After nine long years of public education neglect, we are looking forward to a new era for our public schools.
The AEU congratulates prime minister Anthony Albanese and the new Labor government on their election win. Given Labor’s long-held commitment to public education, we have high expectations that the new government will work diligently with us to address the systemic inequality that escalated under the previous government.
In his victory speech, the prime minister shared two principles that will underwrite his government. He said no one will be left behind “because we should always look after the disadvantaged and the vulnerable”. Equally, no one “will be held back, because we should always support aspiration and opportunity”.
It is by investing in public education, that Albanese’s vision will become a reality for every child in Australia. And the Labor Party’s promise of fee-free TAFE and its Early Years strategy will revitalise the early childhood education and TAFE sectors.
THE FIRST 100 DAYS
On National Public Education Day, 26 May, the AEU held a summit to set the scene for the government’s first 100 days. For the first time in more than a decade, the prime minister of Australia acknowledged Public Education Day by providing a public statement for our summit.
This provides hope for the future, hope that we can work together to realise Labor’s election commitments and hope for comprehensive and respectful consultation on future public education policy and school funding settings.
"We support the Labor Party’s election commitment to “build a better future”. It is a future that must have a strong, fully funded public education system at its heart."
But hope is not enough: we need action now. We expect the new government to engage with the AEU to set out the timetable for achieving a minimum of 100 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) within the next round of bilateral agreements with states and territories.
We expect to resolve a range of professional issues that must be addressed: planning for the workforce needs of the future, addressing current workforce shortages, secure work, professional autonomy and attraction and retention.
All of these things, and more, must be on the agenda. The new Labor government has a real opportunity to change the way that education policy is developed and implemented by ensuring it does so in partnership with teachers and other educators.
A key priority for the AEU will be the next National School Reform Agreement (NSRA), due to be renewed at the end of 2023. The agreement, a joint deal between the federal government and all states and territories, delivers needs-based funding in return for certain reforms.
The funding is calculated using the Schooling Resource Standard, which includes a base level of funding plus loadings for students with higher needs.
But only one per cent of public schools receive 100 per cent of their SRS calculation, while all private schools receive the full amount and, in some cases, more.
It is critical that teachers are genuinely consulted about the agreement because it includes reforms that can escalate workloads. Teachers’ knowledge and experience of what really counts is vital.
NO TURNING BACK
The past few years have been extremely tough for members who’ve worked hard during very difficult times.
Many are exhausted from the often combined effects of COVID-19, staff shortages, class and school closures, and spending time in recuperation and isolation, or caring for families and friends.
But the election has brought a renewed sense of optimism, with the Australian people delivering a vote of confidence in preschools, public schools and TAFE, and the fundamental principle of equity in education.
The AEU looks forward to working with the Albanese government to help set the agenda for a positive, inclusive education policy to help right the wrongs resulting from the Coalition government’s decade of neglect.
And as a union, we will fight for the resources and policy settings to ensure that a high-quality education is delivered for all, regardless of their background or circumstances.
We support the Labor Party’s election commitment to “build a better future”. It is a future that must have a strong, fully funded public education system at its heart.
Correna Haythorpe AEU Federal President