Schools Funding wins and losses for Victorian schools

  • By Meredith Peace
  • This article was published more than 9 months ago.
  • 20 Jul 2023

The AEU has achieved a significant win that means the Victorian government will provide an additional $130 million for school budgets over four years to resolve the school camp time in lieu ‘off duty’ dispute heard before the Fair Work Commission.

The time in lieu dispute started after the Department of Education’s school camp guidelines introduced the category of ‘off duty’. The AEU opposed this and sought to have the advice withdrawn. Grievances were then lodged by sub-branches against the use of ‘off duty’ and the AEU lodged a collective dispute with the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

While this process has taken many months, the AEU’s position has been vindicated with a consent determination handed down by the FWC on 9 June. This means that when a teacher or ES is required at a camp overnight, or to meet student supervision ratios, they cannot be deemed ‘off duty’.

This outcome highlights the importance of activism at the local level, with many sub-branches prepared to stand up and record their objection. Many also negotiated at the local level with AEU Principals to ensure their school followed the AEU’s advice, as per the Schools Agreement, rather than the department’s guidelines. The collective dispute elevated the issue and helped to bring the government and department to the table to find a resolution. A huge thank you to the seven individual members who were witnesses in the case, spending countless hours preparing statements.

This outcome acknowledges that teachers and ES are always at least ‘on call’ when attending school camps overnight and must be paid for that time. The settlement also states that when a teacher or ES is part of the student supervision ratio, they will be regarded as either ‘on call’ or ‘on duty’ for any hours outside of normal hours and for the overnight period. 

This win shows the importance of winning entitlements and campaigning to ensure they are backed by proper funding. Delivering an additional $130 million to school budgets, the settlement allows schools to plan camp programs with certainty. It also represents a cultural shift, with broader recognition that unsustainable workloads are contributing to the high levels of stress and burnout for principals, teachers and ES. 

Congratulations to all AEU members, including sub-branches who negotiated at the local level, those who lodged grievances and talked to local MPs, the FWC witnesses, and everyone who spoke out in the media. Let’s use this opportunity to show colleagues who have yet to join what unions can achieve when members work together.

AEU SET TO CAMPAIGN AS FUNDING CUT FOR SCHOOLS IN STATE BUDGET

The state budget was handed down on 23 May, with disappointing results for schools and TAFE. There was a real cut of 2.7% for schools, whilst funding for private schools increased by more than 16%. This made it especially galling to hear the non-government sector complaining bitterly about the removal of payroll tax exemption for some of the state’s wealthiest private schools. Clearly, they have become far too accustomed to the largesse from both state and federal governments over many years, creating one of the most inequitable school systems in all of the OECD countries.

The missing piece in the state budget was investment in the workforce, despite the obvious impact of staff shortages on schools across the state. This crisis means students are missing out on core programs, a constant change of teachers and school leadership filling gaps in classrooms, and heavy workloads for all existing staff. To see the Andrews government fail to invest in the workforce was a cause of great dismay and concern. 

The AEU is getting ready to launch a renewed federal funding campaign to ensure federal and state governments deliver on their election promises to fund public schools to at least 100% of the schooling resource standard. In Victoria, public schools are currently only funded to 90.4% of this standard, while all private schools are at 100% or more. 

Students in public schools have been missing out for way too long. Thank you to so many of you who have taken the time to respond to the federal government’s survey as part of their review of the national funding agreement. This is just the first step. We need AEU members joining the campaign to secure the funding our schools have been promised.

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