Schools and teachers in Western Australia (WA) face a conundrum. More than 12 000 teachers in state public schools have accrued longservice leave – which, if not taken by day one of term one in 2017, will fall away, says the Education Department.
The number of teachers with outstanding leave is so high that even if they take it this year, the running of many schools could be negatively affected. The State School Teachers Union of Western Australia (SSTUWA) has warned of a “major possible disruption”. SSTUWA’s president, Pat Byrne, says that to expect so many staff to clear their long-service leave by the end of this year was “simply not possible”.
And to start a new school year without sufficient teachers in classrooms could be catastrophic, particularly in hard-to-staff schools in remote locations.
Cliff Gillam, the WA Education Department’s workforce executive director, says the Auditor General had a solution to the problem: to reduce leave, considered by the department as a liability.
“If a principal believes one of their teachers taking leave will have an impact on their students, they can request an exemption from the two-year deadline,” Gillam says.
Principals are faced with the prospect of dealing with this thorny issue. Western Australia’s Primary Principals Association president, Stephen Breen, says that since 2013, the government has been instructing principals to “manage and minimise long-service leave”.
“This is a very complex issue, because long-service leave entitlements have been given to staff in enterprise bargaining agreements over a number of years,” says Breen.
He says that most principals are aware of how precious leave is to teachers. Yet, he says, the main issue for schools was in managing the disruptions to learning programs.
“Staff and school administration continuity is a vital factor in ensuring continuing growth of learning. It is clear that the scale of the relief needed to clear long-service leave has and will impact on student outcomes,” he says.
Category: Spring 2016