GA Survey 2017

Feb 7, 2018

Late last year the PSA surveyed its General Assistant (GA) membership. This bulletin is to report back to members the survey results of General Assistants which the PSA conducted late in 2017.

Some interesting statistics have been identified as a result of the survey. A summary of the responses include:

  • 78 per cent of GAs are ongoing full-time, 16 per cent are ongoing part-time, and the balance are employed as temp or casual employees
  • 20 per cent were not PSA members
  • 25 per cent of respondents work at two or more schools

Read the full bulletin HERE.

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General Assistants bulletin

Feb 6, 2018

General Assistants bulletin – February 2018 (PDF version)

Welcome back the PSA hopes those of you who had a break enjoyed time off with their families and friends. Those who worked through the school vacation, we hope that you had a safe time on duty.

GA Survey 2017

Late last year the PSA surveyed its General Assistant (GA) membership. This bulletin is to report back to members the survey results of General Assistants which the PSA conducted late in 2017.

Some interesting statistics have been identified as a result of the survey. A summary of the responses include:

  • 78 per cent of GAs are ongoing full-time, 16 per cent are ongoing part-time, and the balance are employed as temp or casual employees
  • 20 per cent were not PSA members
  • 25 per cent of respondents work at two or more schools
  • 70 per cent of respondents have not completed performance development plans
  • Computer usage – 40 per cent do not have convenient access to computers with only 22 per cent being confident in using a computer
  • 54 per cent of respondents did not undergo a working alone risk assessment. Of those who did undertake working alone risk assessments 68 per cent participated in an informal or casual process. Alarmingly, 12 per cent have not completed a working alone risk assessment within the previous year and 68 per cent reported never to have participated in a working alone risk assessment
  • Text in/Text out notification to Principal on start and finish of duty – alarmingly 79 per cent of respondents report there are no welfare checks in place
  • 83 per cent report they are responsible for managing contractors during school holidays
  • 32 per cent report having no chemical safety training. 16 per cent report having no access to Material Safety Data Sheets
  • 92 per cent use their own car for school business.

The main industrial concern of GAs is the way other staff treat them. GAs are also concerned about their low rate of pay and inadequate pay rises. When raising industrial concerns, GAs were often countered with, that if they did not do everything asked by other staff then either:

  1. they would not have a job, or
  2. their jobs would be privatised.

GA’s also link the expanding number of duties and tasks with concerns over their own health and safety and their lack of ongoing training.

The survey showed that working alone risk assessments are being neglected for the majority of GAs employed in schools. It seems that Principals are not observing the regular notifications in School Biz to consult with GAs as required by the Department’s Safety Alert 45 – Working Alone guidance and outlines.

There appears to be a complete lack of sensible reporting mechanisms for GAs such as text in/text out at arrival/departure to schools when out of hours work is performed by GAs. This potentially puts GAs without these safety systems in place at risk.

The PSA reminds GA members that they have no supervisory or managerial responsibility for contractors at any time. If your Principal insists that you are to supervise or manage contractors, then this contradicts the Department’s position that GAs are not considered as having any supervisory role.

A GA’s involvement in dealing with contractors is limited to escorting the contractor to the location requiring the service or work after prior discussions with their Principal. GAs are not required to conduct site inductions for contractors or visitors.

School staff, including Gas, who use their own vehicle on school business are entitled to receive a car allowance as provided in the Crown Employees (Public Service Conditions of Employment) Award. Usage of your private vehicle on school business is voluntary and the appropriate allowance must be paid by the school.

The PSA would like to thank all those respondents who completed and returned a survey. If you have any further questions about working as a GA in schools, and you are a PSA member, please contact the PSA member support centre on
1300 772 679.

