Major education reset
Saturday, 15th May, 2021
By Emily McInerney
The government will fail students if a major reset of the education system isn’t done, according to the President of the NSW Teacher’s Federation.
Angelo Gavrielatos, President of the NSW Teachers Federation was joined by Dr Geoff Gallop (former WA Premier and Head of the Gallop Inquiry into Education in NSW) this week in the city as part of their tour to publicise the outcomes of the Gallop Inquiry.
In February 2020, the NSW Teachers Federation commissioned an independent inquiry into the work of teachers and principals and how it has changed since 2004.
The expert panel that conducted the independent inquiry in 2020 was chaired by Dr Gallop.
The other panel members were Dr Tricia Kavanagh, former Justice of the NSW Industrial Court and Deputy President of the NSW IRC and Patrick Lee, former Chief Executive of the NSW Institute of Teachers.
“We determined there were three very important questions we had to ask. The first one being; what is the actual work of teacher’s today and how has it changed since the last work value case?
“The second question we had to ask was; what are the support services available for teachers to carry out their job?
“The third question we looked at; what is the remuneration status of teachers today? How does it compare with other vocations?”
Dr Gallop said in regards to the first question they found there was an enormous increase in the volume, complexity and intensity in work for teachers.
“This was due to an enormous amount of change in education, the Commonwealth is playing a much bigger role, and we have the State Government with its own ideas.
“They introduced a major reform in 2012 called Local Schools, Local Decisions which was very controversial.
“You’ve also got the changing nature of population for government schools, a very significant increase of disabled students in schools, backed up by government legislation protecting their interests.
“Public schools carry the main responsibility for teaching our Indigenous children and teenagers, as well as English as a Second Language students, new refugees, etc.
“The intensification of the work as well as the complexity of it has also been affected by the mental distress that we see in many youngsters these days.
“They need a system to back them up.
“Work of teachers, very complicated, a lot of change, pressure and a lot of framework.”
Dr Gallop said historically schools had a specialist that would come in to help schools and provide support.
“In 2012, they all went and in came Local Schools, Local Decisions. That gave schools the power and the responsibility to deal with all of these issues to individual principals.
“In some parts of the state, it worked reasonably okay. But you start moving into difficult areas outside of Sydney, and you can give someone the money but they’ve got to have something to spend it on.
“There might not be the teachers available, there might not be the psychologists, and there might not be the advice on classroom strategies. So this inequality has developed with respect to support services.
“We recommend that we return to a system of direct support from specialist teachers and this needs to be linked in with a bigger effort to disadvantaged schools.”
Dr Gallop said the remuneration of teachers is well behind other professions.
“It’s a dangerous situation. We’ve got to attract the best and brightest into teaching.
“Teaching is a very challenging job. We need to attract people to do it.
“If the signal we are getting is you don’t get adequate support and it’s all too hard - why would we want to get into it?
“Add to that you are not being paid the same as other professions that compete with the government system.
“What do you end up with? Shortages.”
Dr Gallop said they have come back to traditional conclusions; that working conditions matter and remuneration matters.
“We’ve already had the opportunity to address the parliament and the Minister came along to hear it,” he said.
“The Legislative Council debated our report (on Thursday). We’ve put our report on the table and we think our recommendations are sensible - there’s 12 of them.
“We believe they need to be achieved over a reasonable time span of six years. The first is wages and more time for teachers to plan their lessons.
“The other changes you can phase-in in that timeline.”
Inquiries of this nature were previously conducted as “work value” cases in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.
Each case between 1970 and 2004 found significant changes in the work of teachers and adjusted salaries to better reflect their expertise and responsibilities and
maintain the attractiveness of the profession.
In 2004, teachers were awarded salary increases of 12 to 19.5 per cent.
The NSW Government’s wages policy now prevents such work value cases from being conducted.
Mr Gavrielatos said it was important to have an independent panel look into the issue.
“These recommendations bring with them significant authority and weight, we will use it as a platform to support the union’s policy objectives,” he said.
“Those objectives are similar to the recommendations that are delivered.
“The report has confirmed what has been clear for all teachers and principals - mainly they have been toiling under unsustainable workloads without the time and support to do the work that is expected of them.
“And they are in an environment where their salaries have decreased dramatically.
“This is a toxic mix, which puts at risk the very essence of education; and that is a qualified teacher in the front of every classroom.
“We find ourselves at a pivotal point in the history of education in NSW - it shows a dramatic increase in student enrolments in the next 20 years.
“In fact, 200,000 additional students will be enrolled - that’s a 25 per cent increase.
“An analysis of how many teachers will be required tells us we will need 11,000 - 15,000 teachers in the next 10 years.
“If we’re going to meet the fundamental right of children, which is to be taught by a qualified teacher, a policy reset is urgently needed. It’s the government’s responsibility to do that to attract the teachers needed. We don’t have the luxury of sitting around navel-gazing - this is urgent.”
The panel received more than 1000 submissions from teachers and schools.
The first six recommendations included;
An increase of between 10 and 15 per cent in the next wages agreement (covering 2022 and 2023) to recognise the increase in skills and responsibilities, help overcome shortages and recruit the additional teachers needed to cope with enrolment growth.
2. Preparation time
An increase in the hours teachers have for collaboration, planning, assessment and monitoring student progress. An additional two hours should be provided for primary
teachers along with a reduction of two hours in the current maximum face-to-face teaching loads for all secondary teachers (including head teachers and deputy principals).
“Non face-to-face” teaching time for primary executive staff to match that of secondary executive staff.
To better address student disadvantage and overcome the failure of the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy, the staffing and resourcing of schools should be reset. That should include the return of centrally-employed specialist staff who can assist teachers. Permanent teacher numbers should be increased to overcome the shortages of casuals. The excessive use of temporary teacher employment should be addressed.
4. Promotions and career structure
A new statewide, standards-based promotions system is required. There should also be a more expansive career structure for teachers, including new categories of expert teachers.
5. School counsellors
An urgent increase in school counsellors is recommended to overcome shortages and address the significant rise in student mental health issues. Counsellors should be provided on the basis of at least one for every 500 students by 2023.
6. Curriculum and administration
The government’s “unreasonable and unworkable plan” to introduce a new curriculum for all students by 2024 should be abandoned.
Starting the implementation in 2022 is supported on the condition that teachers have time to work on the new curriculum, have access to professional development support and their administration and compliance responsibilities are reduced as outlined in the Masters’ report.