New policy to determine staff mix in schools

Gary Zadkovich
Deputy President

In a significant development in the on-going campaign to protect school staffing entitlements from being reduced, Federation has successfully negotiated with the Department for a new policy entitled Principles for Determining the Mix of Staff in Schools (the Principles).

Since the State Government’s Local Schools, Local Decisions (LSLSD) policy and the Federal Government’s Empowering Local Schools (ELS) pilot were announced, Federation has been supporting members to protect the number of classroom teacher, executive and specialist teacher positions allocated to each school.

While it is unacceptable that any school should be pressured to trade off teaching positions for some other educational or administrative purpose, this was being allowed in the 229 ELS pilot schools. Federation has consistently argued that a school’s staffing entitlement is the government guarantee that ensures all students, wherever they attend public schools, have equal access to support from their classroom teachers, executives and specialist teachers.

Using Gonski funding instead of trading off positions

The key achievement in the new policy is the Department’s acceptance that additional funding provided by the NSW National Education Reform Agreement (the Gonski agreement) should be considered for establishing new teaching and executive positions. Federation successfully advocated that schools should use this funding to create whatever new staffing positions they sought, rather than trade off existing positions and jeopardise the overall entitlement in the future. If a school demonstrates that they can do away with an assistant principal, head teacher or teacher-librarian position today, why would Treasury in the future continue to fund the existing number of positions? As evidenced in Victoria, this reduction in provision is what the devolution agenda is all about.

Using Gonski funding in this way enacts the ‘core plus’ concept that Federation has proposed since the advent of LSLD and ELS. Instead of pressuring schools to trade off positions in their core staffing entitlement, Gonski funding should be utilised to create additional positions to meet the identified educational need. This is consistent with the good practice over many years in schools that received additional funding from equity programs like Priority Action Schools and National Partnerships.

More permanent teaching positions

As programs like the National Partnerships were funded for a limited duration, the Department insisted that new positions created with additional funding would be staffed by temporary appointments as the funding was ‘temporary’. Under Gonski, this is no longer the case.

The Gonski loadings for the various equity areas are ‘built-in’, recurrent funding. To the Department’s credit, it acknowledged this and agreed that where appropriate, additional positions should be filled through permanent appointment under the new policy.

More than $4 billion of additional funding is due to be allocated to NSW public schools under the six year Gonski agreement. This provides the potential for thousands of additional permanent teaching positions to be created. This will deliver more permanent employment opportunities for teachers and more support for students in their learning. It’s a win all around.

Assisting schools with staffing decisions

The principles provide clearer direction and scope for greater cooperation and consensus at the school level when making staffing decisions.

Information on the Principles and related policies will be provided in a school staffing kit currently being prepared for use by Federation Representatives and Workplace Committees. This aims to assist all involved in staffing decisions at the school level.