Showing posts with label teachers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teachers. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Interesting facts about Perth Teachers

WACOT released the following figures about Perth teachers in their latest publication InClass, found here.

38,125 Registered Teachers
• 7,749 Provisionally Registered Teachers
• 363 Limited Authority to Teach
• 26 Associate Members

34,256 female teachers
12,007 male teachers.

The imbalance between female and male teachers is astonishing. Of the 46,263 teachers of varying registrations, only 26% are male. That's a real lack of male role models in our workforce. I wonder if it was the reverse (eg. more males than females) if we would be having a recruiting drive and financial incentives for females to enter the industry?

At our school, I would hazard that the male percentage is much higher than that. In low socio-economic schools, where single parent percentages are normally higher, I would also suggest that this is a good thing.

Another interesting statistic is that 17% of the workforce is in training/probation/being actively mentored (on provisional registration). Last year only 2.5% moved from provisional registration to full registration (another 2.5% re-registered as provisional registration not meeting the criteria for full registration).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Management of teachers

Inspiration is a key element of teaching. Inspiration is contagious and desirable in schools. Maintaining high levels of inspiration is a task that requires knowledge of the teacher, their current capability and their motivation. If the balance is not present the inspiring character burns out, leaves and/or the light goes out.

There are always external factors that contribute to performance requiring emotional support. Ill grandparents, pregnant wives, family members need time and rightly come higher up the priority chain than school needs. As teachers, we must give these things in our spare time, there are no weeks of holidays available to call on in times of need - things just pile up to the next school holidays. I feel for those without partners as they are the primary source of emotional support in most cases.

The ups and downs of professional and academic careers correlate directly to the amount of support available at any point. In teaching, the majority of academic support comes from fellow teachers. If you look carefully at any team you can see those being supported and those supporting. This is a fragile structure, as each teacher needs to be a beacon of light and there is a dwindling supply of these stalwart teachers selflessly providing experience when needed.

We need to understand and monitor the 'expected vs actual' career progression of staff to assist in the creation of a supporting cast of experienced teachers and make the bright lights of our profession brighter and glow for longer. We so often focus on student outcomes but forget to examine why something works and the minor elements that have contributed to their success or failure. When we clearly identify a positive outcome, identify issues and reward contribution, you have an example of leadership at its foremost.

What I find interesting is the poor use of performance management tools in teaching. If I asked senior management of five different schools, 'What inspires (insert name here) on their staff?' I would be surprised to hear answers that related directly to the staff member. I would be even more surprised if they knew that staff member's technical background or desired career path. On the other hand, the top 3 students in year twelve and the professions of last years top five may be more readily recitable. This outlines a key problem in schools today created through central staffing. The lack of coal face staff management and limited experience 'out of school' in true management positions is a key element in the morale issue within our schools. If management does not feel the requirement to understand the needs and wants of staff, providing optimum educational opportunities through inspired leaders for our students will always be a haphazard affair.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Students badmouthing teachers

When you have a great rapport with students they reach a stage where they wish to talk about other teachers. Your response can do a lot to enhance or damage the atmosphere in the school.

Whatever you do, whatever you think, support your fellow teachers. Resist reasoning or justifying your/their position as the student has probably thought about it more than you and could leave believing that they were right and now you agree with them too.

Stopping this sort of conversation dead is usually quite easy. Take the moral high ground. One way is to say, if they didn't care they wouldn't be doing (insert supposed misdemeanor here) they would just let you fail. I usually have a talk about diversity and how students react differently to some teachers than others. Another good strategy is to talk about how in the workforce you rarely get to work with people that you like and have to develop coping strategies. Another is to stick your hands over your ears and say loudly "La La La" until they stop.

A celebration of diversity in teaching staff is important. Having the happy go luck teachers - with a laissez faire mentality, the disciplinarians, the collaborators, the facilitators, the technically focussed, the passionate, the administrator are all important to maintaining a rich and diverse culture within a school. There is always a teacher that students don't like, protecting that staff member can also be a self preservation measure, it just might be you the students target next!

The worst scenario possible usually happens when popular students are underperforming and are being encouraged by caring teachers to raise their standards. The mob that can occur needs to be diffused, detected in early stages and squashed by team leaders. Teachers and more often parents indirectly cause and encourage these issues as typically we judge and discuss actions based on reports by students and when we have only a limited view of the whole picture.

