FORCING more than 2500 public school teachers a year to attend performance improvement programs would ”result in better teachers”, a state government review says.
The NSW Commission of Audit final report recommends the education department improve its management of poor performing teachers and specifically endorses reviewing the performance of ”something closer to 5 per cent”, a huge increase on the current level.
Currently, 100 teachers a year are directed into 10-week Teacher Improvement Programs each year. Half of them return to work and half leave their jobs.
The proposal was rejected by the NSW Teachers Federation president, Maurie Mulheron, as part of ”the great distraction of teacher bashing”. He said a quota made no sense.
”If there is a teacher who is under-performing there should be a fair and rigorous process to support them and if they don’t meet the standards they shouldn’t remain in teaching,” Mr Mulheron said.
Lila Mularczyk, the president of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, said principals were also opposed to something that sounded like a quota for low-performing teachers.
”I can’t imagine that would have a positive outcome for anyone in the education system, or for the system itself,” she said.
But the Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, who released a discussion paper last week designed to lift the quality of teaching, said that ”nothing is off the table” and the report should be considered.
The audit report also offers strong endorsement of the school autonomy reforms initiated by Mr Piccoli and advocates placing even more responsibility on principals to achieve the government’s goals.
For instance, it says sick pay has been ”poorly managed” and says the system is being abused, with costs increasing because principals are not replacing sick teachers with other teachers or deputy principals, as they are entitled to do under industrial agreements. Principals should be given responsibility to manage the problem – backed by the incentive of being able to keep ”at least some of the savings”.
The report recommends principals be alerted to staff with ”atypical” sick-leave patterns. ”Principals should then undertake an investigation of sick leave in their school, to determine whether some individuals may be abusing their entitlement,” the report states.
They should then force their own staff to cover ”short term absences”.
But Ms Mularczyk rejected the proposal. ”We don’t believe it is the principal’s job to be managing salaries or leave conditions,” she said.
”It has always been a priority for us to make sure there is a quality teacher in front of every class every day. But that does not mean increasing the workload of someone who already has a role in the school.”
The NSW opposition education spokeswoman, Carmel Tebbutt, said students would suffer.
”We don’t want to go back to the day where classes are combined because schools can’t afford to employ casual staff to cover for sick teachers,” she said.
Mr Mulheron said principals would be forced to pick up the work that had been done by public servants. ”This report confirms our worst fears, that education policy in NSW is being driven by Treasury,” he said.
The report also recommends the government consider buying out the long service leave entitlements of teachers.
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