The new VGSA makes decisive improvements to the working lives of members in schools. While awaiting approval from the Fair Work Commission, we break down some of the more complex clauses to help you get the most from your entitlements.
Reducing teacher workloads
Through negotiations for a new Victorian Government Schools Agreement (VGSA), members wanted reduced workloads, lower stress levels, and greater professional autonomy and control over their working lives. The VGSA 2022 goes a long way towards achieving those improvements.
For teachers, there are four key components related to workload. First is a reduction in face-to-face teaching. From 2023, teachers will have one hour less of face-to-face teaching per week, expanding to one-and-a-half hours in 2024. The state 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.
These changes to face-to-face teaching hours are contained in a ‘deed’, referred to in the VGSA 2022 and vice versa. A deed is a legal document enforceable in the Supreme Court of Victoria. It also contains additional commitments sought by the AEU, including an agreement that the reduced maximum face-to-face teaching hours will continue for at least two years beyond the agreement’s nominal expiry date of December 2025, and will form the basis for negotiating subsequent agreements.
This gives teachers the trust and professional autonomy to utilise planning time to do the work needed to deliver the best program to their students.
This reduction allows for additional planning time, which is now quarantined within the ‘30 hours’ as part of improvements to the 30+8 model. This provides teachers with more time for preparation, planning, collaboration and assessment within paid hours. It also gives teachers the trust and professional autonomy to utilise this time to do the work needed to deliver the best program to their students.
This is 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 comes into play. 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.
The 30+8 model
Our workload surveys showed that teachers were doing an average of 15 hours in unpaid overtime every week. For teachers, most of those unpaid hours were going towards the core work of preparation, planning and assessment. With this agreement, the AEU has sought to bring that work back into paid hours.
The 30+8 model 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 hours must be used only for planning, preparation, assessment and collaboration with colleagues, with the duties undertaken in that time determined by the teacher.
With the reduction in face-to-face teaching, an additional 1.5 hours each week will be provided for this work. This means that by 2024, a primary teacher will have a minimum of nine hours a week, with secondary teachers having access to at least 11.5 hours.
Right now, it is common for teachers to have much of their non-teaching time subsumed by a range of other activities such as meetings and professional learning. The changes 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 the core work of teaching and learning.
The 30+8 arrangement will reverse the experience of many teachers by giving them control over how they direct a significant amount of their time.
It is an explicit acknowledgement of the importance of public school teachers’ professional autonomy. Teachers know what their students need, and this clause gives them time to focus on tasks that will directly support their students within paid hours, while also tackling the current work/life imbalance. As a result, teachers will have the professional trust that they deserve to do their job.
We know that having too many tasks risks many of them not being completed to the highest standard. This clause will require schools to reassess what they ask of teachers, as it prioritises the tasks directly associated with classroom practice.
It means the current reported experience of having more duties placed on top of already full loads will have to be reconsidered. That’s a good thing for teachers, for students and for schools.
Marino D’Ortenzio, AEU Victoria Vice President Secondary
The new agreement significantly expands time-in-lieu (TIL) for teachers beyond parent–teacher reporting to all structured school activities. This is important recognition for the out-of-hours work being undertaken by public school staff.
Members should be compensated for that work for two important reasons. Firstly, our system has been built on the goodwill of teachers and support staff for too long – and we need to shift that culture. Members’ work/life balance is being affected, with some experiencing high levels of stress and too many going on extended sick leave or Workcover.
Secondly, every worker should be compensated for the work that they do – teachers and ES are no different – especially for any work done outside of normal hours.
For any structured school activity where staff are required – such as parent–teacher meetings, excursions, concerts, parent information sessions or after-hours sport – they must be provided with time-in-lieu for time worked in excess of their normal hours of attendance. This will commence when the VGSA is approved by the Fair Work Commission.
Our system has been built on the goodwill of teachers and support staff for too long – and we need to shift that culture.
From 2023, teachers will 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. For teachers, TIL for camps will apply from 1 January 2023.
Time-in-lieu for teachers and ES 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 introducing the new TIL provisions for teachers, to allow schools to develop a clear time-in-lieu policy for ES and teachers, especially regarding camps.
The TIL policy should be developed as part of the consultative process towards planning for the upcoming year. The AEU will be providing implementation advice to help support this process.
A teacher may request not to attend a school activity outside normal attendance where this will unreasonably affect the teacher’s personal or family commitments. The employer may only refuse the request on reasonable grounds. All work required in excess of an employee’s normal weekly hours of duty must be documented by the employer. Time-in-lieu should be granted within the fortnight in which it is accrued. Where this is not possible, it may be granted at any other time prior to the end of the school year. The department is currently considering adding new functionality to eduPay to enable this.
Where a teacher has not been granted TIL by 1 December, that teacher may vary their attendance time on any school day prior to the end of that school year equivalent to the time owed, with not less than three working days’ notice.
As an alternative to time-in-lieu, the principal and the teacher may agree to payment for TIL owed at the employee’s normal rate of pay.
For ES, timing of any time-in-lieu is at the discretion of the employer, having regard to the operational needs of the school and the wishes of the employee.
As an alternative to time-in-lieu, the employer and the ES employee may agree to payment for TIL owed at the employee’s normal rate of pay where the TIL was for work performed within the normal span of hours, or at 150% of their normal rate of pay where the time-in-lieu was for work performed outside this span of hours.
Where accrued TIL has not been granted to a teacher or education support member by 1 March of the following school year, the principal must grant TIL equivalent to the time owed, commencing immediately, or pay the employee for the time owed at 150% of the employee’s normal rate of pay.
