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Australian Education Union, Victorian Branch

Australian Education Union, Victorian Branch

feature Ken Boston

feature Ken Boston Gonski panel member and former directorgeneral of NSW schools. “The increasing performance gap between the top and bottom 20% of students in Australia (equivalent to about five-and-a-half years of schooling by Year 9) represents an extraordinary waste of potential human capital. The consequences … are immense. The loss accruing to the individual in terms of lost opportunity and lost earnings, the loss to the community resulting from the inability to capitalise on unrealised skills, and the associated costs to society arising from the need to support a consequent socio-economic underclass, are extraordinarily high. The growth of that performance gap is not the result of serendipity, but of deliberate funding policies in the 1990s, which sharply increased the disparity between rich and poor schools. This situation can and must be reversed.” Christopher Pyne Federal Coalition education spokesman. “We remain firmly committed to the current funding arrangements so that schools can plan with certainty into the future.” Barry O’Farrell NSW Liberal Premier Gonski’s “formula benefits public education and non-government education and it’s a formula that we would dismiss at our own peril.” ➠ continued from page 19 of students and the bottom 20%. Education Minister Peter Garrett spoke to the AEU delegation at an evening forum to mark National Public Education Day. Acknowledging the union’s frustration at the Government’s inaction on Gonski, he sought their continued support in the struggle for well-resourced public schools. He desired to introduce legislation to establish a funding framework by the end of the year. Work had started on technical aspects of implementing the proposed funding formula. “It is not work that grabs the headlines, but it is being done,” he said. For example, “we don’t yet have agreed measures beyond NAPLAN to choose our reference schools and we don’t yet have a definition of disability that would enable a loading to be constructed. “The review panel gave us a range in which a low SES loading should be paid, but not the precise increments or amounts in which it should be paid, or what specific conditions should be attached to its payment.” Ken Boston, a Gonski review panel member and former director-general of NSW schools, said continuing the existing schools funding system would have terrible economic and social consequences. The existing funding model expires at the end of next year and “we need the new model in place by 2014”. “We’re all pretty anxious about that.’’ Coalition education spokesman Christopher Pyne told the AEU delegation that the Coalition remained “firmly committed to the current funding arrangements”. Unlike Mr Garrett, he did not stay for the post-forum reception. Delegations told MPs in marginal seats that state schools desperately needed extra money to help them bridge the huge gap between topperforming and bottom-performing students. State schools teach most children from lowincome families, single-parent families, rural and remote areas, those with disabilities and those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. What would state schools do with the extra money that Gonski believes they need? Their lists are long and include more support programs in literacy, numeracy, ESL and student welfare, extension programs, more professional development for teachers, new and improved equipment and resources in art, sport and music, and new buildings. Delegations revealed the disadvantages faced by many of their students (disengaged, separated, absent or drug-addicted parents, for example) and pointed to the success of National Partnerships-funded programs as evidence of the difference increased funding can make. Helen Trickey, a maths/science teacher from Gisborne Secondary College, said the message she carried from her principal to McEwen MP Rob Mitchell was the need for consistent, not piecemeal, funding. Her teaching had improved greatly with numeracy coaches paid for with National Partnerships funding, but this ends soon. Coaches helped her and others with task creation and differentiation, questioning techniques and the use of examples and analogies to explain not just how but why different maths activities were important (extrapolating from patterns has real-life applications in medical research, for example). The coaching she has received has made a “visible differenence to kids’ learning. You can physically see them ‘get it’. There’s been a lot more lightbulb moments,” she said. Ringwood Secondary College principal Michael Phillips told Mike Symons that drip-drip state and federal funding made a mockery of the autonomy that schools were supposedly being given. A Gonski funding system would “take the politics out of funding” and allow schools to plan long term and consistently deliver learning support programs, he said. ◆ 20 aeu news | june 2012

