Achieving quality and equity in NSW public schooling

Gary Zadkovich

Deputy President

The NSW Gonski agreement is a monumental achievement. It is imperative, however, that more than $4 billion of additional funding over six years is spent in ways that enhance the quality of teaching and learning, and ensure that students gain the benefits of funding loadings to meet specific student needs.

With the abolition of state equity programs under Local Schools, Local Decisions (LSLD) and the roll-over of National Partnerships funding into the Gonski model, concerns abound about the capacity of the Department to address the needs of low socio-economic status students, Aboriginal students, migrant and refugee students with limited English language proficiency, and students with disability and special needs.

At Annual Conference in July, Federation endorsed policy aimed at reversing the slide into lower quality, lower equity educational delivery that characterises Australia’s international performance.

School staffing

While Federation achieved a staffing agreement last year that protects the transfer system, permanency in teacher employment and class sizes until the end of term 1, 2016, there is still much work to do to ensure students are not disadvantaged by the devolution agenda.

The key challenge under LSLD and its Resource Allocation Model (RAM) is the maintenance of each school’s staffing entitlement. Federation will continue to support schools in resisting pressure to trade-off or cash-in teaching positions.

Clause 2 of the staffing agreement requires permanent positions to be filled by permanent rather than temporary appointments, with limited exceptions. Auditing and follow-up action by the Department, together with the usual staffing operation, have led to 726 positions being filled by permanent rather than temporary appointments since the start of the year.

As has been the practice with the staffing differential for schools on the Priority Schools Program for many years, Federation is requesting that additional teacher positions created with the Gonski needs-based funding loadings should be established as permanent rather than temporary positions.

Federation continues to pursue permanency for teachers after two years of temporary service in the most remote and hardest to staff schools in the state. This would enhance these schools’ capacity to attract and retain teachers and better meet student needs.

The union has also proposed to the Department that Gonski funding should be used to fund executive release in primary schools as a centrally allocated staffing entitlement, as currently applies in secondary schools.

Transition from National Partnerships

Federation continues to press the Department to ensure that schools do not lose funding in the transition from National Partnerships to the Gonski model. The Department has advised that this matter is close to finalisation and schools should be informed soon.

Developing a policy/accountability/reporting framework

Students and schools must not be disadvantaged by the transition to the Gonski funding model and the implementation of the Resource Allocation Model (RAM). To ensure this, Federation is pursuing a policy/accountability/reporting framework to apply to the allocation of funding to address specific student and school needs.

Federation has written to the Department requesting negotiations on these matters.