School staffing issues being pursued

Gary Zadkovich
Deputy President

Federation is pursuing greater certainty and security on key aspects of school staffing policy.

Gonski funding to expand permanent employment opportunities

As the numbers of employees in casual or temporary employment increase across most industries, permanency remains a major recruitment and retention incentive to work in NSW public schools.

Federation believes that the Gonski funding model provides new permanent employment opportunities when schools establish additional teacher positions to address an educational need. Accordingly, Federation is seeking negotiations with the Department for a regulatory staffing framework to facilitate the appointment of teachers to such positions on a permanent rather than a temporary basis. This would be a positive change from the previous practice whereby the temporary funding allocated through programs such as the National Partnerships led to the Department requiring that the extra positions created could only be filled on a temporary basis.

As part of these negotiations, Federation is also seeking to achieve improved protections for the teacher staffing entitlement in the guidelines for schools to change the mix of staff. Federation’s rationale is clear here: If schools wish to establish new positions to better meet student needs, do not trade off existing positions in the staffing entitlement such as assistant principal or teacher-librarian. Instead, use the additional Gonski funding to establish new positions.

Ensuring permanent vacancies are filled by permanent appointments

Clause 2 of the staffing agreement stipulates that unfilled permanent vacancies should not be filled by temporary appointments, with the following two exceptions. If student enrolments are fluctuating, schools may make a temporary appointment to avoid nominating a permanent teacher for transfer. If schools wish to run a whole school program that requires particular teacher expertise, a temporary appointment may be made to a permanent vacancy for this purpose.

The Department has responded to Federation’s requests for more thorough and comprehensive auditing of unfilled vacancies by establishing a section within the new People and Services Directorate, led by Senior Manager, Systems Compliance. As advised in a letter from the Department on March 13, this section will be staffed by seven analysts who, as part of their role, “will monitor the level of unfilled entitlements in schools to ensure compliance with the staffing agreement and Award”.

Further, the Department has reiterated the obligation to fill permanent vacancies in an email to all principals on January 7 and in the essential reading section of Schoolbiz in week 8.

Review of advertising and selection procedures

The staffing agreement requires that the parties conduct a review of the advertising and selection processes currently in place. The Department is proposing a number of changes for consideration in this review. Federation is currently preparing a membership survey to gain members’ views on these matters.