“Being Fed Rep is time-consuming — there is no sugar-coating the situation,” says Sean Leyland, “but it can be hugely rewarding. You learn how a particular school and the Department operate, and the satisfaction of assisting colleagues who require help or guidance can’t be overestimated.
“Schools without a Fed Rep must be vulnerable places. The accountability they bring and their role as a conduit between the union, Department and the school ensures protection and the sharing of knowledge.”
Having been an active member of the school workplace committee for many years Sean put his hand up to be Fed Rep three years ago when Glenn Johnson (one of this year’s new Federation Life Members) retired.
He says frankly that there has been no particularly mighty moment in the job but “a warm rosy glow” when colleagues in need appreciated his aid. “Often, Fed Reps are the only friends teachers have in certain situations,” he said.
Sean grew up in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain of the 1980s. “My first years of teaching were plagued by her union bashing,” he said. Being in a union was the only way to maintain or improve working conditions. "My father was a union rep, my two brothers are," Sean said.
“I also believe,” he adds, “that a unionised workforce is the best way to boost productivity, to coin a horrible business word. This is often overlooked.”
He has recently been dealing with the installation of CCTV at Cowra High: “Ensuring that effective communication and process was followed during this time was paramount.”
He doesn’t get release time for his union duties and has to make do with free periods, collapsed classes or after-school meetings but adds, “Luckily, in recent years we have started to build an effective workplace committee.”
Sean says transparency in how a school operates, from top to bottom, is essential and that an effective Fed Rep can ensure that this happens.
The Cowra High Fed Rep walks 6km to school and back home each day “whether there is frost on the deck or the February heat — one of the best decisions of my life!”
He’s a “sport head”, coaching soccer for more than 20 years in school and the community, and has coached State Title sides and still referees games.
“Rarely a day goes by where I do not read,” Sean says, when asked what else occupies his spare time. “My bookshelves at home are at bursting point. All of my life I have been a music lover and my taste is getting broader: I recently discovered 1950s through to ’70s jazz and realised what I have been missing out on for years.
“I adore genealogical research, both on my own and other families'. Most of all, I am a family man — I have the world’s best partner and two fantastically well-rounded sons who are now young men.”