General Assistant’s Advisory Group Delegates

Delegate School Email contact
Douglas Ashton Cambridge Park High School Douglas.Ashton2@det.nsw.edu.au
Michael Burrell (Assistant Secretary) Chifley College Michael.Burrell10@det.nsw.edu.au
Philip Crowe Northern Beaches Secondary College Philip.Crowe@det.nsw.edu.au
Brett Hammond (Chair) Kirrawee High School BRETT.HAMMOND@det.nsw.edu.au
Michael Jedniuk Hinchinbrook Public School MICHAEL.JEDNIUK@det.nsw.edu.au
Boyd Kellner Byron Bay Public School BOYD.KELLNER@det.nsw.edu.au
Alan Livet (Assistant Chair) Woogoolga High School ALAN.LIVET@det.nsw.edu.au
Bill Martin Vincentia High School william.martin13@det.nsw.edu.au
Steve Smith (Secretary) Cobar High School stephen.smith130@det.nsw.edu.au
Riverina Vacant. If you are interested in becoming more active with the General Assistant’s Advisory Group please let the PSA know.
New England
Central Coast/Hunter

The PSA is committed to improving your rights at work. If you know a GA who is not a PSA member, please talk to them about joining. United we bargain, divided we beg.

Please contact the Member Support Centre for any further enquiries on 1300 772 679.

Join the PSA online HERE.

Schools – Welcome back

Jan 30, 2018

Welcome back to all PSA members, we hope you had a great break, we look forward to working with you in 2018. PSA Organiser, Ann Attwater was visiting Narara Valley High School yesterday, meeting members who are ready for their first day back.

Narara Valley HS 29 Jan 2018 2

End of year round up

Dec 14, 2017

End of year round up – December 2017 (PDF version)

This final bulletin for 2017 provides an update on some recent PSA activity.

Recording of absences in primary schools

Members are reminded that the PSA has a long-standing ban on the recording of ALL student absences in primary schools, and members working in primary schools are directed to continue to impose the ban on recording student absences.

This ban was put in place due to the disparity in staffing levels between high schools and primary schools with the same student numbers. High schools have a higher SAS-staff-to-student ratio and typically the task of data entry for student absences is allocated to one particular SAS staff member.

As this is not the case in primary schools, the PSA regards it as inequitable and inherently unfair to hold primary schools to the same workload standards without the appropriate staffing/resource allocation.

This ban includes the entering of data for late arrivals/early leavers (partial absences.)

With the implementation of EBS4 as part of the LMBR, and attendant initial problems encountered in entering absences, including partial absences, teachers were unable to complete this task, creating a backlog of data entry. LMBR training materials also contained information that only SAS staff could record partial absences.

The Department has responded to the PSA’s concerns about this in part by removing from training materials reference to the requirement of SAS staff to record absences, including partial absences, and the reference to SAS staff being solely responsible for recording partial absences.

Members are advised that Post LMBR implementation the situation has not changed, that is the ban still applies, including in the following circumstances.

The PSA is aware that in both primary and secondary schools teachers are unable to access the EBS4 system after seven days in line with the Attendance Policy, and cannot record the reason for the student absence beyond this period. SAS staff are being required to complete this record, in contravention of Departmental guidelines and policies.

It is the PSA position that you are not required to perform this duty.

Nor should you be asked to input data from paper-based rolls which may be introduced as part of the transition to the new system.

New HR/payroll system

The PSA met with the Department on 11 December 2017 to discuss the new HR/payroll system rolling out in schools in 2018.

The Department advises it is continuing to prepare play books which will illustrate real-life scenarios and how these will be administered by the new system once it goes live. These play books will be available to schools as an ongoing resource to assist in the transition and application of the new system.

As a result of the meeting, the PSA also emailed a series of questions about how the new system will operate in schools. These questions canvassed such issues as:

  1. Higher Duties – how the system will process higher duties allowance, deductions, superannuation and salary sacrifice arrangements
  2. Leave – what is the full workflow process, how will leave balances come across to the new system. Are there any changes to the new system at school level to manage and what are the changes?
  3. Delegations – Who does what when it comes to Temp appointments, casual timesheets and non-attendances (staff who are on leave who have not submitted a prior leave application)
  4. ESS – workflows to who?
  5. Additional hours and overtime – How will this be done as currently paper-based forms are submitted for additional hours/overtime and will these claims be processed using the new HR Payroll system?
  6. Test cases – what test cases have been performed and what test cases have resulted in pass/fail?