Raising resilience of students such that they can work with a range of people, especially ones they don't like or relate to, is an important skill developed in school. Only by supporting all of our teachers 'publically' and working on issues with team-leaders, peers and managers 'privately', can we adequately support teachers with perceived image issues.

So get to it!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Impact on WA of election result

This was the election where no-one wanted to vote for anyone. The major political parties were for the most part an insipid bunch. Now that the voting is over and they are being counted here's how I see the outcome.

In a perfect world (with lots of wishful thinking):
A) The National party has the balance of power, education in rural areas will gain increased support - more incentive to take rural posts, improved housing conditions, higher wages and community encouragement to stay.
B) Political parties will no longer dismiss the impact of educational lobby groups in marginal seats
C) The teacher pay dispute will be resolved quickly as the first item of the new government.
D) Teachers will resume community building roles and prevent disconnect with youth and community that is currently forming within low ability/low socioeconomic students sector.
E) The role of permanency, selection, relief teachers, class sizes and teaching administration will be investigated and resolved.
F) League tables will disappear as they are proved to have provided incomplete and misleading data to parents.
G) Performance based pay scales will be thoroughly investigated and found impractical to implement.

It is clear from this election that both political parties cannot rely on party loyalties of voters - strong leadership is required at all times to maintain government. If a leader is stale, arrogant or belittling to the electorate - move them along, no matter what their perceived importance to policy. It is time politicians looked to running the state rather than their careers first.

I believe that politicians should stay with big picture issues and not turn up 5 minutes before an election and talk about local problems. Either be in touch with your electorate throughout the whole tenure or risk exit stage left. Parachuting politicians into safe seats is also a recipe for disaster.

We need strong experienced leaders. Not young up and comers - unless they are brilliant beyond their age. One only had to look at the faces of politicians last night to see that in "good times" conservative faces is what the electorate demands. Political parties take note! (How Albert Jacob managed to get elected I can't understand - let's hope he is more capable than he looks.)

Well done to the 3 independents and the National party for standing in seats and on issues that matter to their electorates. It shows that our political system is not yet as dead and showy/frightening as the American system or boring as the English. And for a small nation like ours we should be - vibrant, able to take action and go forward in leaps, stumbles and bounds.

I don't mind who is in government as long as progress is made. For now though... no more naive politics from me (at least for a while!).

Here is a link to education policy statements of all parties.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Politics and education

Well, today the next round of would be state politicians destroyed a few more trees and wanted to make sure that I would vote for them at the next election by filing my mail box with pamphlets and questionaires. On one side we have the local Liberal candidate who does not know the current education policy of his party (because I dare say they don't have a leader or a policy) and on the other side our Labor candidate(..yes the spelling is correct for those reading from overseas) thinks that the most important local issue I need to consider is whether we need a skate park to alleviate local misdemeaners by our youth.

I wish the pair of them would take a wider viewpoint than this and discuss policy - particularly education policy. At least this election they seem not to be spending the whole time attacking the personality of the other.

My favourite nonsense was the bit at the end of the Labor pamphlet where the Labor party announces they are building WA. Selling WA and privatising it may be more accurate. A key component of building WA is our youth and both parties need to consider the state's role in education and the inequity growing between state and private schools. It would be great to see either party commit to rebuilding public faith and support in the teaching sector by addressing key issues raised by teachers. That would be building WA more than any stadium.

.. and I'd rather they stopped filling my mailbox with garbage and nonsense.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

EBA3, heroes and the teacher wage claim

I was wrong. I admit it. I underestimated the resolve of key elements pushing for a significant wage increase and the ability of the union president to annoy her members. The wage claim is not dead and the latest EBA is likely to fail, so says the West Australian. It sounds like arbitration here we come.

If not for Anne Gisbourne (SSTUWA president), I would have thought that the wage claim would have been accepted and we would have had our conditions reduced for minimal additional remuneration. She, through her support for an ill defined pay increase, polarised teachers against the deal and has taken the focus away from Professor Twomey's support of the proposed pay rise. I would suggest her internet monologues selling the agreement have not helped matters - better silent than inflamatory.

A second smaller group of people(7) in the union executive has now split from Anne and openly condemned the new agreement. These people have been labelled heroes as they are standing against their employer and against the union president, will be marked as activists and may have their opportunity for advancement in DET and the union limited. Marko Vojkovic (quoted in previous blogs) stands with these heroes as the one with most to lose. Employed in a DET school he openly is criticising his employer and the union executive. He is standing for a principle. If the current agreement was accepted he (I imagine) knows that the morale and conditions of DET schools will continue to decrease and quality of education continue to erode. He has made a rare stand and is to be applauded.

