Tell Your Union

20 03 2011

The new enterprise agreement between the Australian Education Union (AEU) in South Australia and the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) has bargained away guaranteed staffing of teacher librarians and counsellors in government schools.  It seems school support staff can now supervise students if a teacher is permanently housed nearby or teaching in the library. Some retiring teacher librarians are being replaced by teachers without library qualifications or not being replaced at all. Staffing is being eroded.  Where a primary school of 700 may have had the equivalent of 2.0 TLs, they may now have 1.  Where there was one, there may be none. Newly graduated TLs are not able to find positions.  TLs who were formerly able to plan collaboratively with classroom teachers, now may be required to provide non-instruction time for other teachers instead.  At least 7 high schools have reported not having any teacher librarian at all. In one case the high school now has no library.  In the previous staffing formulae every school was allocated teacher librarian time.  Even under that formula an estimated one third of school libraries were not staffed by qualified TLs or were understaffed. Now there appears to be no formula.

“It may be that schools see replacing teacher librarians with [School Support Officers] SSOs as an easy cost-cutting exercise, since SSOs are so much cheaper than dual qualified teacher librarians. This blatant exploitation of SSOs is an issue in itself. But even worse is that apparent economic considerations over-ride educational theory and espoused departmental policy. Foundations for the Future declares, ‘Student learning is at the heart of everything we do’. Replacing teacher librarians with SSOs actively works against this, since it is hard to extrapolate improved learning outcomes from such a move.” (Sue Spence, “Survey highlights major problems with library staffing,” AEU Journal, SA branch, 4 December 2002.)

Western Australian AEU is commencing its round of enterprise bargaining.  So is the NSW Teachers Federation. Are you having a say in your union?

Here is one letter to the SA AEU which may inspire you to do so.

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3 responses

20 03 2011
Amanda Ellingworth

Victoria is also in the process of negotiating a new agreement with a state government that has done a back-flip on its promise to make Victorian teachers the best paid in Australia. At the AEU meeting, last year, to discuss T-L conditions in the new agreement, the comment was made that the AEU needs to fight for T-L conditions in the new agreement or else there will be no need to fight for them in the following agreement because there will be no T-Ls in government schools. Staffing is a local decision and many schools no longer have any qualified library staff, let alone a qualified T-L providing a quality library service.

In Victorian schools, SSOs are not meant to be responsible for large groups of students. When does the library not have large groups of students using it? You cannot expect teachers who bring their class to the library to supervise everyone else; they are responsible for their class and there is a teacher : student ratio that must be adhered to. If you are in the situation of non-teachers supervising large groups of students; get the AEU sub-branch and head office involved and lodge a grievance. Schools have successfully gone down that path and had library staffing decisions changed.

The clause in the ES (Education Support) agreement states “Supervision of students cannot be required except where it is an integral part of the employee’s position or involves supervision of students individually or in small groups, in controlled circumstances, where the responsibility for students remains clearly with a teacher.” A teacher needs to be have responsibility which means that the teacher needs to be present. Classes can not be supervised by remote control, the library can not be supervised by remote control.

22 03 2011
David

It is not entirely the Unions fault that this situation has occurred in South Australia. Our latest agreement was handed down by industrial arbitration as the department and union could not agree on a number of issues. The fact that some schools have done away with teacher librarians suggests that we need to have more TLs talking to our school leaders about their importance as has happened at my school.

28 05 2011
Erica Jolly

Does that mean that the SA Department of Education and Children’s Services forced the SA AEU to give up support for Teacher Librarians? Did they not recognise their role as vital supporters of teachers and students, and parents who could ask for help, outside the classroom? Did it mean the people involved in industrial arbitration have no understanding of the roles of student counsellors and teacher librarians? Surely, bad decisions can be reversed. Students of the future should not be handicapped by these short-sighted, cost-cutting decisions of the past in public schools. It takes courage for a government to admit an error but it can be done.

There will be and can be no equity in education so long as those controlling public schools stay short-sighted and more concerned with cost-cutting than the broad range of students’ needs for the future.

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