Created on Tuesday, 09 March 2010 09:38
Written by Anne Gisborne
Minister for Education Dr Liz Constable announced a 2nd round intake for the Independent Schools Program recently.
Again, the SSTUWA has been extremely dispappointed with this announcement, particulalry as the initial 34 schools announced late in 2009 have not yet even completed and had signed off their respective “business plans” [due in May 2010].
The SSTUWA and our members have grave reservations as to the continuation of this program and its impact on the goveernment schools’ system.
Whilst this round provides a longer period for consultation, again we see no requirements around how a school community is obliged to gauge the level of interest in becoming an Independent Public School.
DET & UNION UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS COMMISSION [WAIRC]
The Union continues to be engaged with DET on the DET-SSTU IPS Reference Group. This group has arisen out of a dispute the Union raised in the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission [WAIRC]. This group is enabling the parties to raise concerns and issues about directions being taken in the IPS which may contravene various Agreements or legislation.
A couple of areas in which concerns have been raised and which satisfactory answers are still not forthcoming include:
-  The capacity of an IPS to ‘opt out’ of a policy. We are asking DET to draw up a list of policies which may be ‘opted out of’ and a list which cannot be ‘opted out of’. We need to have mechanisms in place for the IPS to notify the Union of changes and the IPS will need to put in place measures to advise relief teachers and short term placement staff of any policies which are different to the main schooling system; and
-  The need to clarify the powers of School Councils, to advise if any legislative changes are required and to identify what are the liabilities to which members of a school council maybe subject.
UNION POSITION RE INDEPENDENT PUBLIC SCHOOLS [A PERSPECTIVE]
It is evident that the Barnett Government has the intention to expand the IPS program. The IPS program reflects an ideology driven by “choice”. Just in the name one reads inferences which play to the insecurities of a community which does not have strong messaging from government that public provision of education is valued and valuable, that it will fully and appropriately resource education delivery in government schools.
The Union makes it clear that it will continue to take a position opposing the introduction and expansion of the IPS program. At the same time Union commits to supporting and working with members in the nominated schools.
The Union’s positioning against the creation of a “system within a system” is not a knee jerk response. It is a well thought out and principled position. It is a position based on a view that the Western Australia community must continue to have provided a quality public education system. It is based on the clear evidence from international experience and research that the splitting off of schools from within the system, commonly known as Charter Schools, does not at the end of the day benefit students and community objectives.
Broadly, the Union has concerns about the IPS program on two fronts:
- The equity and access impacts arising out of the establishment of a “system within the public education system”; and
- The potential risks in eroding of conditions in the current The School Education Act Employees’ (Teachers and Administrators) General Agreement 2008 and Teachers (Public Sector Primary and Secondary Award 1993. Many of these conditions of course impact directly on students e.g. class size maximums.
The Union continues to bring to the attention of the community and government that there is an element of ‘smoke & mirrors’ in how the program is being promoted. The notion that schools can cater to the needs of students and the local context – What do we do now? The notion that schools can select their own staff – That’s funny, I thought we had the option of local selection? The notion that we can shed unnecessary bureaucratic burdens – Well, we’ll all have some of that! And it goes on.
Key issues which have been identified to date include:
- What legislative changes will Government/DET need to put in place to enable independent decision making to occur in the IPS?
- What are the potential liabilities for members on school councils?
- School policies impact on students, how will proposals to change school policies be discussed with the school community?
- The consultation process was not clear in this round. How can clear and unambiguous guidelines be prepared for schools to ensure that the voices of parents and the staff are considered?
As time progresses, I will provide further updates for your consideration.
- 2nd Intake Advertised
- 2nd Intake Consultation ...What to do?
- SSTUWA Communication to Parents/Community [See attached]
2ND INTAKE ADVERTISED
- The Union was extremely disppointed at Minister Constable’s decision to advertise for a second intake for the Independent Public Schools Program prior to any ability of the system to make judgement on the “effectiveness” or otherwise of the initial intake.
- CONSULTATION - The Union notes the response to criticism of the mere 19 days consultation period with the 1st intake with an extension to 2 months.
- CONSULTATION – Again, we do not see “bench marks” for measurement of staff and/or community responses e.g. vote
- OPT OUT – teachers and administrators in schools accepted into the 2nd round will be offered an opportunity to EIP out. The Union will be seeking to clarify commencement date and duration for this arrangement. Please note – once you have entered the EIP process you can not withdraw
2nd INTAKE CONSULTATION ...WHAT TO DO?
- 1. Pre-meeting circulate DoE materials on the 2nd intake
- 2. Convene a branch meeting
- 3. Endorse the SSTUWA Position [see resolutions attached]
- 4. Arrange to convey the branch position to the Principal and School Council
- 5. Meet with the Principal to establish:
- (a) The staff consultative process for considering an application for the IPS program
- (b) Arrangements for staff access to the application if an application is to be submitted
- 6 Arrange for a process whereby the staff reps on the School Council can table the views of staff and report back on School Council proceedings associated with IPS
- 7. Advise the Union office of any concerns with the consultation process and/or application [see Queries & Concerns Report Sheet]
SSTUWA COMMUNICATION TO PARENTS/COMMUNITY
Assist your parents/ school community to understand the concerns the STUWA has with the Independent Schools Program by distributing the attached parent bulletin No. 2 8 March 2010 .
1. Convene a branch meeting to discuss the matter
2. Consider the following resolutions for endorsement:
-  The __________ Branch of the SSTUWA condemns the Barnett Government for the introduction of “Independent Public Schools”, in particular the 2nd round intake before a clear determintation can be made as to the impact of this program in schools, and raises its major concern at the danger of creating a two tiered public education system.
-  The __________ Branch of the SSTUWA expresses its concern that yet again no “benchmarks” for measuring staff and community support for this program have been established for the 2nd round application process.
-  The __________ Branch of the SSTUWA calls on the Barnett Government to make available all documentation associated with the development of the “Independent Public Schools” proposal in the interests of transparency and public accountability and in order to safeguard the public education system.
-  The ___________ Branch of the SSTUWA advises the school administration and School Council that it opposes this school nominating as an “Independent Public School” for a range of reasons including:
- the lack of proper consultation with key stakeholders in development stage and in the application phase
- a major concern that this move is ideologically driven and not in the best interests of maintaining and resourcing quality public education for all students in our system
- the lack of clarity in a number of key areas including impact on industrial conditions of all staff, end of line accountabilities for schools and school councils, review of implementation
- the failure to enable as assessment of implementation in the 1st round schools before expanding the program
3. Write to Premier Barnett, Minister for Education Dr Liz Constable, Minister Assisting The Minister for Education Mr Terry Redman, Shadow Spokesperson for Education Ms Michelle Roberts, Greens Spokesperson for Education Ms Alison Xamon, your local parliamentarians and the school council raising your concerns at the direction being taken under the Barnett Governments “Independent Public School” roll out.