With the current school staffing agreement due to expire at the end of term 1, 2016, negotiations have commenced for a new agreement that continues the regulated system that has ensured protection, stability and security for NSW public school students and teachers.
As has been emphasised to both the Department and the Education Ministry, Federation believes the maintenance of a statewide staffing system is a crucial priority.
The first staffing agreement was signed on 30 June, 1993 to settle a major industrial dispute over the retention of a centralised staffing system. Since then, Federation has campaigned and negotiated for successive staffing agreements that have ensured the right to be taught by qualified teachers for all students, wherever they live in this vast and socio-economically diverse state. It is only through a statewide transfer system that a curriculum guarantee has been maintained for all students.
Importantly, this staffing system also provides permanency for teachers. Such security in employment has proven to be a major recruitment and retention incentive for teaching in NSW public schools. It is absolutely essential that it is maintained for the future.
The transfer system has also provided career mobility, enabling teachers to move to various schools in different parts of the state. This has a significant mutual benefit. Students and school communities gain from the influx of new teachers with new ideas, just as teachers gain from adapting to new educational, socio-economic and cultural contexts. This cross-fertilisation of ideas and practice has too often been undervalued by governments that have sought to replace the transfer system with local selection of teachers in each school.
The key priorities that Federation has tabled for negotiation with the Department are drawn from Council and Annual Conference decisions. Some of these policy positions are longstanding; others are more recent and reflect current trends, issues and concerns. In addition to a list of matters previously pursued with the Department, the following were tabled at the first negotiation meeting on October 7:
- duration of the new agreement to be four years to ensure stability and continuity
- ensuring workplace compliance with the agreement
- continued protection of class sizes, permanency and the transfer system
- incentive transfers for principals in transition to the new principal classification structure
- restoration of nominated transfers to highest priority
- staffing entitlements, including primary executive release time, to be included
- effective implementation of the Principles for Determining the Mix of Staff in Schools
- enhanced promotions system
- improvements in casual and temporary teacher employment and support
- recruitment and retention incentives for harder to staff schools
- review of staffing codes and their use
- implementation of changes to provisions for leave without pay
- TALEO recruitment system
- executive review committees
- teacher qualifications
- provisions for staffing non-school based teaching service positions
- Staffing of distance education centres.
Federation and the Department have agreed on a schedule of negotiation meetings for this term. It is hoped that positive progress is made and that a new agreement can be achieved by the end of the year.