No words can do justice to the unpredictable and tumultuous times we have experienced in 2020. The year began with devastating bushfires, followed closely by a pandemic. It has arguably been the most disrupted education year we have ever experienced. Thankfully, most members are about to have a break and a much-needed chance to recharge for Term 4.
Despite the significant challenges imposed by COVID-19, there is a lot to be positive about. Our highly specialised and complex work is vital to the futures of our students – and it has provided some solace to see greater recognition of this among the broader community.
This edition of AEU News focuses on the importance of staying connected and working together, even when lockdowns and remote teaching make this difficult. Not surprisingly, the innovation and resilience of AEU members during this time has been impressive, demonstrating the education profession’s capacity to adapt under pressure amid constant change. From the vital work of our MARC and MACC teachers, who have kept literacy and arts programs alive for country schools, to online drama and music programs, to the positives of open-air classrooms, we have much to feel proud of as we continue to deliver high-quality education to our students.
At the AEU, alongside advocating for members on issues related to COVID-19, usual business continues. Negotiations on the new early childhood agreements have resumed, as we face the economic fallout from the pandemic and a more restrictive state government public sector wages policy. The AEU federally is promoting the critical role of TAFE in rebuilding the economy, providing an education to those who have lost their jobs and will be looking to retrain or upskill. With the Morrison government again seeking to ramp up privatisation of the vocational sector, our national campaign for investment in public TAFE – and the state government’s current Macklin review into post-secondary education – are more important than ever.
NAPLAN needed significant change to regain the confidence of teachers, schools and parents
On another front, the results of the national review into NAPLAN have just been released – and, suffice to say, they are a great disappointment. When the review was announced, Victoria’s education minister James Merlino said, “NAPLAN needed significant change to regain the confidence of teachers, schools and parents” and that “the status quo is not an option and we are prepared to make whatever changes are needed”. If that was his view, then the outcome of this review is a fail.
The review’s proposed change in no way represents an overhaul of the national standardised assessment to ensure that it meets the needs of schools, parents and students. Its superficial recommendations, such as a new name (ANSA) for the test, will do nothing to alleviate the negative impacts of this form of high-stakes, standardised testing on students and schools. Although the Education Council is yet to make any decisions in response, we are dismayed that Minister Merlino has endorsed its recommendations without consulting the teaching profession.
If we are to achieve genuine improvements in the work we do, teachers must be provided with the time required to do their core work of teaching, as happens in the world’s best education systems. The continuation of a high-stakes testing system that undermines our professional judgement – driven by political accountability measures rather than by the needs of schools – demonstrates a frustrating lack of respect and trust in teachers and principals from the bureaucracy and the education minister.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the inadequacies of privatisation across many sectors, whether health, aged care, disability or education. It is essential that our leaders develop a clear plan for recovery with a focus on improving job security – something sadly lacking from our current federal government. Education will play a crucial role, providing opportunities for those affected by job losses and changing industries.
I urge AEU members to get on board with the ACTU’s National Jobs Plan to create jobs, stimulate economic recovery and get everyone back to work. With the Morrison government focusing on industrial relations reform rather than more progressive ways to stimulate the economy, there is no doubt that workers will be under attack. We need to ensure that Australian workers, who have been on the frontline during this pandemic, are not left out in the cold.
To those taking a break during the September holidays, I hope you find some time to rest and recover from what has been an intense term. Hopefully there are no more big surprises and we can resume some sort of normality as we move towards the end of this remarkable year. Stay safe and, most importantly, stay connected with your family, friends and colleagues. And, remember, if you need support on any work-related concerns, your union is always here.