NSW Teachers Union negotiates to save specialist teachers under LSLD guidelines

2 06 2014

The NSW Teachers Federation has successfully negotiated with their state department of education for principals to be able to use Gonski funding to retain specialist teachers, such as teacher librarians.

“Federation successfully advocated that schools should use this funding to create whatever new staffing positions they sought, rather than trade off existing positions and jeopardise the overall entitlement in the future. If a school demonstrates that they can do away with an assistant principal, head teacher or teacher-librarian position today, why would Treasury in the future continue to fund the existing number of positions? As evidenced in Victoria, this reduction in provision is what the devolution agenda is all about.”

While devolution in staffing decisions has meant the trade off of some teaching positions for others, to the long-term detriment of these positions, this does not have to happen in NSW. See full article at “New policy to determine staff mix in schools” by Gary Zadkovich (Education newsletter of the NSW Teachers Federation, 2 June 2014)


A Bill of Rights for Students

10 02 2013

Every day on the professional TL lists, there are posts that clearly indicate that the role of the TL is still not understood by our peers and principals – one recent post even stated that the person worked for “a supervisor who genuinely believed TLs were on a different award from other teachers just so they could work before or after school if requested”. Other posts indicate that there are many instances in which the TL themselves are unsure of their role, particularly now the “Digital Age” has firmly settled on our schools.

If we, ourselves, are not sure where we sit within the teaching and learning paradigms of the school, how can we effectively advocate for a qualified TL in every Australian school? Perhaps it is time to take time to determine and define our role, both generally as a profession and specifically within our schools. How do we value-add to the work of both staff and students in ways that no one else can? Why are we teacher librarians and why do we need a post-grad qualification to have the right to call ourselves that?

Much is being made in the USA right now about gun control, and my interpretation of some of the arguments is that the objections are more about the citizens’ rights as laid down in their Bill of Rights being eroded than opposing the restricting of access to firearms. If a Bill of Rights is so inviolable, perhaps it is time for schools to develop and declare a Bill of Rights for their students, so that there is a document that approaches the purpose of the school from the students’ perspective. What is it that they have a right to within the school that is sacred regardless of who is at the helm? What should they expect to experience as the absolute intellectual, social, emotional, physical, cultural, ethical, pedagogical and environmental basics of their school experience? Then having determined those in line with MCEEDYA’s The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (which is the current blueprint for K-12 education in Australia) and the school’s philosophy (which may be shaped by a religious perspective, for example) how does the library help achieve those goals, and then how does the TL fit within that through policies, programs, procedures, processes, and practice?

Once the school community, including the parents, staff and students, have negotiated, ratified and implemented the Bill of Rights for the students’ overall education in their school, and developed a mission statement and a plan to ensure those Rights are recognised, accepted and achieved, then the TL can begin to find their place within that and identify how the library’s services and resources will support those rights and goals and their role in ensuring that happens.

There are a number of documents that can help shape this…

IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto

ASLA Statement on school libraries in Australia

AEU, ALIA and ASLA Joint Statement on school libraries and teacher librarians

ALIA and ASLA “Statement on library and information services in schools

ASLA School Library Bill of Rights

ALIA and ASLA Statement on school library resource provision

ASLA Statement on teacher librarians in Australia

ALIA and ASLA Statement on teacher librarian qualifications

ALIA and ASLA Standards of Professional Excellence

The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians

Other statements about resource based learning, information literacy, guided inquiry, funding and policy development are available on the ASLA website but it is also critical that we work within the Professional Standards for Australian Teachers because first and foremost we are teachers with recognised teaching qualifications which legally enable us to supervise and teach students in ways that non-qualifed library staff cannot.

The teacher librarian is unique within the school and therefore has a leadership role. Why not demonstrate that by starting a conversation about creating a Students’ Bill of Rights as the fundamental philosophy on which everything the school does rests?

South Australian school libraries hit by tight budgets

1 08 2012

Indaily ‏@indaily
Under threat: Tight school budgets force librarians into classrooms http://bit.ly/P4MEJC What are your thoughts #adelaide? @aeusa

Letters to the Editor

20 05 2012

Letters to the editor of your local paper are read by many in the community. Oppose school autonomy with letters like these:

Dear NSW Parents and Citizens

25 03 2012

Don’t be gulled by government school autonomy shell games. While principals may want to order their own photocopiers and rid poor performers on their staffs, local empowerment of staffing will break the statewide transfer system which fills positions in remote rural schools, corrode teacher collaboration, force principals to master marketing instead of lead learning, further disadvantage disadvantaged school communities, and lead to increased privatization of public schools with sponsors calling the shots.

What started under Thatcher to break unions and transfer responsibility to school principals, has spread like an epidemic by neo-liberal US, English and Australian governments.

