QUEENSLAND TEACHERS UNION RESPONSE TO THE MASTERS REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS

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1 QUEENSLAND TEACHERS UNION RESPONSE TO THE MASTERS REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS The Masters Report analyses the NAPLAN data from performances by Queensland students and highlights that Indigenous, remote, very remote, and low socio-economic students as groups do not do well in the tests. We note with serious concern that there are no recommendations to address the factors that might address this disparity, but that the recommendations focus almost exclusively on the quality of individual teachers. We noted that the Queensland Minister for Education, at the consultation briefing on 11 May, did make a distinction between the quality of teachers and the quality of teaching but did not elaborate on this distinction nor address its implications. A singular focus on the quality of individual teachers is inadequate as there are many factors that make for quality teaching. The quality of individual teaching is but one factor, albeit one of the more important, influencing the quality of education for students. The focus on the quality of the individual teacher ignores governments' responsibility for properly resourcing public education to enable improvements. The QTU would have expected that the report make a recommendation regarding an audit of the resourcing of schools which cater for Indigenous, remote, very remote and low socio-economic students. The QTU strongly suggests that the department undertake such an audit which would focus on resource provision (e.g. class size, ICT provision, buildings and facilities), student factors (e.g. attendance rates, ESL, disabilities, physical and mental health issues), as well as experience of teachers and their access to professional development. FINDINGS OF THE REVIEW The QTU fully supports the five findings of the review but points out that the recommendations attached to them are not necessarily the only ways to achieve the findings. RECOMMENDATION 1 That all aspiring primary teachers be required to demonstrate through test performances, as a condition of registration, that they meet threshold levels of knowledge about the teaching of literacy, numeracy and science and have sound levels of content knowledge in these areas. The QTU supports processes to ensure that graduating teachers are themselves literate and numerate and are able to teach students literacy, numeracy and science. However, we are most concerned that these processes are undertaken in appropriate ways. It is not appropriate to leave it until after a teacher education student graduates to discover that s/he is not literate, numerate or able to teach. Any such processes should be undertaken in the framework of the preservice course. One factor that universities should address is the standard of entrants that they admit to preservice courses - it is not appropriate to accept an entrant with a very low OP. Universities should ascertain early in their teacher education courses if students need

2 assistance with personal literacy and numeracy and provide tutorials throughout the course. The QTU also recommends that universities integrate theoretical study in literacy and numeracy in particular with practicum experience. This might be achieved easily, for example, spending half a day in a school to practice a particular skill as it is being studied in the university course. Other possibilities for addressing threshold levels of knowledge about the teaching of literacy, numeracy and science would be for the universities and the registration authority to stipulate a focus on these areas in the internship and induction in schools during the provisional registration period. The QTU is very concerned about the unfairness of student teachers spending four years of their lives studying in a course which is supposed to prepare them to teach and amassing a HECS debt and then being denied the possibility of teaching. We also find it curious that this recommendation draws upon practices in countries such as England and the United States which perform significantly worse than Australia in the PISA tests. RECOMMENDATION 2 That the Queensland government introduce a new structure and program of advanced professional learning in literacy, numeracy and science for primary school teachers. The QTU is in favour of this recommendation in principle. The availability of the envisaged modules would enable teachers to complete them as part of the continuing professional development requirements for teacher registration. It is imperative that realistic support in terms of time to complete the envisaged modules be provided to teachers, particularly those from challenging schools as not to do so would merely add to the stress levels and workload already experienced in such schools. We recommend that resources associated with this initiative be concentrated in the first instance in schools where this form of support is most needed viz. schools in low socio-economic areas, Indigenous, remote and very remote schools. RECOMMENDATION 3 That additional funding be made available for the advanced training and employment of a number of specialist literacy, numeracy and science teachers to work in schools (and/or district officers) most in need of support. The QTU strongly endorses this recommendation. We would welcome greater support to primary schools in the form of access to specialist advice and support. Primary teachers are generalists and the provision of specialist support would be appropriate. Such provision in primary schools is long overdue as secondary schools have multiple