profile Rallying cry Teacher Jennifer Walsh found herself in the middle of the action when the TAFE cuts were revealed. She talks to Cynthia Karena. TAFE teacher Jennifer Walsh’s fortnight involvement in the Anna Stewart Project did not go according to plan. It started with crisis meetings over the newly announced TAFE cuts and ended with her and fellow Anna Stewart participant Maria McLaverty leading chants atop a flat-bed truck at a rally outside the Premier’s office. Jennifer, recently elected AEU sub-branch rep at Victoria University TAFE, arrived for her two weeks at the AEU on a Jennifer Walsh and Maria McLaverty fraught Monday morning after news had leaked over the weekend of the devastating TAFE cuts to be announced in the following day’s state budget. The Anna Stewart project is a development program for women who want to become more involved in their union. Its usual timetable was “thrown out the door”. Instead, Jen attended strategy meetings and discussions about the impact of the $300 million cuts. “I was excited to be involved,” she says. “But at the end of the day many of the meetings were about job losses and they were not very pleasant. “When people find out about losing their jobs (at VU) it will be draining and emotionally upsetting for me and I’ll have to guard against that.” The AEU has ramped up its TAFE4All campaign as a result of the cuts, which have ripped out about a third of the sector’s funding. The TAFE Directors’ Association and the AEU expect 2000 to 3000 redundancies. One of Jennifer’s meetings was with Federal Skills Minister Chris Evans. “It was a productive meeting but talking to the regional TAFEs was heartbreaking,” she says. “They are so integrated into their local communities. Where are regional people going to do courses? Some of them are disadvantaged. How are they going to afford to do courses now?” Jennifer finished the fortnight with the AEU’s hastily arranged rally outside Premier Baillieu’s office. With less than a week’s notice more than 1000 people attended. Does she think rallies will work this time? “They are an opportunity to express yourself in a public way. The more people that come together, the more impact the message has.” VU has set up its own group in response to the cuts, made up of teachers, students, staff and members of the public — “everyone, including future students, who may not realise how severe the impact of these cuts will be. TAFE is going under, and we want people to understand how these cuts are affecting everybody.” Jennifer, who teaches hairdressing, had already been thrown in the deep end as the new sub-branch president at VU TAFE. A first round of job losses was announced just as she was getting to know the ins and outs of the job. “I rang the union to tell them I’m a novice and I need support!” Jennifer says. “I have a lot of questions, but if I need help I can email or ring anyone at any time, and I have. The people there are so intelligent and inspiring”. Before joining TAFE in 2002, Jennifer worked with a private provider where there were large classes and no time for professional development as teachers were in class five days a week. “There is a high level of professionalism and skills in TAFE. For example, we work off-campus one day a week to do professional development or go into industry to develop our skills.” As if Jennifer’s life wasn’t busy enough, she is also doing a Masters of Education and sits on the AEU branch council. She goes to the gym to de-stress. She “really weighed up” her decision to become an AEU rep. “I’m taking on a big responsibility but I feel strongly about it. I want to be an advocate and have a voice, especially now that TAFE is being decimated. I’m here at a time in complete turmoil. I can sit here and do nothing or I can do something in a situation that is really dramatic.” ◆ show& tell The most important thing I take into class every day is … A smile. The secret to coping with staff meetings is … To listen. The best piece of advice I ever received was … Live for the moment. My advice to a beginning teacher is … Learn from everyone around you, including your students. The most important thing the AEU does for its members is … Care about the members and demonstrate compassion and action, especially now that TAFE is in crisis. The most inspirational figures in my life are … My daughters. They are a breath of fresh air. In my other life, I am … Calm. The book that changed my life was … The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, as it helped me view life through a different lens. My favourite teacher was … Judith Guantai, my hairdressing teacher at Flagstaff College (before it became VU) because she knew how to take me and others from the unconscious to the conscious in a way that was quite transformative. If I met skills minister Peter Hall, I’d tell him … You have made the biggest mistake of your life — what are your thoughts? ◆ www.aeuvic.asn.au 21

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