Schools

Quality school infrastructure — an issue for state and federal governments

July 12, 2018

Federation rejects the unilateral imposition of open-space learning on new and existing schools.

“It is inflexible by design and excludes the informed, educationally sound views of the teaching profession,” Delegates to Federation’s 100th Annual Conference pronounced.

Senior Vice President Henry Rajendra said: “We cannot have architects determining pedagogy.”

In the absence of any supporting evidence, the Department should provide open space learning in addition to standard classrooms.

Mr Rajendra said a Macquarie University study found that in a quieter, enclosed classroom, children’s speech perception scores were about 80 per cent, but in an open-plan classroom, scores dropped to 75 per cent at the front to less than 25 per cent at the back.

“This is very concerning as it impacts children’s learning.”

Delegates stated in an Annual Conference decision: “The fad of ‘open space learning’ may not comply with syllabus requirements, award conditions, the Staffing Agreement, work, health and safety expectations, and the requirements of the Performance and Development Framework. It is an unregulated and unilateral change to teachers’ working conditions that has not been negotiated with the union. Further, provision of adequate specialist learning spaces has been limited.”

Annual Conference delegates acknowledged the Department has agreed to negotiate revised school building guidelines with the union. This is many years overdue.

“With so many infrastructure projects in motion, this sentiment must be matched by action as a matter of urgency. As a first step, the Department should conduct an audit of statewide needs of new schools in the short-, medium- and long term, as well as facilities and classroom upgrades. This audit is to inform negotiations with Federation,” Annual Conference resolved.

“In negotiation with Federation, the Department must establish a baseline of regulation and central coordination that protects the integrity of teaching and learning, provides the foundation for appropriate, educationally sound local consultation with the teaching profession, and ensures effective delivery of the high quality school infrastructure that all students deserve.”

Mr Rajendra said accommodating the expected 23 per cent growth in student enrolments over the next 10 to 12 years was not the only school infrastructure issue facing government, noting the maintenance backlog.

“We have an ageing school infrastructure and the up-keep has not been there … It’s just appalling,” he said.

Delegates acknowledged the increased level of funding for new and redeveloped school buildings and maintenance announced in the most recent NSW state budget, but declared “funding remains insufficient”.

Annual Conference Delegates stated the State Government is not alone in its neglect of public school infrastructure.

“In an era when successive federal governments have laid a renewed claim to being ‘nation builders’, the Turnbull Government, as the level of government with the greatest capacity to raise revenue, has failed to acknowledge and address the infrastructure needs of public schools across Australia,” the Annual Conference decision states.

Mr Rajendra said the Turnbull Government has allocated $1.9 billion to private schools and yet “not one cent has been allocated for any public school in this nation for schools infrastructure”.

Annual Conference Delegates reaffirmed a key demand of the Fair Funding Now! Campaign: calling for the establishment of a federal government “public schools capital fund” to upgrade classrooms and facilities.