The Department has been requested to provide this information in advance of the next meeting which will occur on 12 February 2018. Members will be advised via bulletins in the New Year with updated information once it comes to hand.

Workload issues

The PSA has raised concerns in the JCC about the role of this Committee and has written to the Department about consultation generally.

The PSA says that the Department doesn’t manage change effectively. The way the Department is organised means different areas of the Department follow consultative processes differently and no one appears to take responsibility for what happens overall.

There appears to be no assessment or acknowledgment of the impacts on workload when several changes are implemented at once, for example LMBR together with Performance & Planning Development and the bringing forward of WWCC compliance dates in primary schools.

The PSA has reminded the Department it has a duty to consult under the award and duties as an employer under work health and safety law to manage the work environment and ensure safe systems of work

The PSA has asked the Department to remind managers of the award provisions and the WHS laws and to meet with the PSA to discuss ways that we can agree on to better manage change in schools.

School leadership strategy

The PSA met with officers from the Department’s Human Resources and Industrial Relations Directorates recently and reiterated our position that the additional funding should be used to offer existing SAS Staff additional hours or overtime to complete the administrative work in schools.

SAS staff bring a high level of skill and expertise to the administrative operation of schools and this one-off additional funding would be most effectively utilised in this way.

The Department agreed that while the funding can be used in this way it is NOT the only way schools can address the issue of additional administrative support. Principals have been given great latitude in the way they use the funding to increase their capacity to focus on instructional leadership.

How this funding is used by schools will be monitored by the Department and its effectiveness will also be reviewed.

Discussion also took place about the Staffing Entitlement Review that was also announced as part of the Strategy.

While the Department has not yet decided on the scope of the Review they have committed to consultation with your union during the review and we are expecting meetings to commence in February or March next year.

The Schools Team wishes all members a well-deserved break at the end of a challenging year, and a safe and happy festive season.

PSA Schools bulletin

Nov 27, 2017

PSA Schools bulletin – November 2017 (PDF version)

Schools Departmental Committee Meeting 15 November 2017

The Schools DC held its final meeting for 2017, which has been another extraordinarily busy year for NSW public schools. A number of major reforms such as LMBR, Working with Children Check, Performance Development Plans and the overall Local Schools Local Decisions have impacted on school staff.

Pay equity

A full report was provided to the DC on the progress of the case so far which was filed in the Industrial Relations Commission in March.

As previously reported to members, the PSA filed its evidence (excluding expert witnesses) on 27 October 2017. This represents a considerable body of work which comprises of 13 volumes and more than 22 witness statements mostly from SAS staff, including Schools DC delegates.

The DC expressed its appreciation and gratitude to those members who have contributed to the case. It is a major undertaking and a substantial commitment by those who have stepped up to the challenge.

Further reports to members will be provided as the case progresses through into 2018.

School Leadership Strategy

There was much discussion about the current School Leadership Strategy and the allocated $50 million funding provided for it.

Already the PSA and DC delegates are aware of a large variation across schools as to how this funding will be used.

The PSA position is that we strongly believe the skills and expertise of SAS staff should be utilised and existing staff should have access to those funds.

The PSA is having a further meeting with the Department to discuss this and a report will be provided to members on the outcome of these discussions.

Training, CRG and SRG

PSA delegates and staff have been involved in considerable consultation with the Department over the year in regards to training and the review of the CRG and SRGs. The PSA strongly encourages members to participate in the survey to be conducted by the Department in the near future so that your views are heard. An invitation to participate in focus groups will also be included in the email to schools which will include a separate link to the survey. We encourage members to participate in these focus groups.

An external review of Professional Learning funds allocated to schools is to be conducted with results expected in 2018.

Four online SAP/SALM learning modules will be made available to Learning and High Performance Directorate and to SRGs in 2018, one of which is ‘Assets and Stocktake’.

The PSA has also received a number of complaints from SAMs in primary schools who only have access to the tier 3 option for the Excellence in School Administration and Strategy Coaching Mentoring program.

