The new Victorian Government Schools Agreement (VGSA 2022) currently before the Fair Work Commission offers significant improvements to several clauses central to the teaching profession.
First up, the VGSA 2022 provides a reduction in face-to-face teaching time for the first time in more than 35 years. This will help to address teacher workloads, with one hour less of face-to-face teaching per week from 2023, expanding to one-and-a-half hours in 2024. The Victorian government will employ almost 2,000 extra teachers to support this reduction, at a cost of $779 million, announced in the 2022–23 state budget.
The new agreement also offers significant improvements to the 30+8 model. It was introduced in the VGSA 2017 as a means of explicitly separating the hours a teacher spends on work directly related to teaching and learning for their class(es), and those spent on other activities such as meetings, yard duty and lunch. In the new agreement, we have strengthened that division.
Now, within the 30-hour component, any time beyond face-to-face teaching hours must be used only for planning, preparation, assessment and collaboration with colleagues, with the duties undertaken in that time determined by the teacher. By quarantining those hours, teachers have the autonomy to prioritise the tasks necessary to meeting the educational needs of their students.
From 1 January 2023, teachers will also join ES in receiving time-in-lieu for any time worked beyond their normal hours when attending school camps.
Right now, it is common for teachers to have much of their non-teaching time taken up by a range of other activities such as meetings and professional learning. They routinely do the specific planning for classes and individual students in unpaid hours. The changes to the 30+8 model aim to bring unpaid work back within the paid working week – and, with it, the professional autonomy to determine those duties.
It remains essential that the consultative committee discuss the allocation of teacher work in the 30-hour and the 8-hour components prior to long-term planning decisions. Sub-branches and consultative committees will play an important role in reviewing the work expected of teachers, both within the ‘30’ and within the ‘8’, to ensure their time is best used to focus on teaching and learning.
These changes are in addition to Professional Practice Days (PPDs). The agreement provides three days in 2022, two in 2023 and one in 2024, as reduced teaching hours come into play. DET has just notified schools that they can hold one of the remaining 2022 PPDs on the same day for all staff, as was the case in Term 2. Each school also has four pupil-free days, one of which must be provided to staff explicitly for the purposes of assessment and/or reporting.
TIME-IN-LIEU FOR OUT-OF-HOURS WORK
Another major step towards improving teachers’ working lives is the expansion of activities that attract time-in-lieu (TIL). Once the VGSA is approved by the Fair Work Commission, teachers must be provided with time-in-lieu for time worked in excess of their normal hours of attendance, including parent–teacher meetings, excursions, concerts, parent information sessions or after-hours sport.
From 1 January 2023, teachers will also join ES in receiving time-in-lieu for any time worked beyond their normal hours when attending school camps. For education support staff, the new arrangements apply from the commencement of the agreement.
Time-in-lieu for teachers will be calculated at 100% for the time spent performing duties, and at 50% for the time on call and available to perform duties. This is a significant industrial and cultural shift for schools – hence, the delay in introduction of new TIL for teachers to allow schools to develop a clear time-in-lieu policy for both teaching and education support staff, especially regarding camps.
This is vital recognition for the extent of out-of-hours work being undertaken by public school staff. On principle, every worker deserves to be compensated for the work they do – teachers and education support staff are no different in this way. The public education system has been built on the goodwill of school staff for too long. The result is a lack of work/life balance, with too many members experiencing high levels of stress, burnout, extended sick leave or going on WorkCover, which of course impacts on students. For this reason, the department must support schools to meet the needs of students while protecting the rights of their employees.
The AEU is a professional and industrial union. We are aware that excessive workloads have a significant impact on members’ health and wellbeing, and on the quality of the education our members can provide to their students. The measures achieved in the new agreement recognise the changing nature of the profession and introduce significant improvements to teachers’ working lives.