The massive prices schools are being charged for teachers’ professional learning by the Department of Education and Communities are hindering teachers’ access to courses.
At the introduction of the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy principals and teachers were assured by the Department that despite cuts to consultants and curriculum leaders, schools would continue to have access to quality programs from their employer and indeed that schools would have greater flexibility to meet the needs of their school communities. Instead, there have been reports that Directors have informed principals that the region will now simply “broker” professional learning opportunities to suit their school’s needs.
Schools, in particular primary schools, are reporting a blowout in charges for these brokered literacy and numeracy courses. For example, the training for L3 (Language, Learning and Literacy), once provided free of charge to schools (excluding teacher relief costs), is now quoted at an “approximate” $5376 per teacher. For teachers wishing to complete the second year of the two-year L3 course, the cost is $2600 per teacher. For L3 Stage 1, the cost is $5266 per teacher. The cost for the Focus on Reading Trainer course is $4690 per teacher and $3591 per teacher for the Ten program.
As a consequence of the huge course costs, some teachers have been told that if they wish to complete the second year of the L3 course, they will have to pay for it themselves as the school’s professional learning budget will not cover the expense. Without consultation, others have been told to complete the training out of school hours. Some schools aren’t training any more teachers because they just can’t stretch their professional learning or literacy and numeracy budgets that far.
The literacy and numeracy component of school budgets have increased but do not offset the costs being charged by the Department. Schools should not expect teachers to pay for these courses themselves. Nor should schools design alternatives that result in a significant increase in teacher workload by planning for training to occur outside of school hours. Alternative arrangements for the delivery of teachers’ professional learning should be made in consultation with teachers.
Teachers facing unacceptable demands should speak to their Federation Workplace Committee and contact their local Organiser.
In response to a petition against cuts at the Department lodged by Wollongong MP Noreen Hay in March 2013, the Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli stated: “Teachers in government schools will be quarantined from these reductions.” What is evident is that the number of teachers in schools may not have been reduced, but far from being quarantined, teachers are now paying the price for this reduction in services as schools struggle to find ways to provide meaningful professional learning for their teachers.
Local Schools, Local Decisions is not delivering the support schools need and want. The ultimate casualties are the students who would have benefited greatly from their teachers’ experience in these programs.
Schools should work together to ensure their local Member of Parliament is aware of the impact Local Schools, Local Decisions and full cost recovery for Department courses is having on their schools.
Schools need the Department to have regional Education Services Teams that are able to deliver quality and affordable professional learning opportunities for teachers rather than operating in full cost recovery mode.