ES range reviews
The VGSA 2022 contains a number of important changes for ES staff, including to range reviews. In the new agreement, all ES members have the opportunity to seek a range review if you consider your role and duties to be described in the new agreement at a higher salary range than where you are currently classified. Note that the range review process has not changed in the new agreement, but there are changes to the Dimensions of Work for the different classification levels, which could lead to the need for range reviews.
ES and principal members should work together to assess the required duties against the Dimensions of Work. ES members can also review their role in light of the new dimensions, and write to their principal seeking a range review if those duties are classified at a higher level when compared to the current agreement. The principal must respond in writing within 28 days. The AEU will provide written advice to ES and principal members – with individual members able to seek specific advice at any stage of the process.
These changes to the Dimensions of Work may mean that members who have had an incorrect classification will be reclassified. Importantly, the new dimensions describe the work more clearly, so that ES are more accurately and appropriately classified, with the commensurate salary.
In the new agreement, all ES members have the opportunity to seek a range review if you consider your role and duties to be described at a higher classification level.
The revised Dimensions of Work in the proposed VGSA explicitly limits group size supervision for ES in the new Range 1 and Range 2 to a maximum of four students – individually or in groups of up to four – in controlled circumstances where the responsibility for students clearly remains with a teacher.
In Range 3 and above, ES can only supervise students in groups of more than four where it is an “integral part of the role”. This clarifies the role of ES, providing a clearer sense of the boundaries and expectations.
The proposed agreement makes it clear that business managers, and ES staff who manage a school science laboratory, library or information technology function, including as the sole technician, must commence at Range 3.
In another key change, the new dimensions refer to qualifications – an important first step in recognising the skills and qualifications of ES members and establishing a framework for salary recognition whenever qualifications are required in the future.
The proposed agreement introduces the recognition of qualifications for the first time. For new employees, this means that you won’t necessarily start at the base level if you have qualifications that are relevant to your role. Again, salaries will be in line with those qualifications.
The new VGSA provides beneficial changes to the ES classification structure. It introduces a new Range 1, with two sub-divisions to be used for recognised traineeship programs. All current Range 1 and Range 2 ES employees will be moved to the new Range 2, removing the hard barrier between these classifications.
All current Range 1 ES will be able to access additional sub-divisions in the new Range 2 classification. Certain roles – for example, lab tech positions – will commence at Range 2 sub-division 4, maintaining the recognition of higher responsibilities.
These changes also mean that for those at the top of Range 1, covering most ES employed by DET, there is a salary increase of more than 26% over the life of the agreement. These education support employees now have access to what had previously been Range 2 salaries, rather than being stuck at the top of Range 1. There is also an additional increment at the top of Range 3 and of Range 5.
All of this is recognition of the increasingly professional roles our ES play and the value of the work they do in our schools every day. Crucially, it means that the ES salary scale more appropriately values the important work of education support staff.
The changes to the Dimensions of Work for education support have come about thanks to member campaigning over many years. ES members reported that the agreement didn’t describe their work clearly enough, with roles often valued at a level below where they should sit, and some not captured at all.
We advocated to DET on the need for major changes to the dimensions; and our passionate and proactive ES members have worked together across the state to identify the key problems. This led the department to commit to a review in the VGSA 2017.
The new dimensions include roles not previously included; shift certain tasks into higher ranges based on the value of the work; clearly outline the health and wellbeing roles our ES members undertake in schools; recognise qualifications; and contain clear requirements for the supervision of students.
Along with changes to the classification structure – which will see thousands of our ES members access ranges and levels they were previously unable to access – the changes to the dimensions will lead to range reviews for many ES, resulting in a move to higher levels and classification ranges.
Our schools and students rely on the essential work that ES members undertake every day. The new VGSA recognises the value of this work and delivers a raft of changes in both salary and conditions, which our ES members so justly deserve.
Briley Stokes, Vice President – Primary Sector
Principal workload and consultation
Principals and the AEU now have a clear right to be consulted about proposed departmental changes that may affect the workload of principals. This will take the form of industrial consultation and workload assessment for any new demands on principals before that change is implemented. The department has also made a commitment to review and modernise principal class contracts (schedule B) within six months of the commencement of the new VGSA.
The proposed clause states that “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 … about that change and its impact on workload”. The following sub-clause states that “the Employer will provide … information, in writing, about the nature of the change and the expected effects of the change on the employees and their workload.”
DET must consult principals and the AEU on any proposed changes that may affect principal workloads.
The letter of commitment from DET to the AEU also provides $11.988 million to reduce administrative burdens in the areas of health and safety, emergency management and investigation processes. These funds will support principal class members to complete mandatory OHS, essential safety measures, and emergency management requirements, and the engagement of external experts to conduct serious complaints investigations.
In other changes, part-time employment is now expressly permitted for principal class employees, which will, for example, allow for greater flexibility for succession planning and for those with caring responsibilities.
We know the number of leading teachers in the system has declined over the past two decades. Much of that work has been taken up by the principal class not wanting to delegate those tasks to other staff with already full workloads. The proposed Agreement contains a commitment from DET to work towards a promotion profile of at least 20% for every school by 2025.
The proposed agreement also recognises the risks to staff wellbeing caused by an expectation of after-hours communication. It commits to “working together to create and maintain an environment that enables employees to perform their duties at reasonable times of the working day”.
PCA members took united action in negotiations for the new VGSA, and their strong campaigning has achieved major improvements in pay and conditions for school leaders.
For too long, principals and assistant principals have been tasked with duties that should logically sit with the department. We welcome the money allocated to reducing this administrative burden, so that PCA members can focus more on their core role of educational leadership, especially as they continue to manage one of the most challenging periods our schools have ever faced.
The changes to consultation are also important, so that principals have a proper forum for discussing the workload implications of departmental initiatives before they happen. Along with changes to superannuation, we have won a better deal for our PCA members.
Tim Delany, PCA Organiser