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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

BOTH FEDERAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS GET A FAIL ON PUBLIC EDUCATION by Noreen Navin


The NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) has placed a ban
on the implementation of the Federal and State
governments’ imposed mandatory school reporting
requirements for this year, 2006.

The use of standardised A to E grades is of particular
concern and teachers will not betray the trust of
students, their parents and school communities by
labelling students as failures. The banning by the
union of the execution of the reports for the end of
year reporting to parents is a coup for teachers who
from the onset resisted this form of reporting. Of the
2,200 or so public schools in NSW over 1,300 schools
have voted to refuse to be blackmailed into reporting
in a retrograde, destructive and inaccurate manner
with 8,000 teachers signing onto a public statement
published in the Sydney Morning Herald. The Department
of Education and Training (DET) took the NSWTF to the
Industrial Relations Commission over the issue and on
November 3 the judgement on the dispute was handed
down. In refusing to grant the Department of
Education and Training's application for a dispute
order against the Teachers Federation, Deputy
President Harrison stated: "I decline to make the
dispute order sought by DET. I am not satisfied that
the capacity to produce A-E reports is in place or
that it is reasonable to order production of those
reports in 2006."

In the Commission Principals and teachers gave
evidence in the case that the reports were not
educationally defensible.

In its ruling the Commission said, amongst other
things;

1. "The parties should both commit to a common goal
that the issues be resolved for reports in 2007,
commencing with the half yearly report, which has the
advantage of continuity of reporting over the academic
year as advanced by the Federation."

The Federation has consistently argued this point of
view with the state government and the Department. It
is now time for them to listen.

2. "The evidence brought by the Federation establishes
a serious concern as to whether the A-E reporting
system can be effectively implemented in all schools
in 2006."

3. "The extent of anguish demonstrated in the evidence
brought by the Federation gives rise to a conclusion
that directing the implementation of the A-E system
without resolution of the professional issues and
ensuring certainty of the capacity to comply has an
unacceptable potential to create harsh, onerous and
unreasonable working conditions."

4. In relation to the federal government's blackmail
funding threat:
"It is difficult to accept that a government would
withdraw funding from a State school system and deny
education to the student population."

Deputy President Harrison also directed the parties to
meet again and report back to the Commission on
Wednesday, 8 November 2006. The Commission once again
directed the Federation to lift its ban but refused to
issue an order which could lead to fines against the
union.

As part of the action plan in this campaign the NSWTF
will commence Freedom of Information applications to
make public so-called Board of Studies (BOS) advice to
the Minister of Education, Carmel Tebutt. The
Federation believes that advice provided to the
Minister may have been inconsistent with BOS policy
and or outside of the its statutory authority. The
investigation will be in preparation for potential
action against the BOS in the supreme court.

COERCIVE FEDERALISM

The issue of the mandatory imposition of reporting
practices highlights the Federal governments ever
increasing aggressive role in shaping policy in
relation to school education through a form of
coercive federalism whereby schools funding is made
conditional upon acceptance of its agenda.

The Howard government has threatened to hold schools
hostage to its demands; from flag poles to regressive
systems of performance pay for teachers. The latest
condemnation of teacher quality and standards and its
attempts to gain control of curriculum, pedagogy and
the profession is of extreme concern. Evidence of the
push to get a strangle hold over curriculum is the
declaration by Howard that the teaching of history
“has succumbed to a post-modern culture of relativism
where any objective record of achievement is
questioned or repudiated” and the most recent attack
on the teaching of geography where the Federal
Minister, Julie Bishop claimed that “themes emerging
in school curriculum are straight from Chairman Mao”
and that “ideologues have hijacked school curriculum”.
Also alarming is the attack on practices that instill
and develop skills in students to be critical and
analytical.

The attack by conservative forces on the profession
comes in the form of a continual denigration of
teachers and their professionalism, ethics and
responsibility to their students. Bishop’s comments
that “teachers were one of the few professions not
accountable for their students performance and it was
high time that they were held responsible” conflates
conveniently with the spectre of performance pay for
teachers based on student results. Bishop asserted
that performance pay would form part of the next round
of funding negotiations with the States and
Territories.

The NSW State government has failed to stand up to the
bullying and blackmail of the Federal government and
subsequently is no more than an administrative rump of
the Federal government, kow towing in myopic
submission.

Noreen Navin
State Councillor NSWTF

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