AEU wins campaign to save visiting teacher jobs
The Victorian government has been forced to ditch its shock plan to sack 86 visiting teachers following public outrage from the AEU, parents and the education profession. Visiting teachers provide targeted support for around 4,000 Victorian students with disability and chronic illnesses. If the cuts had gone ahead, it would have left just 32 visiting teachers to service the entire state, adding to the already excessive workloads of mainstream teachers.
Visiting teachers are highly qualified experts who work with students with vision and hearing impairment, autism, and other disabilities, health issues and behavioural challenges. Affected parents were devastated by the impending loss of specialised support for their children. Following the announcement, 100 visiting teachers attended an immediate statewide meeting held by the AEU, and more than 6,300 people signed our petition. The story was also picked up by mainstream media, which ran extensive interviews with parents and the AEU.
“This is an important win for our members and the students, families and schools they work with,” said AEU president Meredith Peace. “We are pleased the Minister has genuinely engaged with the AEU, parents, disability advocacy groups, families and the community and taken this proposal off the table. AEU members are congratulated for all their efforts to campaign against these cuts.”
Knox abandons its kinders
In early August, AEU members working in Knox met with the local mayor and councillors to put forward their views on the impact of Knox City Council’s plans to ditch provision of around 30 sessional kindergartens and present a petition with more than 2,500 signatures. Despite the pleas of staff and families, in mid-August Knox decided to walk away from its responsibility to provide local council-run kindergarten, abandoning 1,100 three-year-old and four-year-old children, who are now at risk of missing out on accessing two years of free kinder. AEU members spoke eloquently to councillors about the importance of the council-run kindergartens – but have since been put on a gag order and told not to speak to media. ”We don’t know why the councillors have made this choice, saying they have spoken to the community, because they haven’t,” one member said, adding: “This will be the last straw for most of us, I think. Most of us will be getting out of the profession.”
Meeting the minister
AEU early childhood members met with Minister Ingrid Stitt earlier this year to discuss current challenges for those working in the sector. EC teacher Lorraine Cotter spoke passionately about the need to support experienced teachers; the differences in conditions between the sector’s two benchmark agreements; and why staff working in long day care services deserve a better deal.
Lorraine believes the minister took members’ advice on board. “We have been advocating for support for grad teachers and beginning teachers a lot, and so we asked: How are you going to support experienced teachers? Not long after that, the department announced a coaching and mentoring program for experienced teachers and educators in early childhood. If we have numbers in the group then we can have a louder voice and we advocate better.”
Success in delaying revised maths curriculum
AEU members have convinced the minister to delay implementation of the revised curriculum. After listening to teachers, state Education Minister Natalie Hutchins informed schools that the curriculum changes did not require implementation until 2025.
The revised F–10 Victorian curriculum was approved by the VCAA in July. In December last year, AEU Joint Primary and Secondary Council expressed concerns about the timeframe for implementation, especially given current staffing shortages.
VCAA’s original plan provided just six months for familiarisation with the new maths curriculum in 2023, then implementation in 2024, with revisions to English and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures to be implemented in 2025.
The AEU’s key concerns were the lack of supporting resources and time for teachers to get across the changes and build them into local curriculum plans. A branch council resolution called for clearer communication about the changes from the VCAA; provision of professional development; and a staged implementation.
Petition for paid placements for pre-service teachers
More than 7,500 people have signed a petition calling on the Andrews government to provide paid placements for all pre-service teachers. Currently, pre-service teachers in Victoria are required to complete up to 80 days of professional placement, unpaid. Increasingly, students are deferring or dropping out because they can’t afford to lose their income or their jobs to undertake training. The AEU is calling on the government to support the next generation of teachers and create a sustainable future for our education system through paid placements.
Launching our Disability Pride network
The AEU held its first Vic Disability Pride Network meeting on 29 August, where members with a disability were able to connect online and discuss their experiences of working in education. This group includes members who identify as neurodivergent; disabled or having a disability; having a health condition or chronic illness; deaf or hearing impaired; mental illness or mental health issues; or blind or with low vision. Members do not need to have had an official diagnosis or use the terms ‘disabled’ or ‘with a disability’ – any member who thinks this space is for them is more than welcome.