by the majority of professional groups, principal groups, parent and community groups, academics, state and territory politicians, and many federal parliamentarians. The momentum is growing quickly, and it seems unlikely that NAPLAN and My School have more than two or three years left to run.

In the ACT, the public’s response to the Future of Education process has led to a very sophisticated vision of what education should mean and reflects the views the profession has been espousing for many years. Within the community, there is a great deal of respect for what teachers do. People who try to pick on teachers are roundly and rightly criticised. Liberal backbencher Andrew Laming learned this a few months ago when he suggested publicly that teachers need to work longer hours and take fewer holidays. The response was swift; social media was flooded with comments from those who understand the demands placed on educators by their jobs. It wasn’t just teachers leaping to their own defence, but members of the community and other politicians as well. The days of people believing that our profession works short hours and for only part of the year are well and truly gone, with public support for teacher and principal workload issues very high.  

School autonomy was once in vogue. It now has very few proponents, and there is an overdue
shift to a system focus and meeting the needs of all children in all schools. It has been pleasing to see parent groups mobilised behind the concept of a great school for every child.
We will know we have really achieved our goals when we see new testing procedures that have the support of the profession – procedures that do not pit school against school or educator against educator, and where the data is used responsibly for the betterment of children, and not for the sick pleasure of political opportunists and edu-businesses.

We will know that we have finally reached the goal of true needs-based funding when
overfunded private schools cease to receive their many unfair advantages and the public schools with the greatest need are resourced in a way that reflects true need.

It’s only through our persistence as a collective group that these changes happen, and will keep happening. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to take a moment to count our wins, even as we continue to fight for the next one.

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