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)





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.





No Books? No Libraries?

17 12 2011

In 2007, COBURG SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL, VIC. was a new school with dispersed book collections, virtually no non-fiction and lots of computers. (See article in Access, Nov 2007 by  Jennifer Sargeant, Director of Information Resources).  The principal had said there would eventually be a library “of sorts.”  Is there now?

Also in 2007, MORDIALLIC SECONDARY SCHOOL, MELBOURNE, closed its library entirely, disposing of its existing collection “so that the space could be used for a VCE centre, with the remaining books split amongst each year level. No catalogue, no borrowing system.” Each year since, they had to buy duplicate copies of books for access.  No TL then. What’s happening now?

BULLEEN HEIGHTS SCHOOL, an autistic school in Doncaster, Victoria, didn’t have a library.  Children were using the public library. Are they still?

In 2008, the sole TL at a school of 1000 students was told that all of the non-fiction would be removed from the MACKAY HIGH SCHOOL, QLD  library. The rationale was that students in the era of the Internet do not need books to research information. Some walls in the library were knocked down to form one large area to house a mass of computers.

In 2011 the library, however, is still functioning and a thriving hub, though the non-fiction collection is much smaller.  A staff survey which opposed the removal of non-fiction may have stopped the change.

I am told that MACKAY NORTH HIGH SCHOOL, QLD was to divest itself of non-fiction [see update in comments, this has not happened.] as has CALEN SECONDARY COLLEGE, (P-12) QLD. What do students and staff and parents think?

In 2008, LUMEN CHRISTI COLLEGE, GOSNELLS, WA a consultant reviewing the library suggested the idea of getting rid of non-fiction and replacing the books with computers, because “students in the era of the Internet do not need books to research information.”  Awaiting update. (I would love to know if this “consultant,” who doesn’t know the recreational benefits of non-fiction, is still employed.)

HENLEY HIGH SCHOOL, SA 2010

The Principal of Henley High in November 2010, announced through the Messenger Press  that her school was going ‘Hi tech’, because “few books were borrowed from the library.” Within three years, she expected there to be no need for the use of that space as such. The photograph in the Messenger Press showed empty shelves behind the girl with her laptop near the fiction section that had been retained.  Many books have gone to other libraries which appreciated them. There is now no TL or library assistant. The library is now called a Senior Study Centre.

The worst aspect of it all was the reaction of DECS and the fact that the unnamed spokeswoman for the Department of Education when asked about the loss of the library simply said that schools were moving to computers. She seemed to be unaware that the Federal government has just spent billions putting libraries in schools, public and private, throughout Australia!

Departments of education in NSW and other states are using the coming into play of the Local Empowerment Policy to wash their hands of responsibilities for decisions by principals in schools. It saves so much $$!

Theoretically, school councils might be used as governing councils, but they can be told whatever the principal wishes and their advice can be ignored.

The Local Empowerment Policy, already being abused in WA through the Independent Public Schools program being set up by the Liberal government there, will allow Principals to have free rein but what about funding? There do not appear to be any guarantees built in for principals to include as essential members of staff either school counsellors – that’s why the push to chaplains – or teacher librarians. And in SA the newly negotiated agreement with the AEU has now excluded teacher librarians and school counsellors from the essential members of staff.

So now under a state government “Expanding State High Schools” program, MARRYATVILLE HS, SA Resource Centre looks to be replaced by a General Learning area where a reading room is now, a science building with an “Area supporting Resource Based Learning”, an admin office….in short dismantled and dispersed as at Henley HS.

VARSITY COLLEGE SENIOR CAMPUS LIBRARY, Qld Nov 2011

The school has made the decision to remove all the non-fiction books from the catalogue, cull many and move the rest to the backs of middle school classrooms [sound familiar?]. Senior classes will be expected to rely solely on the internet or the online databases. Some fiction books will be kept in the library space which is being converted into a “digital break-out” space.

It’s all done with smoke and mirrors folks, and under the directorship of a regional director who has publicly stated that we don’t need libraries in schools any more. Many state schools on the Gold Coast now do not have a T/L (NB: Robina, Miami, Palm Beach, Currumbin, Nerang, Southport and others… and others with a teacher in charge who is taken off some classes and spends that time in the library [remember the “good old days”?]. As one deputy has stated, their teacher in charge “sets up displays and orders books”.

MT TAMBOURINE HIGH SCHOOL, Qld. was advertising for a TL for a library with NO books  Awaiting update.

