School Autonomy Has Created a Privileged Set of Schools in WA

The Federal Opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, supports the extension of the “independent public schools” (IPS) model of school autonomy operating in Western Australia to other states. He says that some of the greatest success stories have been in low socio-economic status (SES) schools.

However, many low SES schools find it difficult to compete with IPS in attracting and retaining high quality teachers. as these stories from principals of low SES schools in Western Australia attest. The stories show that the IPS model is creating a two-tier education system in terms of staffing.

Principal 1
I was recently working in a very difficult to staff school, low SES. The student cohorts have lots of problems and teaching is something you strive to get the opportunity to do. Most days it’s a battle with behaviour first. Really tough work. The community give little support and the dysfunction within families is high. We had such a high turnover around 50% of the staff every year. As we were a merit selection school, we ran a selection process, interviewed 15 people and ranked them accordingly. However, the first 10 ranked applicants were also offered positions in more desirable schools. None took up the offer from our school and I was forced to offer the position to the 11th ranked person.

Basically, the better ranked teachers chose better schools. That is how it goes and that is how we get residualisation within schools. Low SES schools just cannot compete with the leafy greens, and they don’t even have to be leafy greens but good solid communities that support education and their kids in school. There was always a component of this, but IPS has really amplified it.

Principal 2
Very concerned about the current staffing arrangements of Local Public Schools and the IPS. The concern is that the school has a number of fixed term positions and the current policy position is discriminatory because Local Public Schools (LPS) are required to take any number of redeployees.

Some teachers, in this instance drawn from the redeployees pool, need support to fit within the school culture and enhance educational outcomes. Many redeployees are virtually graduates who have completed their 2 years probation in a (CTP) school, and are due for transfere back to the metro area. These teachers still need a significant amount of support. This support requires additional resourcing. Some other teachers also from the redeployee pool grow into the role with time and appropriate mentoring from the school. This has been due to our expectations and resourcing. Resourcing is also point of contention.

LPS schools do not have any additional resources. IPS does receive ongoing additional funding. In our situation the resourcing to support redeployee teachers entering a school has to be found within the confines of the schools budget or the initiative of the principal.

Principal 3
Getting the best match for your school is not made easy in LPS, it is made very difficult with the process of selecting from a school or network staffing pool and then in the process of doing so the decision at the local level can be over ridden by the system demanding that your school take redeployees into a fixed term position. The same can apply to a permanent position.

So we have recently advertised a fixed term position to replace one of our school leaders as she is on long service leave for 12months. We commenced the process ranking the teachers within the pool and were about to finalise the process when we received information that we have to take a redeployee. This redeployee was looking for full time work but opting out of the IPS system. The new teacher stayed for 6 months and then went to another school. We now have another person in this position; this person is also a redeployee and may well leave before the end of the term if she gets a more permanent position. We will then have had three people in one position before the end of the year. Great school cohesion, this is an enormous amount of upset that IPS do not have to deal with.

Several questions need to be asked:
1. Classroom First policy espouses building distinctive focus, best match student needs and schools focus. It emphasises the importance of students first. In what way does the process of School Select align with the principles of Classroom First?
2. How does the Department of Education policy sit with Auditor General’s Report, Right teacher, Right Place, Right Time 2011. This makes reference to the minimum standard and the need to have an employment standard above the minimum recognition of qualifications and registration.
3. Currently there are no limitations to the numbers of redeployees a school may take in one year; at what point does the Department protect the function and culture of the school?
4. It has been our experience that some teachers including those from redeployee pool require additional support to take up their appointed position within the school; how do we minimise the impact on students at the school?

Principal 4
LPS schools do not get the funds to assist; IPS get funds to help them with various aspects of school organisation and this can be used on staffing. I have noticed that many of the IPS school positions are now fixed term, even for permanent positions but the schools are not declaring. More and more LPS and IPS schools are deferring the appointment of people to permanent positions to make sure that the teacher is best fit for the school. In the IPS, I notice that there are very few permanent positions advertised, particularly lead positions. It is all try before you buy, that is they take a teacher for a fixed term, even if they have a clear vacancy and test them out for a year before they declare the clear vacancy.

Principal 5
I am given a list of redeployees and I am advised to get in contact with them to see if they are interested in the position we have at the school. I may contact 10 to 15 people for one position. I do the work by phone or email. I like to do it myself as principal because you get a lot of information in the process.

Essentially I am doing the work of a staffing officer. If I have a pool to select from I could select from the staffing pool as do IPS but often I am advised that I need to take the redeployees and am given the list of people to work through until I find one that matches the school. It’s a time consuming process and the success rates have not been high. Many repeployees need help to adjust and build their capacity. Mostly we get there but not without work from within our school and lots of extra attention from myself and the other school leaders. We have this to do on top of everything else, its exhausting, time consuming, frustrating and makes me angry the inequity that is in a system that is supposed to be quality education for all children. IPS are free of this.

Principal 6 (this is not a low SES school)
Public education was once about equity, about being able to say that a child way up in Wyndham and a child at leafy Wembly Downs will get the same quality of teacher. Creating a privileged set of schools badly damages this concept.

This information was collected by the State School Teachers Union of Western Australia and supplied to Save Our Schools.

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