LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

RPL rorts should be banned

The experiment of funding private vocational education and training (VET) providers is a waste of public money.

The obvious rorts are now well known but one aspect of the insidious nature of several profit-based businesses sits within the validity of their assessment protocols. Where training and qualifications are directly linked to issuance of an occupational licence, such as for builders in NSW, there should be no private RTOs who basically sell a quick qualification via their extensive use of RPL rather than any valid assessment in order for their clients to apply for a NSW building contractor licence.

Heavy radio advertising repeatedly promises the issuance of such qualifications for the purposes of licencing with no requirement for formal study or examination.

NSW Fair Trading should immediately reject any licence applicant who has not completed a course of study with TAFE. TAFE is the only reputable RTO that can ensure the validity of the training being delivered and assessed and the qualifications subsequently issued.

Brett Bates
St George TAFE College

Workload breaking point near

It’s encouraging to read that our Victorian AEU colleagues are preparing to strike over excessive workload. According to AEU Victorian Branch President Meredith Peace, “Over two-thirds of teachers don’t have enough time to plan their classes to the level that they would want .... The whole system is at breaking point.”

"Teachers work two full days of overtime every week — and when teachers are run into the ground it is ultimately students who suffer. Around 90 per cent of teachers say that their workload negatively affects the quality of their teaching”.

People’s workloads are intensifying as company profits soar. It’s no coincidence that, nationally, we’re experiencing the lowest levels of industrial action on record. Industrial laws favour the big end of town. Soaring workload levels need to be confronted now, before we reach our breaking point.

John Gauci
Taverners Hill Infants

What hope on disability?

My good intentions faded when I realised the amount of research that was needed to present a reasonable submission to the state parliament’s current Inquiry into the Needs of Students With a Disability or Special Needs in NSW Schools.

The starting point was to read Federation’s Special Education Position Paper 2014. I agree totally with its stated Vision. I have, however, read papers from government and statutory bodies regarding the education of children and have not been able to come to a conclusion about how we, as a society, can achieve our goals because:

  • our education system is based on elitism, an old English tradition
  • flawed or varying family structures can prevent child development
  • poverty in our society is far too high and this can prevent child development
  • schools are ill-equipped to handle children with special needs
  • the lack of will by the federal government to implement Gonski.

My apologies for such negativity.

Frank Tweedie
Retired

Wake up, Federation

Over the past five years, the NSW government has focused a significant amount of resources on:

  • introducing governance measures that stipulate teacher qualities
  • significantly altering the governance of teacher reporting, recording and monitoring
  • most importantly, under the guise of teacher quality control, potentially limiting most new and future teachers to a wage of approximately $80,000.

These measures have been introduced and sold to teachers to, (supposedly) “improve student outcomes”. Yet I continue to see reports that students have failed to improve in terms of international measurements and national testing.

It leaves me to wonder how the governance of education became so misguided. Yes, teachers are important, but when did it become OK to stop looking at teachers as artisans of their practice and the pillars on which a strong education system stands? When did it become OK to attack teachers on the grounds of student improvement?

But most importantly, when did Federation buy this argument from the government and stop protecting our working conditions to the fullest? How could pay limits have been introduced without a fight? Why has nothing been done about our increasing workload?

I am left wondering if Federation is negligent or misguided in what it thinks a teachers’ union is. I get the impression the NSW Teachers Federation could be renamed the NSW Principals Federation.

Greg Adamson
Ariah Park Central School

Deputy President Gary Zadkovich responds:

At the statewide stop-work meetings held late last year, a detailed explanation was given by the Presidential Officers about the current context for salaries and working conditions. Negatives such as the NSW government’s wages policy were reported, as were the low inflation/CPI cost-of-living index and the benefits for students and teachers of Gonski funding.

In response to this report, more than 99 per cent of members in attendance voted to endorse a new salaries and conditions award with increases of 2.5 per cent per annum over three years and all working conditions preserved.

Overwhelmingly, members in attendance appreciated this achievement and recognised the challenge of overturning the Public Sector Wages Policy in the NSW parliament.

The writer asserts that the salary cap was introduced “without a fight”. The fact is that Federation members took statewide strike action against it on September 8, 2011. Metropolitan members joined more than 30,000 fellow union members in a protest rally in Sydney’s Domain.

While it has been difficult to convince the NSW government to revoke its unjust legislation since that time, given the number of seats held by the Coalition and upper house crossbenchers, Federation will pursue this campaign in the next state election.

Members also voted in these meetings to support a proposal to address teacher workload issues. This involves conducting an independent inquiry into the negative impacts of devolutionary policies like Local Schools, Local Decisions (LSLD) and Learning Management Business Reform (LMBR).

This will be informed by an audit of teaching and learning to identify those tasks that distract and divert teachers from what should be our core professional focus — delivering quality education for students. This work will form the basis for a major campaign to address teacher stress and workload issues.

The concern about the misuse of standardised test data is being addressed. Federation is currently developing a strategy to resist a renewed political push to displace quality pedagogy and authentic assessment with a test-driven, data-collecting agenda. This will be a key debate for 600 teacher delegates at Annual Conference in July.

The letter ends with an implied criticism of principals. Federation rightly includes all public school teachers, including principals, as members. Principals are teachers in a crucial leadership role. They are important and welcome members of the Federation. Unity is strength.