Monday, April 12, 2010

Aussie Teachers Union to Boycott Tests

Crunch time for teachers' test ban

THE Australian Education Union is today expected to formally ban teachers from conducting tests that will be used for the My School website, buoyed by an opinion poll showing a small majority of parents believe the action would be justified.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, claiming the support of "mums and dads" for the tests, called on the union to drop its plans and reiterated her threat to use parents to usurp the ban and act as supervisors for next month's National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy tests.

"Banning the tests would be bad for students, bad for the kids, bad for parents and bad for transparency," Ms Gillard said.

"The nation should know what is happening in our schools."

Tony Abbott seized on the deepening dispute, saying the Education Minister had "completely lost control of her portfolio if she's talking about tests not be administered by professional people".

The AEU yesterday released the results of a national poll that found 54 per cent of public school parents believed the ban would be justified, with 46 per cent opposed.

But the general public was evenly split.

The online poll of 1000 people nationwide, by research company Interconsult, found 51 per cent of all people believed the ban would be justified, compared with 49 per cent against.

The AEU's federal executive will today vote on whether to implement a professional ban on the national NAPLAN tests, which provide crucial data for the My School website.

AEU president Angelo Gavrielatos attacked Ms Gillard for failing to meet the union on the issue, saying the poll found 85 per cent of people believed she should meet the union.

The union has demanded changes to the website, arguing it allows the compilation of league tables ranking schools.

But Ms Gillard told the ABC's Insiders program the union was asking her to "gut My School and I just won't do it".

"My School is all about putting more power into the hands of parents than they've ever had before by giving them more information about their child's school than they ever had before," she said.

Ms Gillard said the option of asking parents to assist with supervising the tests, under instruction from qualified supervisors, remained on the table. She said she knew parents wanted the My School site, which had received about 2.7 million visits.

"Parents have literally voted with their fingertips in extraordinary numbers because they want this information," she said.

Mr Gavrielatos described Ms Gillard's threat to use parents as test supervisors as "regrettable".

He said Ms Gillard had refused to meet the union to discuss its proposal to "improve" the My School website and "protect students and schools from the damage of league tables and improper ranking of schools".

The Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations of NSW yesterday expressed outrage at Ms Gillard's suggestion to use parents as supervisors in the tests scheduled from May 11-13 and called on her to meet the union.

You mean it is possible to have a union that is willing to fight against the misuse of student data.....

Parents outraged by strike-breaker plan
April 12, 2010
THE NSW Parents and Citizens Association has expressed outrage at a plan by the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to recruit parents as ''strike-breakers' ' to supervise this year's national numeracy and literacy tests if the Australian Education Union votes today to boycott the tests.
However, the state Labor government has backed the plan and threatened to take the union to the Industrial Relations Commission should a strike go ahead.
''NSW would support any action taken by the federal government to ensure that the tests go ahead,'' said Samantha Wills, a spokeswoman for the Education Minister, Verity Firth. ''But we would hope that teachers would do the right thing so we don't have to bring in outside supervisors.
''Most teachers don't support the ban and we would strongly encourage them not to take part.''
But lawyers warned that parents used as strike-breakers and asked to supervise tests could be legally liable if students were injured under their watch.
''There is the potential for legal liability issues that can mean parents are not indemnified for any actions they carry out while undertaking this role,'' the chief executive of the Law Institute of Victoria, Michael Brett Young, said.
The Australian Education Union will meet today in Melbourne to vote on a ban on public teachers supervising the national tests.
The federal president of the union, Angelo Gavrielatos, would not speculate on the likelihood of a strike going ahead, but said the union had ''made it very clear that unless measures were introduced to stop the misuse of student data and the further creation of league tables, we could not and would not co-operate on the administration of the test.''
Ms Gillard's announcement that the government would recruit parents was ''highly regrettable' '. '''It is counterproductive attempting to pit parents against schools,'' he said.
''Bottom line, if the government fails to act to protect students, we will.''
Ms Gillard told ABC TV's Insiders yesterday that recruiting parents was part of the government's contingency plans.
''I'm asking parents, if we need them, to consider working with us to make sure that the tests continue to run out this year,'' Ms Gillard said. ''Parents have literally voted with their fingertips in extraordinary numbers because they want this information. ''
Yet polling released yesterday by the teachers' union showed that 54 per cent of parents of public school children support action by teachers to stop the national tests, while 85 per cent say Ms Gillard should meet with the union to avoid the strike.
The president of the NSW Parents and Citizens Association, Dianne Giblin, said the organisation was ''outraged'' by the proposal, and that it was not the responsibility of parents to supervise the exams.
''Such action can only lead to the driving of a wedge between the key partners in a child's formal educational experience, the parent and the teacher,'' she said.
The NSW Greens MP who drafted the legislation backed by the NSW Liberals to prevent the publication of league tables, John Kaye, said: ''It is extraordinary that a Labor Deputy Prime Minister is resorting to scab labour to stymie industrial action by teachers. Julia Gillard's My School website has already divided parents and teachers, and now she's turning parents into strike breakers. It's not worth it. The NAPLAN test is not that good.''
Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are due to take the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy tests from May 11-13.
To supervise, parents would have to participate in criminal checks and undergo training. A spokesman from Ms Gillard's office yesterday said training would be a matter for the states.
The Independent Education Union has indicated private and Catholic school teachers will not support the ban.
Jan 2010: Teachers threaten to boycott NAPLAN before the My School website launch.
Jan 28: Gillard launches My School amid protests. It has 4.5 million hits in nine hours.
Mar 25: A survey of 1100 principals said 87 per cent thought it painted an inaccurate picture of school performance.

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