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Issue #1617      November 6, 2013

Disadvantage and inequity in our schools – AEU

The Australian Education Union (AEU) says the release of the Council of Australian Governments Reform Council’s Education in Australia 2012 shows urgent action is required from federal, state and territory governments to lift student performance overall, and to tackle educational disadvantage.

“It comes as no surprise that this report confirms the impact of disadvantage on student achievement,” AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said.

“Education Minister Christopher Pyne must take note of this report and commit to urgent action. A critical first step is for the Commonwealth government to honour the six years of Gonski funding agreements, and return to the negotiating table with the three remaining jurisdictions to finalise comparable six-year funding agreements there,” Mr Gavrielatos continued.

“Like the Gonski Report before it, this report confirms an unacceptable link between poor student performance and disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We defy Minister Pyne to read this report and conclude that educational disadvantage isn’t a definitive factor in student performance in Australia today.

“If we want every child to access the opportunities of a great education, we need to ensure that resources for schools go where they are needed,” Mr Gavrielatos continued.

“We are seeing some gains in educational achievement, for example pre-school enrolment, early years literacy and numeracy, and Year 12 completion rates. But as this report recommends, we need to be making faster progress.”

He said that one of the particularly worrying results is that amongst Indigenous students, no improvements in attendance, and few in student performance were reported over the past five years. Gonski would provide six years of funding certainty for schools to deliver consistent support to Indigenous students to help turn these results around.

“We don’t want another five years to go by with governments entrenching disadvantage and inequity in education in this country by inaction and false debates,” said Mr Gavrielatos.

In Victoria, the Victorian branch of the AEU has an application in the Federal Court, alleging breaches of the Fair Work Act by the Napthine State government.

This follows the government’s decision to unilaterally change the current performance and development process and impose arbitrary targets that would see up to 40 percent of school staff not meet the required standards.

AEU Victorian branch president Meredith Peace says that the Napthine government is undermining the teaching profession by rushing through changes without consulting the profession.

“Once again, we have a Premier who would rather undermine Victoria’s teaching profession than support the important work that they do with students in our public schools.

“The AEU does not accept that up to 40 percent of school staff are not meeting the standards. Our public schools are delivering high-quality education to students, shown by our strong national and international standing.”

The union said that the decision of the state government to proceed with changing the current performance and development review process half way through the cycle shows they are not prepared to accept the professional judgements of principals or respect the work of Victoria’s school staff.

Peace said that forcing school principals to fail their teachers and support staff is not the way to achieve the best results for students, but is a distraction from the funding and support that schools desperately need.

“Teachers and principals in this state play an important role in developing the minds and futures of our children. This government should recognise the quality, dedication, aptitude and thoughtfulness that our profession brings to the workplace everyday.

“If the state government is committed to providing Victorian children with the best learning outcomes, the Premier must commit to a well-resourced and high-quality education sector,” Peace said.

Next article – PM’s cuts will hurt services and jobs

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