PSA Schools members under siege - Public Service Association

PSA Schools members under siege

Term 4 2022 has certainly been busy for the PSA with the department rolling out many proposals announced by the Minister apparently aimed at Supporting PSA members working in NSW schools.

It may have something to do with an election in March 2023, the following summary of issues is of great importance to PSA members.

Crown Employees (School Administrative and Support Staff) Award 2022

The full bench of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (NSW IRC) handed down its decision on 15 September 2022 awarding a pay increase backdated to 15 July 2022 for one year.

A bulletin went to PSA Schools members on 16 September 2022 advising the following- see HERE

On 27 September the PSA wrote to-

  1. Sarah Mitchell, Minister for Education, asking her to intervene to have the two weeks back pay to 1 July paid to SASS.
  2. Georgina Harrison, Department of Education Secretary, asking her to pay the two weeks back pay to 1 July paid to SASS by administrative order and seeking consultation on remaining award issues.

On 14 October the department wrote to the PSA in relation to issues raised in the following terms-

  1. Increases to remuneration

The department advised it cannot agree to the Association’s request. The salary increase awarded by the Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission will be processed and paid in accordance with the decision. The increases, including back pay, will be processed in the pay period ending 27 October 2022 with an effective date from the first full pay period on or after 15 July 2022.

  1. Clause 5.9.3 – Health Support Allowance

To assist with progressing this matter, the Department has reviewed the SLSO Statement of Duties consistent with clause 5.9.3 of the award. The department provided a draft marked up version for the Association’s review.

SLSO transition to SLSO (SHS)

The Department noted the request from the Association to further discuss the transition of SLSO’s who may be performing health support and who are in receipt of the health support allowance where there is an ongoing need for an SLSO (SHS). The Department has implemented a process to support requests of this nature.

A request template is available to principals to request, through their DEL, the reclassification of an SLSO vacancy to SLSO SHS, or to reclassify an existing filled SLSO position (and hence the substantive occupant). On approval by the DEL, School Recruitment and Placement reviews the request with the principal confirming the position provides health support duties. On processing confirmed requests the school’s entitlement is updated and a budget adjustment completed (as necessary), and where relevant the permanent officer is appointed to the reclassified position.

  1. Workload Management

The department provided a draft factsheet and welcomed the opportunity to discuss further with the Association.

Current position:

A meeting of the parties occurred on Tuesday 25 October 2022 the PSA undertook to write to the department, which it did on 9 November 2022 outlining the Associations position as follows-

  1. Increases to remuneration

As stated at the 25 October meeting the PSA is extremely disappointed with the position of the department and the government in relation to the decision to not back pay the salary increase to the 1 July 2022.

  1. Clause 5.9.3 – Health Support Allowance

In relation to the revised draft SLSO Statement of Duties. The PSA does not agree with the departments position that the draft is consistent with clause 5.9.3 of the award.

The PSA cannot agree to the Health Support training being classified as an essential Qualification/certification within the Statement of Duties. The PSA position is that it is a desirable criteria as determined by the 2019 Crown Employees (School Administrative and Support staff) Award agreement.

  1. SLSO transition to SLSO (SHS)

The PSA notes the process outlined by the department, however there is no agreement that this is appropriate for the recruitment of staff to the SLSO SHS classification. The PSA does not support the reclassification of existing SLSO positions or existing officers to a new position SLSO SHS.

The Association’s position is that where the principal determines that there is a need for a SLSO SHS role then recruitment needs to occur to fill the vacancy. The application to a vacant position should be considered as a progression and choice for existing SLSO’s.

Also, because of the NSW Education Ministers 16 October 2022 announcement that the government will make 10,000 teaching and school support staff permanent to address the current staffing crisis, the PSA considers there needs to be further discussion and agreement in relation to a permanent ongoing process for the appointment of staff to SLSO SHS roles.

  1. Workload management

As outlined at our last meeting the association will review the current draft of the workload management factsheet to enable further discussion.

Next Steps

PSA officers will report the current position of the department in relation to these matters to the 21 November meeting of the PSA special education delegates working group and the 22 November meeting of the PSA schools departmental committee.

The Association will then write to the department to re-affirm the PSA current position and request a further meeting to progress these issues.

SASS Temporary Staff Permanency, Workload, Increasing Violence

Because of the government’s wages policy and the inaction of the Department of Education to address a number of important employment issues for SASS members the PSA wrote to the Education Secretary on 27 September to raise the following-

  • Temporary SAS Staff

On 19 September 2022 the Association was provided with the most current data on temporary engagements across SAS Staff classifications. The data shows that over 50% of SAS Staff are currently in temporary work, with the percentage increasing to over 70% for School Learning Support Officers.