3 curriculum specialists as Heads of Department whereas primary schools (not all) have only one or a fraction of one Head of Curriculum. Specialist support should be on-going, providing a career path for primary teachers, or literacy/numeracy/science coaches in schools and district offices. These positions need to be additional positions in a school and their role in relation to existing positions e.g. Heads of Curriculum, would need to be clarified. (We note the failure to develop a coherent model of learning support to students and a role statement for support teachers.) Once again we recommend that these specialist support teachers be located in the schools which need them most viz. schools in low socio-economic areas, Indigenous, remote and very remote. We also strongly endorse the recommendation for the training of these specialist teachers. If this initiative is to be successful, these specialist teachers must receive a sustained period of training and on-going support in their role. The QTU would welcome consultation around the training and the conditions of employment of these teachers. In the briefing Professor Masters referred to the Western Australian program, Getting it Right. A strong feature of this program is the quality of training for the coaches, resource materials for them to use, time for them work in the classroom with the teacher each week and to plan with them on an on-going basis over two years. The coaches are attached to the school and receive three days professional development themselves per term. The coach works with a limited number of teachers for two years e.g. years 1 3 but provides professional development seminars for the whole staff. The Getting it Right program has been sustained now for eight years. RECOMMENDATION 4 That standard science tests be introduced at Years 4, 6, 8 and 10 for school use in identifying students who are not meeting year-level expectations and for monitoring student progress over time. The corresponding finding of the review refers to clarity about what teachers are expected to teach and students are expected to learn as well as support in monitoring the extent to which this is occurring. We note that there is no recommendation about curriculum clarity. The initial reaction to this recommendation by the QTU is negative. We would strongly oppose more tests done NAPLAN style all students doing the tests at the same time with aggregation of data. However, if it were implemented in the way intended by Professor Masters there is room for our reaction to be more positive. We note that the Masters report acknowledges that the existing TIMMS, PISA and Australian national tests at Years 4, 6, 8 and 10 provide a basis for system monitoring and that the new tests should be a school-based resource. We would endorse the development of science curriculum modules each of which includes an assessment module, to be used as a resource by individual teachers.

4 These assessment modules would be useful for individual teachers to pre-test students so to ascertain what students already know before they begin planning and teaching a unit of work. The modules could then also be used as post-tests to assess the learning that has taken place. RECOMMENDATION 5 That the Queensland Government initiate an expert review of international best practice in school leadership development with a view to introducing a new structure and program of advanced professional learning for primary school leaders focused on effective strategies for driving improved school performances in literacy, numeracy and science. The Union supports this recommendation in principle. We would endorse an ongoing leadership development program which recognized the following issues: Diversity of leaders and needs the range of people who need different strategies according to where they are in their career and their experience Different context of schools The need for development of leadership teams in schools That effective professional development supports people on the job. There should not be a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership development. Professional development for principals needs to cater for aspiring principals, principals who are new to the role, those who are consolidating their leadership, and for high-performing principals. It needs to be recognized, too, that there is a diversity of skills and ability within the existing leadership cohort. We would recommend a mentoring and coaching model for school leaders in which leaders from successful schools are matched with schools facing challenging schools in order to provide support and development. To enable this there is a need to build mentoring and coaching skills for school leaders with the focus not so much on knowledge but on application in the school setting. A key component on a development program for principals should be to help their leadership capacity at every level in their own school and to develop strategies to deprivatise classroom practice so that teachers can learn from each other. We would also recommend the development of case studies for professional development use which focus on how principals in different contexts have been successful in improving learning in literacy, numeracy and science. The role of the school principal has become very complex but needs to be clearly focused on achieving student outcomes. It has been the case for many years that primary principals in particular need more middle management support to enable them to be effective curriculum leaders. It has been estimated that a school business manager could carry out almost one-third of the tasks that would otherwise be carried out by a principal in a normal school week, therefore allowing the principal to focus

5 on other leadership activities. 1 In small schools a district strategy needs to be developed to give support to principals to enable them to focus on curriculum leadership. RESEARCH NEEDED The QTU recommends that a research project be commissioned to analyse the effect of programs and resources, emanating from the recommendations in the Masters Report, which are directed to schools. The QTU recommends that such programs and resources be directed to those students and schools most in need of them viz. Indigenous, remote, very remote and those in low socio-economic circumstances. FUNDING The QTU would not support any initiatives arising from the Masters Report without full resourcing of those initiatives. Given the chronic underfunding of Queensland education in comparison to the funding level of other Australian states, we are quite cynical of any real outcome of these recommendations. The Commonwealth Grants Commission analyses and reports on state and territory actual and assessed expenditure. Assessed expenditure has been defined as the level of expenditure that the state would need to have expended to provide services at the average standard of all states and territories. This takes into account the specific advantages and disadvantages of each state or territory in delivering the service. The Grants Commission data allows Queensland s actual government schools expenditure to be compared to assessed expenditure, that is, to the amount that the Grants Commission reckons that the Queensland would need to have spent to provide school services at the average standard of other states and territories. Figure 1 shows that Queensland would need to have spent an additional $270m in to provide a level of services at the Australian standard. 1 McKinsey & company, A New Frontier for School Business Management, 2007, London

