Focus continues on school staffing issues

Permanent appointment to substantive vacancies and protecting each school’s staffing entitlement.

Gary Zadkovich
Deputy President

Temporary appointments to permanent positions

The Department of Education and Communities reported to the joint monitoring and review committee meeting on April 11 that 2218 permanent vacancies are currently being filled by temporary teacher appointments. This reinforces the importance of Federation’s achievement in negotiating clause 2 of the school staffing agreement (2012– 2016). This clause determines that permanent vacancies may only be filled by temporary appointments when schools with fluctuating enrolments seek to minimise the nominated transfer of permanent teachers, or when a temporary teacher is appointed to implement a specific whole school program. Clause 22.3 of the award also obliges the Department to maximise the permanent employment of teachers.

The Department followed up an email notification to all schools on March 22 regarding its obligation to fill vacancies with permanent appointments, with a further email on May 6. This informed schools with temporary teachers being employed in permanent vacancies that Staffing Services would contact them to have these vacancies filled through “a strategy that accords with the staffing agreement and the award”.

Federation has written to the Department, requesting that sufficient resources be allocated to this task to ensure that vacancies are filled permanently by the end of the current school term on June 28.

It is expected that many hundreds of teachers will gain permanent employment through this process, and that temporary appointments will only continue if they comply with clause 2 of the staffing agreement. This matter will be the subject of a further report to the next quarterly meeting of the joint monitoring and review committee.

Protecting a school’s staffing entitlement

The historic schools funding agreement between the NSW Government and the Federal Government announced on April 23 provides the foundation for improved funding and support for students in all NSW public schools.

In this new, positive context where implementation of the Gonski funding model will provide NSW schools with $5 billion of additional government funding over six years, Federation believes our stand against policies like Local Schools, Local Decisions and Empowering Local Schools is strengthened. These policies were designed to cut educational expenditure over the longer term, with a reduction in staffing costs a prime target. While governments and treasuries may continue to harbour cost cutting agendas, Gonski funding changes things significantly for public education.

Federation believes there is no justification for a school to trade-off or cash in an executive position like assistant principal or head teacher, or a specialist teacher position like teacher-librarian or ESL teacher, to provide some other position that should be provided through additional government funding.

Instead of cutting into a school’s core staffing entitlement, schools should be able to use the additional funding that flows from the Gonski model to create additional positions to address locally identified student and school needs. This accords with established practice in schools on the Priority Schools Funding or Priority Action Schools programs, where additional equity funding is used to create additional executive positions, provide executive release time, reduce class sizes, engage more school counsellor time and so on.

Federation will pursue these matters with the Department and Education Minister in the weeks and months ahead, as the full scope of the Gonski funding changes is ascertained and planning ensues accordingly.