We now stand at a cross road. Can the government back down from its current position and make a statement that it supports state school education? Can teachers get the message across that teaching in WA is in crisis and that the pay claim is not an inflationary increase but a redress of the inequity in teacher wages to other equivalently trained occupations? Can other unions be convinced that teachers are a special case (police, nurses, public servants, building industry) and not press for similar claims at this time?

How can this wage deal be done, have a public supportive of the agreement and not trigger inflationary pressure?

Watch this space.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

EBA3, WA teachers' pay claim and DET

Trolling through the blog log I've noticed lots of searching for details on the new EBA. I'm not an expert but the best explanation that I've found (as we are still waiting on the union and DET detailed explanations) can be found here (again by Marko Vojkovic): - sadly this forum is now closed (updated 1/8/2009)

The new proposal doesn't seem to live up to the hype in the newspapers or the video release by the union (about half way down the following hyperlink.. click on the unflattering picture of Anne Gisborne for nine minutes of monotone summary):

The net result seems to be at best a 1% increase and at worst a 2% decrease after inflation is applied with significant loss in conditions. It does not seem to be inline with Twomey recommendations. We shall await more detail.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Teaching salary and pay claim

The pay claim in WA is not about annual percentage increase. It's about about redressing the lack of increases over a long period of time. The reasons for teachers falling behind other professions by at least $20,000 are many and varied but the ramifications have been widespread.
  1. Students no longer see teaching as a desirable profession - TEE scores are low
  2. Teacher morale is low
  3. The perception of teachers in the community is low - we are seen as those that couldn't find real work (who else would spend 4 years getting a degree (that a budgie could get entrance to and pass) - then to accept wages lower than manual labour)
  4. Student performance in schools is lower than expected (although many point the finger here at OBE) - as evidenced by state school TEE performances
  5. Extra curricular work has become the norm and expected rather than a point of difference between teachers
  6. Union has weak support and leadership
  7. DET has a teacher shortage in critical areas of schools
  8. Business has become critical of quality of student output from school and has publically supported the need for teacher pay reform
  9. Students are leaving the state school system for private school education despite having access in many cases to smaller class sizes and access to long term experienced teachers bound in place by 'tenure' type agreements

Unfortunately the community does not equate professional status with social justice or good education. Professions in WA are not valued by the community by the work that they do (and the promotion of social equity) but by the money that they earn.

If we are to change the mindset of the public, raise expectations, raise morale of teachers in the profession and improve the calibre of those entering the profession, a fixed rate increase is required (such has been done in other countries) with a publicity campaign explaining why the teacher rise is different to other rises (such as public service rises) and a good idea before inflationary increases are addressed.

When the mean salary of a teacher approaches at least the average WA salary, then we have a starting point for an improvement in the ongoing education saga.

Monday, July 21, 2008

DET Pay rise and the fine print

It seems the new pay rise has been delivered and interesting stuff is beginning to hit the fan. My criticism and scepticism of the union (and reason for not joining until now) seems to be valid.

The pay rise offered (in the scant terms described and according to heresay) is below inflation, is over three to four years, has reduced conditions and has the approval of the union. DET looks to be negotiating hard and trying to get this resolved quickly before the imminent state election.

Union information is posted here:

but here is the counter argument to union information posted by Marko Vojkovic at :

"The official base rate increases are:4.5%, 4.5%, 4% and a floating 2% at the end of the agreement. That equates to 15% over 3+ years. If you take into account it is only backdated to this pay period, it is almost over 4 years.

It is a 1.5%-2% increase on EBA 2 with extra trade offs. The 15 hours PD in your own time is there as is the flexible working hours (which strangely do not appear in the summary) These are from 8am to 6pm.

There are increases for ST2 in terms of a new level, but these must be applied for and involve extra duties so it is unfair to include them in any pay rise. It is a complete sell out. The Minister required Executive to endorse the package before showing it to members.

There was a deadline for the Executive to accept it without actually seeing the full package. Ross Greenwood, the financial analyst on the Today Show on Channel 9 stated that the cost of living has increased by 4.8% and if your wages do not increase by that amount, you are taking a pay cut. This offer asks teachers to take a significant pay cut over 4 years.

This is the complete opposite of the Twomey Report recommendations.Once again, we have been let down by our 'experienced' Senior Officers.When was this offer negotiated and by whom?

