by Cheryl Lacey, ©2021  

(Jun. 22, 2021) — VICTORIAN parents have the power to take control of poorly performing Victorian government schools.

For decades, parents have been held to ransom by selfish and incompetent government ministers and by teacher-friendly unions.

“Teachers work an average of 15 hours unpaid overtime every week”, says the Australian Education Union Victorian Branch President, Meredith Peace. “It leads to undue stress and a poor work-life balance”, she adds.

This is absolute rubbish. There is no measurable evidence for any such claim. It is a colourful lie that hides behind self-serving survey results conducted by the unions themselves.

Enterprise agreements make clear that teachers cannot be required to undertake duties in excess of 38 hours per week. Neither can they teach any more than 4.5 hours per day. So why such deceit? It gives unions and government power over the family unit, and more bargaining power to allow a greater flow of wasteful spending in schools.

Like every other industry, the teaching service has its share of dedicated professionals, poor performers, and incompetent employees. Regardless of this, teachers and principals go along with the narratives about stress and overtime. To object would mean the end of the additional 8 weeks of leave, taken when students are on term break, the 18 days of paid personal leave, the 7 years of parental leave, and all the other perks that come with the job. Many are bonuses that suit a predominantly female workplace – especially mothers who teach.

Essentially, this focus on teacher workload and other distractions, such as mandating the Responsible Relationships program, keep parents away from their rightful involvement and participation in school education.

The genuine purpose of school education is to have teachers teach a standard curriculum – including English and Mathematics – and to have students learn. Its intention is to ensure learners contribute responsibly to work and life, and are equipped to pursue areas of interest for personal fulfilment.

The school council of every Victorian school must include parent representatives, who are elected by the parent body. Together with elected teachers and community representatives, these parents are responsible for developing a broad vision for the school, including the curriculum. Schools must consider any views parents might put forward.

Unless these elected parents undertake training to become fully conversant with their roles and responsibilities as members of the school council, they cannot represent other parents or their children effectively.

When parents aren’t trained and don’t take their elected role seriously, genuine representation can’t happen. In this case, most decisions conveniently fall into the ‘operational’ area, handing principals all the power.

In effect, inactive parents also contribute to poor performance in schools, and to a continuation of the ‘spoils’ that unions and governments provide in the name of ‘overtime’.

And let’s not forget, principals and teachers are represented by unions and the employee – the government. There is no equivalent representation for students or parents. Like it or not, if unions and government haven’t advocated for equal rights for parents so far, they are unlikely to begin now.

Victorian parents who have children in Victorian government schools must speak up, ask questions, and demand an agreed standard of education. If that seems a little harsh, consider this. Children’s lives and livelihoods depend on it. Parents only get one shot at raising children and children only get one shot at school. Teachers and principals are secure, regardless of the outcomes. Public servants must be held to account. They are employed to serve.

Victorian parents must begin a movement for change, beginning with parent representatives on school council arranging a forum to determine what must be taught for 4.5 hours per day.

Parents raise children. Public servants do not. Don’t ever let anyone suggest otherwise.

Cheryl Lacey DSJ
Suite 252/189 Queen St
Melbourne Australia
t| +61 419 518 811

New Publication
Marching Schools Forward: Discussions on the Direction of Australian Education 
(now available at Connor Court Publishing)

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