'School psychologists' dispute taken to IRC

Joan Lemaire
Senior Vice President

School counsellors improve learning and life outcomes

Federation holds that the Department’s decision to recruit “school psychologists” into the 236 full-time equivalent school counsellor positions identified in “Supported Students, Successful Students” breaches the Crown Employees (Teachers in Schools and Related Employees) Salaries and Conditions Award 2014.

At a meeting with the Department on February 10, Federation attempted to negotiate a resolution to this issue but the Department indicated recruitment of school psychologists would continue. The union has now lodged a dispute notification with the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.

In March 2015, Federation welcomed the announcement by Premier Mike Baird of an additional $80.7 million for the appointment of 236 additional school counsellors.

Meetings with Federation about the implementation of “Supported Students, Successful Students” commenced in July 2015. During these meetings the Federation raised concerns about the Department’s failure to recruit school counsellors and offered a collaborative approach to more effective recruitment strategies.

Despite this collaborative approach by Federation, the Department made a unilateral decision in late 2015 to advertise positions for “school psychologists” with no teaching qualifications to undertake a role described in similar terms to that of a school counsellor.

Federation opposed this decision as not being in the best interests of students or public schools.

School counsellors are required to have dual qualifications in teaching and psychology that support both the wellbeing of students and their specific learning needs.

This means that school counsellors are best placed to identify student learning needs and work with their teacher colleagues to support these students’ needs, thus improving both individual student learning and life outcomes consistent with the stated intentions of “Supported Students, Successful Students”.

The role and qualifications of school counsellors are set out in the award. The Department’s decision to employ “school psychologists” with the same role and salary but with different working hours and conditions breaches the award. The appointment of “school psychologists” to schools under these conditions will undermine the rights of school counsellors to transfer under the staffing agreement.

Federation urges members to contact Minister Piccoli and Premier Baird about the negative impact of the decision to recruit “school psychologists” rather than school counsellors.

An update will be provided on the progress of this dispute in the Industrial Relations Commission.

This article was originally published on Federation’s website at www.nswtf.org.au. This is an active dispute, and updates will be posted to the website as they happen.

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