Schools Building ES networks

  • By Louise Swinn
  • This article was published more than 1 year ago.
  • 4 Apr 2023
Photo: Tania Jovanovic

It is impossible to imagine schools without the invaluable work of education support staff. The lead up to ESP Day is a good time to shine a light on ES Networks.

Trish Harrington, from Carlton North Primary School, is a member of the Business Managers ES Network, which started in Term 3 last year by developing a shared purpose: to drive constructive change for all business managers, including improved workload regulation and work value recognition. 

“We talk through ideas – what are the main topics people are needing to deal with in terms of themselves in the workplace as business managers, and their conditions?” Trish explains.

Trish points out that there is important work to do in establishing and managing the new time in lieu arrangements. “At school level, business managers are often involved. It’s about recognising that you need to have a strong process to ensure that staff know how time in lieu is going to work. For example, the principal needs to approve when someone takes time in lieu or when someone is going to accrue it.”

At the ES Network meetings, they share how each school deals with these changes. “So far, the meetings have been a great way to discuss those issues that affect us all and find support, because we are all in the same boat. You know you’re not doing this on your own,” says Trish.

“In the meetings, we often split into small groups to brainstorm or thrash out issues and ideas and then bring it back to the larger group with Google docs. We all deal with similar issues in different settings and the impacts are different because of how a school is resourced – it affects the workload and how the business manager’s role is set up in each school.”

When COVID first arrived, Keith Martin from Whittlesea Secondary College started an IT ES Network to share ideas on managing the numerous tech challenges posed by the pandemic. These meetings became “a wellbeing check-in, a support network, and a fortnightly catch up,” says Keith.

“Bringing technicians together to share skills, not having to reinvent the wheel for everyone, sharing knowledge and helping each other. For example, we shared a common template file to set up and distribute the laptops and tablets we were provided from schools and the Department as a way to help reduce admin.”

“The meetings have been a great way to discuss those issues that affect us all and find support in others because we are all in the same boat.”

Trish Harrington

Keith is looking to expand the group and start sharing supplies that go unused. “It’s about the sharing of knowledge of stuff as it pops up, helping inform each other, backing someone up if they need advice and support, being able to troubleshoot each new program together, sharing information,” Keith says.

Trish and Keith are just two examples of the incredible work done by ES in our schools – and the many ways ES members can support each other.

Every year, 16 May is the day we celebrate our educational support personnel by way of ESP Day, acknowledged across the globe as a time to recognise the importance of ES in schools. It is not simply an opportunity for morning tea, but also a genuine chance to remind ourselves of the breadth of ES roles, and to give our ES the recognition they deserve as key contributors to student education and wellbeing, and to the smooth running of a school.

On either side of ESP Day this year, the AEU is running special training sessions focused on range reviews, contracts, entitlements, and more. This will be an invaluable opportunity for ES reps to share how they manage different aspects of their roles and to familiarise themselves with new entitlements in the VGSA 2022.

Another way to engage with the ES community is by joining one of our AEU ES Networks, which include the Dimensions of Work network, the Special Schools network, the IT network, and more – there’s something for everyone!

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