The PSA has raised this with the Department and was advised that the training was funded under the Secondary Schools Renewal programme. The PSA was advised that some training materials are available online.

Staffing Entitlement Review 2018

The Department has informed the PSA that it will be conducting a Staffing Entitlement Review. This could potentially have wide ranging implications for SAS Staff and will be a major issue for members in 2018.

The PSA is currently following up with the Department to get further details about the proposed process for the review and PSA involvement.

LMBR

PSA delegates and industrial staff continue to meet with the LMBR directorate on a fortnightly basis. LMBR Directorate will be closing down in 2018. A review by Ernst and Young will be conducted to investigate all support models to schools and determine options for future support. Version 4.26 is to be released next year in Term 1 with additional resources allocated to update all QRGs.

The current plan for Term 1 2018 is to provide phone support for the first three weeks, support for new and relieving School Administrative Managers, and training in SAP reporting.

HR Payroll

PSA delegates and industrial officers met last week with HR and Industrial Relations regarding the new HR Payroll module. The new module will include the organisational chart for fund code, general ledger and cost centre, a timesheet for reason code, and a custom function for Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Internal Order (IO). There will be no CEPS codes used.

PSA delegates and industrial staff will be providing scenarios to the Department with the view to assisting in development.

Twelve ESS online help manuals will be developed. The system will focus on self-service/self-help with an additional seven online manuals to be developed for management.

Four change managers will be temporally employed geographically to assist in the first release along with increased resources that will be allocated to the support helpdesk (EdConnect).

Leader and Manager led communication packs will be provided to School Principals with training to be cascaded following communication from Directors.

Absences in primary schools

The DC would like to remind SAS staff employed in primary schools of the long-standing ban on recording absences in primary schools.

This ban was implemented due to the disparity in staffing levels between high schools and primary schools with the same student numbers. High schools have a higher SAS-staff-to-student ratio and would typically allocate the task of data entry for student absences to one particular SAS staff member.

As this is not the case in primary schools, the PSA regards it as inequitable and inherently unfair to hold primary schools to the same workload standards without the appropriate staffing/resource allocation.

The PSA opposes any unfair pressure being placed on SAS staff and advises SAS staff in primary schools to adhere to this ban. This ban includes the entering of data for late arrivals and early leavers (partial absences).

School DC Dates for 2018

  • Tuesday 13 March
  • Tuesday 22 May
  • Tuesday 14 August
  • Tuesday 13 November

Department of Education – your rights: Christmas closedown

Nov 23, 2017

Department of Education – your rights Christmas closedown – November 2017 (PDF version)

As Christmas approaches, many staff will begin to receive directions from managers or supervisors in relation to the Christmas closedown. The Christmas closedown period for 2017/18 will take place between Monday 25 December and Friday 5 January, inclusive. The PSA has already been informed of a number of instances where staff have been told that they must take leave over this period.

Can I work during the closedown period?

While the NSW Government encourages all non-‘frontline’ areas to shut down, you are in no way obligated to take leave. Despite what may be said, staff are not required to present a justification or “business case” to explain why they wish to keep working. Unless you can be directed to take leave (see below), it is your choice of whether you work or not.

If your office is going to be shut, a reasonable alternative work arrangement must be made available for you. If practicable, this could include working from home for some or all of the time. You may have to work at a different location, but you cannot be expected to travel unreasonable distances and you may be entitled to be reimbursed for the additional costs of travel.

The PSA encourages members to regularly take recreation leave for their own health and welfare.

Can I be directed to take recreation leave due to the closedown?

You can be told to take recreation leave only if you have an ‘excess’ balance:

  • if you have accrued eight weeks’ (40 days’) recreation leave, you can be told to take two weeks’ leave sometime within the following six weeks
  • if you have accrued 6-8 weeks’ (30-40 days’) recreation leave, you can be told to take two weeks’ leave sometime within the following three months.

Other than in these two scenarios, you cannot be directed to take recreation leave.

Need help?

If you are a member and have any questions or are having difficulties in relation to the Christmas closedown, please contact the PSA’s Member Support Centre on 1300 772 679.

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