Look at the record of academy schools, charter schools and independent public schools.  There is no evidence that local empowerment improves learning outcomes.  On the contrary, eventual reduced funding and staffing, especially for low SES schools, leaves them to wither and decline.  As Scott Fitzgerald of Curtin University states, so called school autonomy leads to  “recentralisation of control over teachers through curriculum policy frameworks that are held in place by testing regimes, performance pay and league tables.”

Dear candidate/local member

18 03 2012

Could we ask you to please have a closer look at the current LP and ALP policies on devil-ution in school staffing and budgeting?

Among other negative repercussions, in Australia it has resulted in the loss of separately staffed teacher librarians in our nations schools, primary and secondary.

Without adequate funds, principals have been forced to cash in specialist positions to ensure classroom teacher staffing. This has been going on since Kennett led the way in Victoria, where now only 13% of primary schools have teacher librarians. Tasmania followed suit with school autonomy and now only has 29 qualified teacher librarians in 125 K-10 schools (23%).  The Northern Territory has 13 qualified teacher librarians in 151 government schools.  New South Wales and Queensland are now threatened with the disease of “independent” and “locally empowered” public schools.

Australia is now in the embarrassing position of having 46% of our adult population unable to cope with day to day literacy needs, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Core Skills for Business (DEEWR, 2008) has stated “this can create problems in the workplace that prevent a business from reaching its full potential….OECD research has revealed that raising a country’s adult literacy by just 1 per cent leads to a rise in productivity of 2.5 per cent and a 1.5 per cent increase in GDP.”

Teacher librarians improve literacy.  They promote the love of reading. build literacy skills (including spelling, grammar, vocabulary and writing skills!) which are a key to the digital age and raise NAPLAN literacy scores.  Over 60 studies have demonstrated this.  No research has demonstrated that school based management improves student learning outcomes.  It does, however, devolve responsibility and save government spending.

In this National Year of Reading, we ask you to consider instead the long term financial cost of having a nation of non-readers, students disadvantaged by not having the professional knowledge and passion for reading of qualified teacher librarians.

If you wish to have further information on any of these issues, please don’t hesitate in contacting us. We trust you will act in the best interest of our nation’s students and an informed democratic society.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

School Based Management, the political disease killing public education

26 02 2012

Where did the notion of a “Self-Managed School (SMS)” or School Based Management or Locally Empowered Schools begin? Professor John Smyth, Flinders University, gives us a lead.

In a 1999 interview by Nick Davies of The Guardian with Lord Baker, the Secretary of State for Education responsible for bringing in the SMS under Margaret Thatcher in England in the 1980s, the true intent behind the SMS was startlingly revealed. According to Davies, Baker laughingly admitted in the interview that the SMS policy (and its close relatives, standardised assessment, league tables, national curriculum, parental choice, and the Office for Standards in Education [Ofsted]), were all developed for entirely political reasons: the ‘real agenda was to punish the teacher unions and to kill off the local educational authorities; secretly the big master plan was to wipe out comprehensive schools by stealth’ (pp. 113-4).

From John Smyth, “The disaster of the ‘self-managing school’ genesis, trajectory, undisclosed agenda, and effects” in Journal of Educational Administration and History 43:2, Apr. 2011, pp. 95-117. quoting Nick Davies, “Political Coup Bred Educational Disaster,” The Guardian, September 16, 1999, P. 1.

And where does it end? With the withering away of the low socio-economic status (SES) schools, as middle class parents with the skills to lobby for better schooling move their children to higher SES, selective and private schools. It ends in increasing division between social, racial and religious groups, principals spending valuable time on PR and image making, reduced staffing, and decision-making based on economics instead of pedagogy.

Has SBM improved student achievement? There has been no research to demonstrate this. “What is staggering,” says Smyth, ” is the absence of any evidence showing that dismantling public schools, in the manner that has occurred in the countries mentioned, actually produces any better learning for students” (p.109).

Real improvements are made through changes in the classroom, through the relationships between students and teachers, and through offering the best teaching and learning to every student.

As Smyth states, “Measures that have made schools self-managing through creating educational markets and that have been necessary to sustain that ideology (choice, school selection, baseline assessment, Ofsted inspections in England, league tables, naming and shaming, national assessment, and others) are starting to become unravelled through the social polarisation produced as a consequence of some schools attracting bright students and funding, and the rest being left behind in struggling circumstances” (p.115).

If we believe in public education and in social equity and a democratic society, it is time to question what we are doing in our schools and implement the best educational and classroom practices, not the best in marketing. Consider the outstanding Finnish model, where every school offers the best to every child and teachers must be of the top quality, resulting in top marks in literacy and learning. Time to stop this political epidemic and use what we already know about the best in teaching to give our students the best in learning.