If arbitration is suspended, then we are back in negotiations. Either our Senior Officers have been negotiating in secret or they have accepted DET's first offer without presenting a counter offer.

Either way, I feel incredibly let down. Even the way it has been presented to members reminds me of those misleading government ads.

We will now see a huge VOTE YES campaign waged by our Union Senior Officers and their group of sycophantic supporters who believe that what is good for the Labor Party is good for teachers. This can not be allowed to happen yet again."

As always the devil is in the details and the fine print.

Updated here (6 October 2008).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The blame game - why do our students lack numeracy

Of great concern is the lack of basic knowledge of students entering year 11 & 12. It can be said that with the advent of calculators that the need for basic skills has diminished - and this is probably true in courses like yr 12 Discrete mathematics where students can pass (and even do quite well) without sound algebra skills, similarly in yr 12 Modelling. Now that these courses are gone I question whether this will be possible going forward.

Yet the issue starts well before year 10. Kids without sound tables and operation skills find fractions difficult. Students without fractions skills find algebra difficult. Students without basic skills in algebra find yr10-12 a constant struggle.

Although teachers can teach the content, there is now too much content in the curriculum to purely rely on the 40-50mins four times a week - the need for parents to go over the content especially in early years cannot be understated. The thought that kids go to school to learn and when at home have interaction with TV and Playstation is fraught with danger - danger that often isn't realised until yr 10.

I would also hesitate to say that the lack of well trained numeracy experts in the primary field is an issue. This may be a holdover from the lack of male teachers in primary (and we are now in the gap before mathematics confident female teachers enter the primary sector). This transition where the majority of female primary teachers are confident in teaching mathematics and pressing students beyond level 3 mathematics in year seven should (I would hope) occur in the next five years.

If parents put in the basics to allow students to fall into reasonable learning curves in school, students are leagues ahead - as with literacy and students that have reading modelled to them at an early age.

The naked truth

It's a sad day when teachers are seen as a commodity rather than as people. I'm interested in what the community thinks the $50,000 pa or thereabouts commits teachers to. The interesting case of the teacher that posed nude comes to mind. This person faced condemnation from the media and much of the general public.

Another one that springs to mind is that couples are not allowed to live together out of wedlock in catholic schools in Perth. Teachers discovered in this position are encouraged to either get married or find alternative employment. Is this fair?

Another is the fact that teachers are told where they can work, when they can resign and what jobs they can apply for within the department. As teachers they are told they have responsibilities to help out during the teacher crisis but no responsibility is felt for the teachers in duress that need a break from the classroom or for those that are looking for career progression. I even heard thirdhand that some staff were being refused taking their long service leave. Is this fair?

It seems the community wishes teachers to be pillars of the community (and for the most part they are). Is this high moral fibre a part of the job description? If so, what are these standards that are imposed upon teachers outside their immediate teaching performance, is it fair and are they being compensated adequately for the imposition?

Teachers are people too with their own needs and it seems that this needs to be considered a little bit more by those in the know.

Students entering Teaching as a Vocation


What do you say to a student that has always wanted to be a teacher? Today many teachers say don't do it. I must admit I always say go for it. It has its ups and downs, but on the whole that "lights go on" moment each class makes it all worthwhile. In every class there is a student that is a bit of a laugh, another that is going astray, another that needs that bit of help. There is no humdrum, there is constant challenge and a sense of putting something into the community.

The only doubt in my mind is how will these kids I encourage be able to afford houses, cars and the creature comforts that makes teaching bearable in the hard times - especially in the early years where the learning curve is vertical.

You won't get rich from it, so if money is a prime motivator perhaps do what I did and make it a second profession. It took close to ten years to set it up such that teaching didn't destroy my finances and allowed me to be in a position to walk away if I hated it or found that I was just useless at it.

I've often said that teaching is a vocation as well as a profession. It would be great to see the community again see it this way. I think sometimes the public sees us as a pack of whinging bludgers with massive amounts of holidays. To this I say imagine sitting in front of an apathetic crowd of thirty people at 45 minute intervals for ten straight weeks. If you don't get your message across these people will feel the consequences for the rest of their lives. They can be hostile at times and actively seek to disrupt you at every opportunity. For the joy of this you have to go to university for four years and then be criticised by the community for any issue that arises. Make a mistake and risk court action.

In management I worked to a ratio of one manager to seven adult staff. We ask teachers to manage different blocks of 30-35 students six hours a day. Teachers use a vast array of management techniques daily and without thinking. You couldn't react fast enough any other way.

