Public education in firing line as Local Schools Local Decisions hits the road
On 11 March, the O’Farrell Government announced – via the Sunday newspapers – that its Local Schools Local Decisions initiative – the most far reaching changes ever proposed in public education in this state – would be implemented across all NSW schools from April.
Prior to the announcement, the PSA had twice met with the Director General to discuss the initiative.
At these meetings, information was provided to the PSA on how the proposal would be developed while the DG committed to meaningful consultation on the potential impact and implementation of Local Schools Local Decisions.
The sweeping changes however were announced without the promised consultation despite the enormity of what has been unveiled.
Based on the department’s fact sheets that were released with the announcement, the PSA understands that jobs are to be cut from the state office, the staffing formula relied upon for equitable distribution of funds across public schools will be dismantled; the transfer system which delivers experienced staff to schools and offers job security trashed, and permanent jobs in schools could be replaced by temporary or casual staff at the principal’s discretion.
The PSA is also extremely concerned about job cuts at the school level, possible job cuts to corporate staffing along with the proposed deletion of entire directorates in DEC.
The ‘Staff in Our Schools’ fact sheet describes the ‘current state’ as:
“A rigid staffing formula determines the number and roles of staff in schools based on student numbers.”
“Centralised staffing directly places some transfers and staff returning to duty into vacancies as they arise in schools. This means that some schools rarely get a say in how vacancies are filled”.
It foreshadows a ‘future state’ where:
“Schools choose the number and roles of staff within their budgets to best meet local needs.”
“Schools determine the mix of permanent and temporary staff to meet local needs.”
The ‘Making Decisions’ fact sheet describes the ‘current state’ as:
“A relatively large State Office makes most decisions about schools.”
And a ‘future state’ where:
“A significantly smaller State Office develops policies and guidelines for schools.”
This means that not only will jobs be cut from the state office but the workload transferred to staff working in schools.
Further, principals will be encouraged to maximise so called flexibility in staffing choices by increasing the use of temporary and casual staff in schools at the expense of permanent positions.
The PSA is totally opposed to any moves that cut jobs and or increase the workload for SAS staff in schools.
Any changes which threaten the job security of our members working in schools will also be strongly opposed.
The PSA will always support change that brings about better outcomes for all those involved in the public education system.
This is not even close to being such a policy.
Talk that these moves will somehow enhance public education in NSW are a plain nonsense.
What they represent is a smoke screen for an attack on workers with the cost of jobs redirected towards infrastructure.
Similar moves implemented in other states have led to less spending on education and fewer teaching and support jobs in schools, state and regional offices.
An expenditure review of the Education Department conducted by the Boston Consulting Group early last year found that Victoria, where devolved decision making was introduced by Jeff Kennett in the early 1990s, now spends 12 percent less per student than in NSW.
Members who work in schools and state and regional offices are a vital part of the education community and are essential in the delivery of quality education services.
Increasing the workload or cutting these jobs can only lead to a reduction in the quality of services.
The PSA calls on the Department of Education and Communities and the Minister to recognise and value the work done by PSA members across the whole of the education arena by retaining the jobs that deliver these vital services.
Regional meetings of SAS staff are being held to inform members of the impact of the changes.
At the meetings, members are voting on a course of action in response.