Workload and loss of autonomy continue to be the issues that most distress our members. All schools are a different type and size and located in different demographic areas, and with staff with varying skills and talents, yet we still largely have a one size fits all approach, which is problematic. While the DET has worked hard to reduce the work burden of the Principal Class, for each improvement there are even more initiatives, projects or policies that requires more person hours to implement and deliver. So the net change is going in the wrong direction for all the good intentions.
The DET listened when we said you are asking too much of the Principal Class. They implemented the Policy Portal, where there are templates that reduce your need to start from scratch on policies as we have all done forever; the new Policy Advice Library, the one source of knowledge in DET is to be released in the next few weeks, which will save hours of hunting down important information. The work with OHS has also lifted a burden. However, at the same time we have introduced the Graduate Mentor Scheme, The Rural Financial Incentive Scheme, School Council Evaluation, MYLNS, DSSI, Education plans, The Early Years Learning Development Framework Evaluation, Accelerated Improvement Program, the mobile phone ban, the sanitary dispenser units in schools: The list goes on and on. Most of these incentives are worthy and maybe even important, however each comes with an untold administrative and management load and with significantly increased animosity from staff in some schools.
I refer everyone to the 2017 VGSA, Section 12, School Based Consultation, clause (16) Principal Consultation. “Consistent with clause 12(3) where the Employer proposes to introduce a significant change in the work required of principals the Employer will provide an opportunity for principals and their union(s) to be consulted about that change and give consideration to matters raised by principals prior to the decision to implement any significant change.” This has not happened. Being briefed is not consultation: The Workload has increased exponentially and yet at the next round of enterprise bargaining the Government will be seeking productivity improvements. Really? There are complaints about Coles, Woolworths and the restaurant industry not doing the right thing by staff. The Principal Class in Victoria are under an enormous overload. They are operating in a system that exploits their goodwill with the expectation they will contribute invisible labour to achieve the goals of the Government. The mean hours of a Principal Class Officer in Victoria was 60 in 2018. I hate to think what it will be now.
Let’s look at some examples. The Accelerated Improvement Strategy is laudable in it’s intent. 129 schools were nominated to get a lift in the year 3 & 5 top two bands and the Year 9 mean for T4 2019 and T1 2020. Just a few weeks ago the schools were informed of the fact that this incentive is now being extended to the end of 2020. DET entered a new KIS to each of the schools AIP’s in respect to this initiative (Autonomy?). Schools are required to enter an evaluation of their progress every 5 weeks. This scheme appears to rely on resources of the SEIL and EILs, but the untold pressure on Principals, and the damage to relationships is now starting to emerge in some schools according to reports I have received.
The sanitary dispenser scheme has had issues reported to me with kids emptying units into toilet bowls or using the contents to decorate bathrooms. Some have declared the units will remain empty from now on. Time and money wasted. I hope there are some good news stories about this one.