I don't know about you but I would suggest the holidays nor the pay is enough. Nor could it ever be enough. I would much rather think that teachers teach because they care for each student and the change that they can make in their lives. I would hope that the community values this and ensures a steady stream of vocationally motivated teachers enter the system.

Streaming within schools

Streaming is one of the most controvertial topics in teaching. I have heard the refrain, 'research does not support streaming' on many occassions only then to hear the benefits of ability grouping.

The social justice issue has clouded the merits of streaming for some time. Is it fair to group lower ability students and create unmanagable classrooms? I would suggest that the obvious counter to this question is that it is unfair to put students together where they can never feel true success. It is true that lower ability grouping require smaller class sizes and/or higher teacher student ratios, but these staffing requirements can be offset with larger academic class sizes without behaviour issues.

My opinion is that for too long we have overstated the social justice issue and forgotten that high performing students require the teaching time lost to managing poor behaviour of lower performing students.

Lower performing students need a different programme catering to their needs and in an environment that they can get attention not through disturbance but through academic success.

The problem with not streaming is that the main output of schools is streamed students - some streamed for university, others for TAFE and some for the workforce. The hard reality hits in year 11 where hiding in a classroom and performing at minimal levels becomes impossible and real grading occurs.

Maybe that's the topic of another blog.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The offer that promotes strike action.

Education in Western Australia is currently passing through a time of turmoil with an industrial dispute between the State government (department of education and training ("DET") and the local State school teachers union ("SSTUWA"). Currently the dispute is in arbitration. DET has put forward its statement of claims:

1. 15 hours of PD per year in your own time;
2. One, one hour staff meeting per week;
3. a requirement to be at school 15 minutes before school and 15 minutes after school;
4. Duties of a teacher have been expanded to include planning and preparation of courses of study activities undertaken to enrich the educational experiences of students including camps, music and drama festivals and performances;
5. A clause that says that a teacher can agree to teach hours that exceed the weekly maximum with of course an equivalent reduction in their DOTT time;
6. The vast majority of teachers will receive salary increases of 8.2% by February 2010 compared with their present salary level. Administrators will get 9.8%;
7. Those over 45 with two or more years continuous good service will be required to give five weeks notice instead of the present four to terminate their contract;
(taken from a post on - a local pro-teacher lobby group)

Considering that the above is a change in conditions for a less than CPI increase, teachers are generally unhappy with the proposed changes.

At first glance the offer made to teachers was inflammatory but is underpinned by DET that is in a precarious position. Currently there are not enough teachers to staff hard to teach locations (with many non specialists teaching specialist subjects) and the employment market is buoyant enough for teachers to decline hard to staff locations. It is questionable that any amount of money would staff these locations given housing, behavioural issues and remoteness of some of these locations. Morale in DET schools is fragile with many teachers at the point of breakdown and many contemplating leaving for other employment sectors.

There is a perception that the government does not wish to be a part of the public education sector other than as a safety net provider. University entrance subject provision (commonly known as TEE subjects) in many DET schools is becoming limited with many not providing one or more of English Literature, Geography, Specialist Maths (such as calculus), Physics, Chemistry or Economics - subjects typically available as a baseline. This has been compounded this year with a directive from DET to not offer courses in schools with less than 14 students enrolled in the course. Many courses in year 11 & 12 have needed class sizes smaller than 14 to run (successfully) - typically the more demanding courses.

The current DET behaviour management programme has become teacher oriented with the onus to resolve behavioural issues within the classroom. As academic students leave the public system for private schools and students are forced to exit private schools for behavioural reasons, behaviour in public schools has become an ongoing issue between staff, students and administration.

At least 1000 teachers this year left the sector and did not renew their teacher registration. Many of these were relief teachers that at first investigation experience difficulty in being assigned work and then are faced with the typical difficulties experienced by relief teachers.

New courses were introduced this year with no capability to delay if teachers are unable to prepare adequately for 2009. SSTUWA has banned preparation of the new courses for 2009. This was recently overturned by the state arbiter. The horse though has bolted. With the teacher shortage, low morale, behavioural issues and limited ability to find relief staff for planning it is difficult to see how many schools will adequately provide these new courses for 2009 with significant goodwill from teachers that at present does not exist.

Despite these concerns the state government made no allowance for substantial teacher pay rises in the recent 2008 budget nor seemingly wishes to bridge this gap in goodwill between teachers and their employer.