Teachers and the Waiting Game: Why Decentralisation is Vital for Public Schools

Jennifer Buckingham
05 February 2007 | IA80
Teachers and the Waiting Game: Why Decentralisation is Vital for Public Schools
  • On the most important aspects of education policy, state governments are in the grip of teacher unions. Public school staffing systems work for the benefit of teacher unions rather than students or even the majority of teachers.
  • With the exception of Victoria, public school principals and school communities have very little say over who is hired to teach in their school, who stays and who goes. These decisions are made by government bureaucrats and merit is typically at the bottom of the list.
  • New South Wales has one of the most rigid systems of public school teacher allocation but it is indicative of centralised systems in other states where teachers are allocated to schools using a hierarchical pecking order.
  • Centralised staffing systems are the bastion of teacher unions, which fiercely protect regulations that shelter poor teachers and privilege longevity over performance.
  • Despite recent changes to disciplinary policy it can still take up to 12 months to get rid of an incompetent teacher and principals have little authority over the final outcome. Poor teachers are more likely to be shuffled between schools than disciplined or dismissed, with serious repercussions for the teaching profession as well as students.
  • Centralised staffing delivers neither quality nor equality, and many teachers and principals are deeply dissatisfied with it. It puts the least experienced teachers in some of the most challenging schools, creating the added problem of high turnover rates. Put simply, students who most need quality teachers and consistency are least likely to get them.
  • Evidence from the largest and most credible international studies indicate that one of the hallmarks of effective schools is the ability to self-govern and to make important decisions that impact on the quality of education they can offer.
  • Schools should be given their entire personnel budget, which should be proportionate to the school’s needs, to recruit the mix of staff they require. Often it is not a matter of convincing teachers to move to a country town but rather to move out of their comfort zone.
  • Many teachers want flexibility and self-determination in their career paths and to be rewarded for hard work. Strategies to ensure an adequate supply of quality teachers for Australian schools into the future routinely fail to address this.
  • If public schools are to thrive and flourish into the future, the power nexus between teacher unions and state governments must be broken. Decentralising teacher employment allows teachers to make professional career choices. It allows schools to employ the teachers that are most suitable for their students, rewarding excellence over patience.

Jennifer Buckingham is a Research Fellow with the Social Foundations program at The Centre for Independent Studies.

Latest Publications

Eight Housing Affordability Myths
Stephen Kirchner
10 July 2014 | IA146

Australians are conflicted in their attitude to this long-run change in real house prices because they are both investors in housing as an asset class and consumers of housing services. This conflicted attitude on the part of the public is reflected in confused public policies followed by Australian governments. Unfortunately, many of the policies pursued by Australian governments in the…

Still Damaging and Disturbing: Australian Child Protection Data and the Need for National Adoption Targets
Jeremy Sammut
16 April 2014 | IA145

In December 2013, the Abbott government announced plans to make it easier for Australian parents to adopt children both locally and from overseas. Acknowledging the official ‘taboo’ on adoption in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott ordered an inter-departmental committee to recommend ways to take adoption out of the ‘too-hard’ basket. The chief barrier to raising the number of local adoptions…

Why Jaydon Can’t Read: A Forum on Fixing Literacy
Jennifer Buckingham, Justine Ferrari, Tom Alegounarias
18 February 2014 | IA144

Many thousands of Australian students have very low levels of literacy after spending four or more years at school. The Spring 2014 issue of the CIS journal Policy contained an article called ‘Why Jaydon Can’t Read: How Ideology Triumphed Over Evidence in Teaching Reading’, which concluded that students were not being provided with the most effective evidence-based reading instruction in…

Independent Charities, Independent Regulators: The Future of Not-for-Profit Regulation
Helen Andrews
06 February 2014 | IA143

The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission was established by the Gillard government in 2012 with the intended purpose of cutting the red tape faced by Australia’s charities. So far, the regulator has failed to make any significant progress on this goal or on its two other main goals: increasing public trust in charities and improving the quality of regulatory oversight…

The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse
Jeremy Sammut
30 January 2014 | IA142

Despite family breakdown exposing children to greater risk of sexual abuse, the issue receives scant attention in this country. Child sexual abuse is not fully and frankly discussed because the public discourse is self-censored by politicians, academics, social service organisations, and the media in compliance with politically correct attitudes towards ‘family diversity’—the socially ‘progressive’ and ‘non-judgmental’ fiction that says the…