AQUINUS COLLEGE, Melbourne is reputedly going paperless next year. What do these schools know about the availability and licensing of Australia history, art, industrial arts, health, sexuality, poetry, culture, etc. books in e-format that we don’t know?

AND CLOSING DOWN A LIBRARY?

CAMBRIDGE HS, NZ, LIBRARY WAS CLOSED, NOW REOPENED 2011

Philippa Stevenson: Library’s return puts heart back into high school

The school library that was closed to be replaced by a cyber cafe was at Cambridge in the North Island of NZ.  The principal thought it was a ‘museum”.  She was eventually replaced when the decision was reversed because of the publicity and the Department of Education and government got involved.

Some US primary libraries are re-opening (though with no TLs, only volunteer parents many of whom are raising the  funds themselves to re-open their libraries: one school district in California, one in Philidelphia, a school in Michigan.  Clerks are being rehired in 2 Napa Valley schools to re-open their libraries. Belmont CA has rehired 3-4 TLs to reopen six primary school libraries 

And in Windsor Canada Catholic Schools are bringing back libraries and books!!   The Windsor Public Library and the region’s Catholic School system are working on a partnership to save the school board’s libraries from extinction. Last spring, the board made a controversial move to remove most of the books from its school libraries…..

Is there a message here?!

And the latest good news? The US Congress is set to approve $28.6 billion for school libraries.  Thanks to the heroic work of school library champion, Senator Jack Reed.  (Or should it be READ!:-)  Now where is our OZ champion?





Empowering Local Schools to dismiss teacher librarians

7 03 2011

Someone should tell the state premiers.  It’s been good spin for you for the past few years, but meanwhile who will be running your reading challenges when all the teacher librarians have turned out the lights? When all the books are left to parents to purchase for their child’s iPad or laptop?

Books of the Year? Sorry, can only afford to download Wind and the Willows and Alice in Wonderland and Macbeth.  Share those with bub on the knee.

What is it with Inquiries?  Do they give the imprematur to speed up the very practices being investigated for their negative effects?  Wrong word, of course. Imprematur is license to print.  We are talking here about the license to burn, discard, disregard the print.  Unless its out of copyright free print or disjointed, unverifiable, unedited, non-narrative print. Because you sure won’t find narrative non-fiction or a free Book of the Year on your laptop, Sally and Johnnie and Mohammed.

Mad?  Yes I’m mad! When I hear that the South Australian government has negotiated away any safeguard for teacher librarian positions, and school support officers are trying to cope with supporting teacher curriculum needs and students who need to be taught how to find reliable information.

Mad when I hear that Western Australia’s government is going full-steam ahead with its “Independent Public Schools” program. Teacher librarians of 20 years are suddenly supernumaries and feeling betrayed.  Library Officers get Level 2 pay to do a professional teacher’s job.  Teachers and students get short changed.

Do the real independent schools do this?  Hardly! New $8 million Resource Centre Learning Hub Libraries with four full-time professional staff speak loud and clear to prospective parents. (“Libraries turn a fresh page,” Sun Herald, 27 Feb 2011) They are saying, “We know quality libraries support quality teaching and learning.”

So what is Julia’s Empowering Local Schools policy really about?  Without the funds of independent schools, it can only be about shifting the responsibility and the blame. Even Julia knows that NAPLAN literacy results have been correlated with well-staffed and well-stocked school libraries.

So premiers, be sure you have a license for your bookmobiles. The challenge will be that the next generation can read at all.

Write a letter to your local federal member and to the House Education and Employment Inquiry committee now.





Principal Autonomy: Federal policy vs Federal Inquiry

27 02 2011

What will the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians be able to say about the current push by Julia Gillard for locally empowered schools.  15 years of principal autonomy in staffing, with no conditions for retention of specialist staff, has resulted in Victorian government schools having qualified teacher librarians in only 13% of their schools. Under the Independent Public Schools (IPS) trial in 34 Western Australia schools, half of teacher librarian staffing in some high schools has been lost this year.  Another 64 schools will participate next year.

Under the Locally Empowered Schools program, 1,000 public schools throughout the country will be offered control of their own budgets, staff appointments and long-term planning.  This policy is being implemented through an expansion of the National Partnership Agreements which offer no protection for specialist staff such as teacher librarians.  Under the guise of improving teacher quality, teaching quality supported by professionally trained teacher librarians is being thrown out with the bath water.