6 Figure 1 Difference between Actual and Assessed Expenditure, Gov't Schools SA WA ACT VIC TAS NT NSW QLD $m over or below assessed amount As shown in Figure 2, at no time in the past ten years has Queensland s actual expenditure on government schools met or exceeded assessed expenditure. Queensland is the only state or territory for which this is the case. If Queensland had spent just at the level deemed necessary by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to provide the average level of service provided by other states and territories over the period to , an additional $2,100m would have been invested in Queensland government schools. Figure 2 Funding Trend: Difference Between Actual and Assessed Expenditure, Gov't Schools - Qld $m below assessed amount (2008 prices) (Source: Commonwealth Grants Commission (various years), State Finances Inquiries, Relative Fiscal Capabilities of the States, Attachment D Assessed Revenue and Expenses, Table D-60 for 2009, equivalent tables from earlier reports; prices adjusted using Reserve Bank of Australia Inflation Calculator)

7 It has been clear for some time that there are simple initiatives that could have been taken to address achievement problems of groups of Queensland children given the political will e.g. differential staffing for early childhood classes in New South Wales. We note, too, that the general component of the School Grant Account has not been increased for twenty years and that the amount of money required to be spent on professional development is insufficient for the plethora of systemic, school and individual teacher requirements and needs. The QTU has its own strategic program to improve the learning and working conditions for students and QTU members in socio-economically complex schools (see attached). We would enthusiastically support any well-funded, negotiated program to support the students and teachers in such schools and would see that a cooperative effort has the potential to achieve the desired outcomes over time.

8 A message from the QTU President and General Secretary The QTU is committed to improving education in our most difficult schools. Improved working and learning conditions are usually only achieved through members campaigning for improvements. Read this pamphlet. We will be in touch in the near future with details of how your school can support the campaign. What you can do! Take the time to read this pamphlet. Be involved in meetings and activities at your school designed to support the QTU campaign. Write to the State MP who represents your school to express support for the Union s proposal. Vote for any proposal to take action in support of the campaign. Meeting the Challenge A strategy to improve learning and working conditions for students and QTU members in our socio-economic complex schools Steve Ryan, President, QTU John Battams, General Secretary, QTU The QTU recognises that some Queensland schools offer particularly difficult challenges due to socio-economic complexity. With your support, the QTU will be able to make a difference. We intend to identify the state s most complex schools. Our campaign aims to: For more information, contact QTU organisers Kevina O Neill and Penny Spalding on (07) or phone the Queensland Teachers Assist Desk (QTAD) on , or visit Authorised by John Battams, General Secretary Queensland Teachers Union, 21 Graham Street, Milton 4064 introduce better recruitment and retention strategies for complex schools; secure State Treasury-funded additional resourcing; convince the Department to introduce a range of initiatives designed to support teachers working in the most complex schools; focus on delivering improved behaviour management support; and redress issues related to teaching and learning conditions. Inside is our program for Meeting the Challenge schools

9 Meeting the Challenge strategy for identified schools Supporting behaviour management Supporting administrators and teachers Supporting schools 1.1 Allocations of additional teacher numbers to each school for school-based behaviour programs e.g. proper staffing of in-school withdrawal facilities.* 1.2 Create more Positive Learning Centres and additional places at existing centres.* 1.3 Delivery of more support for students e.g. guidance officers. 1.4 Augmentation of the enrolment-driven staffing model to allow for reduced class sizes.* *indicates additional funding from Treasury required 2.1 Transfer and relocation guarantees over and above the transfer points system. 2.2 Boomerang arrangements designed to get experienced teachers to complex schools with a guaranteed return to base school after a set period. 2.3 New teachers appointed to identified schools being able to transfer to another school for a year or two early in their career to ensure such teachers have a greater breadth of experience. 2.4 Recruitment campaigns to attract teachers and administrators. 2.5 New appointment processes for identified schools, involving a separate selection process for teachers and administrators. 2.6 High-quality pre-engagement seminars for applicants. 2.7 Provision of quality induction programs for all teachers and administrators taking up duty. 2.8 Incentives including accelerated access to leave and study allowances.* 2.9 Priority for the introduction of the professional pay program to teachers and administrators in the identified schools Increase in non-contact time for beginning teachers.* 2.11 Quality provision of professional development programs focusing on key issues Funded support for block release days to allow collaborative curriculum planning.* 2.13 Identified schools to be given priority in the roll out of the laptop program. 3.1 Developing whole-of-government approaches to key factors influencing school outcomes e.g. early childhood services, family and children s services, health, housing and police. 3.2 Provision of resourcing that allows schools to establish strong links with agencies and community groups.* 3.3 Establish a pool of administrators/teachers who choose to undertake mentoring and relieving roles in identified schools. 3.4 Support strong cluster and networking arrangements e.g. beginning teachers networks. 3.5 Identify and introduce innovative programs with a commitment to resourcing their sustainability.* 3.6 Re-banding schools according to identified complexity.* 3.7 Assessment of the facilities and resources available to schools with a commitment to planning for and providing quality physical resources.

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