Schools Implementing principal workload clauses in the new VGSA

Anticipating the approval of the agreement by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), our principal class members will shift their focus to implementation of the in-principle agreement.

With input from members, the AEU is developing an implementation guide and advice sheets. They include information on implementing the reduction in face-to-face teaching, navigating changes to the 30+8 model, and accomodating the broadened time-in-lieu provisions.

Principal consultation 

One of the most important changes for principals will be the implementation of the principal consultation clauses that seek to address the frequent initiatives that are regularly rolled out to schools. As outlined below, the new clauses require the employer to consider the additional workload required in accommodating these new initiatives, and consult before making any changes:

(16) (a) Consistent with clause 12(3), where the Employer proposes to introduce a change that may impact the workload required of principals, the Employer will consult with principals and their union(s) about that change, and its impact on workload and give consideration to matters raised by principals and their union(s) prior to the decision to implement any change. 

(b) For the purpose of consultation under subclause (16)(a) the employer will provide the relevant employees and their union(s) with information, in writing, about the nature of the change and the expected effects of the change on the employees and their workload.

As unionists, we know that the effectiveness of clauses in agreements depends on whether members are aware of entitlements and their intent, and then take proactive steps to ensure their implementation.

Principals need to be aware of the clauses and their intent, so they can refer to them when faced with relevant situations. That includes scenarios where SEILs or Area Directors inform them about new initiatives at network meetings, insisting they must be prioritised within tight timelines. Having an understanding of the principal consultation clause will help members raise their concerns and voice the need for consultation that considers any workload implications. It’s a good idea to bring a copy of the agreement to these meetings to refer to.

It’s important that principals take full advantage of their collective strength.

It’s also important that principals take full advantage of their collective strength by referring to the benefits of this clause when meeting as a group within their professional networks. The more we can help raise awareness of the principal consultation clauses with our colleagues and regional staff, the better – so that everyone understands the need for consultation so that, most importantly, workload can be addressed.

While we await approval of the agreement by the FWC, we encourage our principal class members to consider opportunities to start these discussions at a network level, or directly with SEILs and Area Directors, to help develop a shared understanding of what is required by the consultation clauses.

Through this required consultation, consideration can be given as to whether or not other work to which the school is already committed can be modified, to allow more time to accommodate the new expectations – and to negotiate whether or not additional resources are available, and discuss suitable timeframes.

It is also a good idea to be aware of Clause 29 Consultation – Major Change. If a major change occurs and it is likely to have a significant effect on employees, then the clause requires that consultation take place as soon as practicable after the decision has been made. It also requires that any measures being taken to avert or mitigate the adverse effects of the change are discussed with the relevant employees affected and their representatives.

In order to identify the measures being taken to avert or mitigate the adverse effect of a change, you are essentially undertaking a form of workload impact assessment. Having the opportunity to engage in discussions with the employer about the workload demands being placed on you, as principal, along with how this filters down to teachers and education support staff, is something that is now a clear industrial entitlement.

The principal consultation clause is an important step towards addressing the intense workload demands placed on school principals – and a good union win, achieved with the united action of our members, who have campaigned so hard on the need for reductions in workload across the board.

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