Most PCA members have worked in education for at least a decade. Some are into their sixth decade working in public schools. All of us have seen changes in our careers – some initiated by system-level research or political ideology, others won by us through campaigns and struggle.
At PCA meetings last year, members reflected on some of the changes in education over the past three decades. And there have been some big ones!
Non-face-to-face teaching time was not available to primary teachers until the 1970s. Until this time, primary teachers were expected to plan before or after school. Leave entitlements for having children or caring for loved ones were not available until the 1980s, and teachers and principals paid for their own ‘work’ laptops until 2016!
In the Victorian Government Schools Agreement (VGSA) 2022, the Department of Education (DE) acknowledged that teachers required to attend structured school activities outside normal hours should be compensated. While subsequent DE advice and communications have muddied this waters, this change brings the workforce conditions in schools closer to the conditions enjoyed by other workers. It is also a change that is universally supported.
And this is just the beginning. An absurd claim by some departmental protagonists that principal class officers are employed to do a job rather than attend work contradicts the attendance descriptions included in Ministerial Order 1388.
In future Schools Agreement campaigns, PCA class members will inevitably campaign to end unpaid overtime. Similarly, appropriate funding agreements and clearer thinking could see government remuneration for time in lieu paid at 150% or 200% of the normal hourly rate (as they are for many emergency services and health workers).
Where it is implemented with fidelity, the provision of time in lieu can stem teacher burnout and attract new applicants to our profession. Time in lieu also represents a win that enables us to build respect for our profession – just as assessment and planning time (APT) and the laptop wins did in previous decades.
We can be the teachers and school leaders that the community wants, but we are not going to work for free. We will continue to provide high-quality education for more than one million Victorian students, but we must be paid for the time that we work.