The overreliance on temporary staff, and the impact of this PSA members and the education of children and young people in NSW is something the PSA has raised with the Secretary and other senior Department of Education Staff, on numerous occasions. It is unacceptable to the PSA, and its members, and delegates that so many SAS Staff are kept in insecure work in some cases for over 10 years.

10,000 More permanent jobs in NSW schools

Most members would have seen the Update to Schools from the NSW Department of Education Secretary Wednesday on 19 October 2022 in relation to new permanent roles for temporary teachers and support staff and extra administrative support.

The PSA has written to the Department seeking clarification as to the Ministers 16 October Press release, specifically the PSA seeks advice as to a detailed proposal to convert temporary School Learning Support Officers (SLSO) roles into permanent positions.

Your union would like to know:

  • Which permanent positions?
  • In which schools they are to be created and the process that will enable temporary PSA members to become permanent?

The PSA also expects that current long-term temporary SASS be maintained in employment until the details of this proposal are finalised and that members are given an opportunity to gain a permanent position.

The PSA has requested that consultation meetings continue to negotiate the process to be implemented in 2023 to enable thousands of PSA SLSO members to finally gain permanency with the NSW Department of Education.

Current position:

A meeting occurred on the 3 November between PSA delegates, staff and Senior officers of the School Workforce, Recruitment and Placement team to discuss the issues raised by the Association.

The department advised that it is in the planning stage to finalise a process to transfer existing temporary school staff into permanent roles as requested by the Minister. The department will take all the PSA concerns into account and provide a draft proposal for further consultation with Unions by 18 November 2022.

This will be provided to the PSA Schools DC delegates for its meeting on the 22 November 2022.

Any long-term temporary SASS PSA member with more than 3 years continuous service who is advised during this term that their contract will not be renewed in 2023 should contact the Member Support Centre on 1300772679 or to register their details. The PSA is only able to assist PSA members in this process.

  • Workload, Inadequate Staffing and Shortages

The Association has reports from across NSW about extreme staff shortages and increasing workload.

In addition to this, the union is aware that despite agreements not to roll out new programs during term 1 and term 4 of each school year major changes are being planned over the next two school terms. Just one example of this is the School Administration and Management Marketplace that has the potential to dramatically impact the workload of our members.

Covid-19 and the winter flu season have added pressure to a system that is already at breaking point.

Over the last few years, the administrative burden placed on our membership has increased significantly and they are facing a workload crisis that needs to be addressed. The current staffing formula is completely inadequate and has not been adjusted for over 20 years. Staffing in Primary Schools, particularly in schools with upwards of 1500 students, does not meet workload demands.

Despite assurances by the Department, detail on workforce planning to address this issue, and that of the drastically high levels of temporary SAS Staff, has not been forthcoming. The PSA has asked both the government and the opposition to provide details on how their education policies will fix this post 2023 NSW election.

  • Increasing Violence

As has been raised directly with senior Industrial Relations staff at the department on 19 September 2022, throughout term 3 the Association has received increasing reports of violent students in schools.

We now have members across NSW considering implementing section 84 of the NSW Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to cease unsafe work with violent students.

The PSA advised that SASS delegates and members are considering further action in relation to these issues and called on the department to-

  1. Immediately take steps to rectify the appalling rates of insecure work in the SAS Staff workforce.
  2. Review and resolve the workload crisis facing SAS Staff, including ensuring that no new programs or changes are implemented during term 4 2022 or term 1 2023.
  3. Immediately review the drastic understaffing of schools by amending the staffing formula, particularly in Primary Schools.
  4. Ensure that the Education Department duty of care to SAS Staff in relation to violence is upheld.

Quality Time Program

On 31 July 2022, the NSW Education Minister announced a new staffing pilot in relation to trailing additional administrative support in schools.

PSA staff and Schools Departmental Committee Delegates sought an urgent briefing on the announcement, which occurred on Monday 1 August 2022.

The union wrote to the department on 4 August 2022 outlining concerns raised by delegates and members, seeking ongoing consultation.

The department replied to the PSA on the 26 August 2022 advising the following-

That the Quality Time program seeks to simplify, modernise, and reduce administrative processes and practice so that teachers, principals, and school based non-teaching staff can focus on the work that matters most – teaching, leading and supporting learning.

The ‘Modernising the Workforce – Piloting additional non-teaching staff’ initiative is focused on improving school administration so that schools can better manage the heavy workload of teachers and support staff. This pilot is a trial funded until June 2023. Learnings from the pilot will inform the Department’s future staffing and investment considerations.