Join with US (Keith Curry Lance, Stephen Krashen and more), Australian and UK activists and researchers to exchange ideas on what we can do to influence federal and state policy.  Advocacy conference goes live on Friday 4 March.





Further on Empowering Local Schools

3 08 2010

The key for effective local decision-making is, and will be, principal and parent training. Principals and parents need to be aware of the difference a TEACHER librarian makes. They will have to learn performance management of their teacher librarians, what makes an excellent TL and an excellent library. How are literacy and teaching and learning supported by quality school libraries?

Julia’s fact sheet states: “Principals will have a greater role in staff performance management within existing enterprise bargaining arrangements. ” So the role of the teachers unions is very important. The AEU (which included SA appendix), Tasmania, NSW, and Qld unions did make submissions to the Inquiry and appear as witnesses. So did the NSW/ACT Independent Education Union. Yet AEU has told me it has no resources for a TL campaign. Teacher librarians must get involved with their unions and urge them to negotiate agreements which will not allow teacher librarian positions to be traded away. They must actively support campaigns to educate principals and parents, such as has been done in Canada, for example.

Julia says, about Empowering Local Schools,

An additional $6.9 million will fund implementation, including the development of a specific training course for principals on leading and managing a more autonomous school, the development of innovative governance models and a longitudinal evaluation. “ Who are the school library experts to advise on such training, when so much corporate knowledge has been lost?

“The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership will lead the development of a training course for principals on the fundamentals of leading and managing local schools with greater levels of local independence. “ Again, who can advise the AITSL? ASLA can not do it all.

“From next year the Gillard Labor Government will also work in partnership with education authorities to prepare for a transition to more empowered local schools. Funding of $17.7 million over four years will be provided to education authorities so they can provide support and training to principals and make other necessary changes like modify IT systems to support schools becoming more independent. “

So who in academic or systemic advisory positions will be able to advise on school library management training? Will academics at CSU, QUT, and ECU be able to step up to the plate? Will advisors from WA CMIS and NSW School Libraries and Information Literacy unit find the time, especially as the former has already been restructured out of their DET and the latter is about to be restructured?

“The rollout will also build on good practice from established models presented by Victorian Government schools, Catholic and Independent school systems.”

Victoria! Their DET didn’t even appear at the Inquiry. Although SLAV did, their de facto advisory and training body. Brisbane Catholic Ed would have some expertise to offer though, since they are sponsoring TL training at QUT these days in order to very wisely staff qualified teacher librarians! (Hale BCE:-)

“It will also capitalise on existing trials being rolled out as part of the Teacher Quality National Partnership, including 34 Independent Public Schools in Western Australia. “ Can anyone tell me if school libraries have been considered as part of these programs ?

And we will have to educate parents if they will have increased local control. As it is now they don’t even necessarily know the difference between a clerical assistant and a teacher librarian.

“Enhanced school governance arrangements,” says Julia, will give “school councils or boards responsibility for strategic planning, and oversight of the school’s operations and finances. This will enhance parental and community ownership of local schools. “But a great many resources and programs will need to be put in place if this local ownership will actually improve student learning. There is very little research which shows it will.

“Each school will determine what needs to change to improve student outcomes, drawing on the knowledge of teachers, parents and student performance information like NAPLAN and MySchool. ” It would be great if the stats for school library staffing and funding could be included in the MySchool data, as the Inquiry committee was exploring. The Softlink survey reported on in their Inquiry submission showed that the link could well be there between NAPLAN results and school library staffing and funding.

School libraries are just so far off the radar when you look at leadership sites like Principals Australia and parents sites like ASCCO.(Though ACSSO has greatly supported TLs in the Inquiry. See comment below). We all have a lot of work to do.

More to ponder:
Principals and other staff members will also be offered additional support and training so they can effectively exercise their new responsibilities, and generate better outcomes for their students. (GP: Again, who has the expertise to provide this on school libraries? Academic and corporate knowledge lost.)

By providing greater flexibility over the mix of staff within a school, principals will be able to devolve administrative responsibilities (GP: so more sacrificing of TLs to free up executive?) that currently occupy much of their time so they can focus more on school leadership, teaching and learning.

Individual teachers will also have more power to contribute to and shape school decision making processes. Individual teachers know better than anyone what needs to change within the school environment to improve the performance of their students, and this reform will empower them to make those changes with the support of the principal and parents. (Yet there has been no pre-service and little in-service training re collaboration with TLs.)