Strengthening system support for our public schools and staff
The SSTUWA position in relation to the Independent Public Schools (IPS) initiative has been well documented over the last decade. In WA there are now in excess of 600 IPS worksites. As stated in our 2017 state election position paper the degree to which the IPS model is now embedded in the system has revealed significant flaws, the most significant of which is the tendency towards individualism and competition between schools rather than collaboration and support for each other. This tendency is magnified in particular by staffing practices designed to reinforce the rhetoric of school choice and autonomy at the expense of building and supporting system capacity for the benefit of all.
As stated in the 2017 document, the focus on the rhetoric of school choice comes at the expense of those schools which are not able to attract applicants due to the nature of the student cohort and/or their geographic location. As predicted by the SSTUWA this is beginning to have consequences for the capacity of some schools to attract and keep staff, which has the further consequences of limiting curriculum choice and developing a toxic culture of competition between public schools.
The SSTUWA continues to seek changes to staff placement processes.
The SSTUWA seeks:
- An immediate review of staff placement procedures, with a focus on redeployment protocols, to ensure fair placement for all public school staff.
- The implementation of a centrally provided change management process to ensure minimal risk in the introduction of mandated policies and practices.
- The reintroduction of school support mechanisms, including specialist staff, through regional offices, noting that a variety of models may be appropriate to ensure that schools’ needs are met.
- An adjustment to the Student Centred Funding Model which ensures students in district high schools have access to a broad and comprehensive secondary curriculum.
- The re-establishment of localised district level support, especially in rural areas
Members of the SSTUWA have repeatedly raised concerns about their increasing workloads which:
- Affect their ability to prepare, teach and follow up properly.
- Have a detrimental effect on their health and well-being.
- Have deterred many from pursuing higher career aspirations, including leadership, due to fears of more stress.
Workload issues for teachers, school leaders and TAFE lecturers have been mounting for some considerable time. These have been further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the expectation and pressure for educators to prepare resources for their students in anticipation of widespread school and TAFE closures.
In a 2018 survey conducted by Curtin University senior lecturer and discipline lead, Scott Fitzgerald, in conjunction with researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales, 42.9 percent of SSTUWA respondents felt their workload demands conflicted with their family responsibilities (Fitzgerald et al. 2019). More than 91 percent of SSTUWA respondents indicated that their administrative tasks had increased and that these tasks take them away from their core teaching and learning responsibilities (Fitzgerald et al. 2019).
More worryingly, a large number of these tasks were felt to be system compliance tasks with little or no relevance to the core business of teaching.
Dr Fitzgerald’s research highlighted the need for schools to be properly resourced to meet the diverse needs of student cohorts, which are increasingly complex in nature, and to whom public schools are increasingly being called upon to provide support.
Top five ranked strategies to support educators in their work
Survey respondents were provided with 14 strategies that may assist with their work; they were asked to rank the strategies in order of priority. These are the five highest ranked support strategies:
Since 2017 there have been small improvements in the levels of support provided to schools. Some of these have been a direct result of General Agreement gains, such as the curriculum documents, the collegiate principal position and the expansion of the Leadership Centre to include the provision of professional learning for all employees covered by the General Agreement.
The SSTUWA anticipates that the provision of K-10 curriculum resources as called for in the lead up to the 2017 state election and negotiated in the 2019 General Agreement should alleviate a significant amount of the time currently taken for planning and preparation. For this to be the case we believe it is important that the Department of Education mandates the documents as the principal mechanism for the delivery of the WA curriculum requirements.
The SSTUWA calls for:
- The development of a positive health and well-being framework that recognises the vastness of WA and the contextualised challenges of its schools and their staffs.
- Professional learning to build positive school environments, managing complex and developmental trauma and preventative, restorative and responsive teacher training.
- Sufficient additional FTE of trained professionals to support schools and teachers for students exhibiting challenging and complex behaviours.
- Funding to cover the allocation of trained, dedicated finance professionals, to assist principals in managing their one-line budgets.
- The reinstatement of funding for Level Three Classroom Teacher positions and professional learning support.
- Clear direction regarding the use of the curriculum documents agreed to in the Schools General Agreement 2019.
- An expansion in the numbers of collegiate principals.
- A clear commitment to the role of the collegiate principal being to build and support principal capacity.