There are 4 key focus areas:

  • Trailing the allocation of additional administrative and support staff.
  • Assessing what work is undertaken within a school in order to identify what could be stopped, transferred back to corporate or reallocated across an expanded workforce.
  • Reviewing and streamlining local school administrative processes and practices including identifying examples of operational excellence and sharing learnings more broadly.
  • Assessing training and professional development needs which will inform the development of future capability development programs.

Schools within identified Networks will be invited to participate and to nominate their level of engagement. They, along with stakeholder groups; including the PSA, will be consulted on the program implementation methodology to ensure the approach delivers not only the program outcomes but addresses school level goals and improvement objectives.

A further meeting occurred on the 31 August. The PSA was provided with a list of the 160 schools identified to be invited to participate in the pilot commencing in term 4. The department will confirm those schools with the PSA at the beginning of term 4.

The schools team has identified delegates within the pilot schools and will contact them once the pilot participant schools have been confirmed. A Bulletin will go to members to update them on the pilot and that the department has agreed that the pilot will be subject to ongoing consultation with the Association.

A further briefing will occur to update the PSA on the 17th November 2022.

Administration Marketplace Panel for Schools (AMPs). Formerly SAMM

Ban on School Administration and Management Marketplace

On 6 September all PSA members working in schools across NSW were directed to BAN interaction with the School Administration and Management Marketplace.

The implementation of the School Administration and Management Marketplace has the potential to dramatically impact the workload of members.

On top of this, there was no consultation on the School Administration and Management Marketplace prior to it being announced to staff. Since the PSA placed the ban on interacting with the roll-out of the program, industrial staff and delegates have met once with relevant senior staff members from the department.

So far there has not been sufficient information provided to resolve the issues raised by members, including:

  • increased workload (researching products, negotiating contracts, training staff in new systems).
  • lack of support from the Department for technical issues or training.
  • schools having to select products from up to 12 different providers, making it even harder to find casual staff experienced in all programs and harder for staff to get work at other schools, thus exacerbating the existing staffing crisis.
  • the impact on school budgets.

Until consultation is completed, and the issues addressed, the ban remains in place.

The ban covers all PSA members in that members are not to:

  1. Attend webinars or undertake any training on School Administration and Management Marketplace.
  2. Spend time reading Quick Reference Guides, FAQs or documentation designed to prepare you for the implementation of School Administration and Management Marketplace.
  3. Undertake any research into third party software to replace EBS4.

PSA staff and delegates met with the department on Monday 17 October 2022 to continue consultation. The department provided the following advice-

Following on from the request from PSA delegates, here are the key points that have been delivered.

Concern: Too many projects currently impacting schools at this very busy time of the year. eg. Simplifying School Budgets (3 hour training required), Files Anywhere Anytime project, Administration Marketplace Panel for schools (AMPs)

Response: The department recognises that this is a very busy time of the school year, and as such, is trying to support schools in any way we can.

Simplifying School Budgets:  Unfortunately, the fact that school budgets close at the end of the school year, and reopen in the new year, the implementation timeframe of this new process is unavoidable. Schools need to have the information and knowledge of how to implement this new process, to ensure they can successfully operate at the beginning of the 2023 school year.

We expect that this will be a case of ‘short term pain – long term gain’, as the investment of time in learning the new processes, will deliver genuine time saving dividends in the 2023 school year and beyond.

Files Anywhere Anytime project (FAA):  This project is a digital uplift project under the Rural Access Gap (RAG), and therefore is only applicable to schools within this program. Rural and remote schools that are included in this program, should also have access to a Digital Classroom Officer, and access to members of the Digital Support team, who are ready, willing, and able to support schools if and when required. If school needs assistance with the FAA project, please reach out to the team for support.

Administration Marketplace Panel for schools (AMPs):  The Administration Marketplace Panel for schools (AMPs) will provide schools with a simplified marketplace to purchase rigorously tested and quality assured student administration products. Schools that choose to engage with the AMPs in Term 4, may do so, to either renew existing agreements with the vendors on the panel, or purchase new products that suit their school needs.

Due to the extended timeframe set down for the transition to these products, schools may also elect not to engage at this busy time of the year, and opt in during Term 1, 2023, when things may be a little less busy.

At the PSA Schools DC executive meeting on the 9 November the delegates agreed to refer the question of keeping the current bans in place to the meeting of the PSA Admin Working group to enable a resolution to be drafted for the consideration of the PSA Schools DC delegates meeting on 22 November 2022.

The PSA is pressing both the government and opposition parties to deliver policies which will improve staffing numbers and reduce the administration burden in schools in 2023.

Further details will be advised via Bulletin once the information is available in relation to these important issues.


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