Federation’s policy and information to all members and schools was clear from the outset: Do not participate in the Empowering Local Schools (ELS) national partnership initiative.
Despite the marketeers’ rhetoric and the $40,000 to $50,000 inducement to sign up, Federation emphasised that ELS is yet another cog in the devolution machinery designed by treasury and government to weaken public education by reducing investment and fragmenting the system.
Such initiatives are designed to work in tandem with the cost-cutting that comes with the deregulation of public school staffing policy, whereby statewide transfer systems are dismantled, a school’s staffing entitlement is subjected to cuts and trade-offs, and secure, permanent employment is undercut and replaced with casual/temporary, contract based
Schools pull out of ELS
As a result of the seriously flawed implementation of the Learning Management and Business Reform (LMBR) in the 229 schools that are piloting this administrative change, Federation members in several schools have endorsed resolutions for their school to be withdrawn from ELS. If the Department is not able to resolve problems and issues, this response is likely to spread.
Federation to survey schools
Continuing reports about the adverse impacts of LMBR led March Council to endorse a proposal from the floor to survey schools on the extent of the problems. Survey results will be collated by the end of this school term and used to pursue this matter with the Department and Ministry.
The scope of the survey questions reflects the nature of what is being reported: increased workload for staff; inadequacy of Department support; functionality of the LMBR software; work, health and safety issues; disruptions to school routine; problems with purchasing and reimbursements.
Effects on SASS
Federation is liaising with the Public Service Association (PSA), the union that covers school administrative and support staff (SASS) to address LMBR problems and related issues.
The extent of the PSA’s concerns is evident in advice to members about making a workers compensation claim: “If suffering ill effects as a result of work overload, visit your General Practitioner (GP), explaining the work overload issues and any symptoms you have. Ensure the GP provides a WorkCover Certificate of Capacity and cites work related anxiety, work related depression or other specifically defined work related injury….” (SASS Bulletin, March 2014).
Gonski funding is crucial
It is a paradox for devolutionary policies like ELS to be implemented in the context of a growth budget, but that is what is happening in NSW public schools under the Gonski funding agreement. It is imperative, therefore, for members to strongly support the campaign to secure all six years of Gonski funding. The loss of $2.75 billion from our schools in 2018/19 will make the current LMBR problems look like the tip of the iceberg.