Why a statewide staffing system is so important

Gary Zadkovich
Deputy President

Federation’s persistent campaigning over many years has built the foundations for withstanding the latest attempts to deregulate and dismantle the school staffing policies and processes that ensure statewide equity, stability, security and continuity — for students and teachers.

Equal opportunity for students is the great principle that underpins public education. It should always take priority over allowing a school to withdraw from the statewide system and locally select its teachers, without regard for the rights of students in other schools.

No school is an island

When thinking about what distinguishes the principles and values of the NSW Teachers Federation with regard to the provision of a quality public school in every community, the words of 17th century English poet John Donne come to mind:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” (Meditation XVII).

So it should be for public education. No school should be allowed to sever the ties that bind students, parents and staff into the one great public education system. No school should be allowed to become “autonomous” and make a “local decision” that causes harm to another.

Without a school accepting the appointment of a teacher on transfer, the incentive to work in harder to staff schools around the state will be cut. If schools in favoured locations are allowed to pull up the drawbridge and close their gates to transfers, the parents and students of other schools will suffer.

The denial of an equal opportunity for any one child, the ignoring of any one student’s need, the breaking of the links that unite public schools into a system — if these are allowed to occur, then public education will be much diminished.

Against the tide

Significantly, the “independent public schools” policies of Western Australia and Queensland that have schools competing for staff as winners and losers in a labour marketplace, are not being implemented in NSW. Currently there is a consensus that NSW public school students are best served by a statewide staffing system underpinned by a transfer process.

But there is no guarantee this will last.

In the current context, with schools being pressured by Local Schools, Local Decisions and Empowering Local Schools policies to trade off specialist teacher and executive positions, and to locally select staff instead of welcoming a colleague on transfer, Federation members must continue to campaign to protect their school’s staffing entitlement and the transfer system.

As well as providing equity for students, maintaining transfers will ensure the most important teacher recruitment and retention incentive in public schooling — permanency in employment. As Federation has emphasised for years, in a world where the casualisation of labour is sweeping through most industries, such employment security is gold.