Jobs go in education overhaul

GARETH PARKER STATE POLITICAL EDITOR
jobs

UPDATED: The Barnett Government will axe 500 education staff and put a freeze on the hiring of new teachers just four days after Education Minister Peter Collier said no jobs would be cut.

On Friday The West Australian reported concerns within the public education system that deep cuts would soon be announced by the Government.

Mr Collier told radio 6PR on Friday that story was “just wrong”.

Asked by 6PR morning host Paul Murray if there would be any voluntary or involuntary redundancies in his portfolio in this term of Government, Mr Collier said: “There is absolutely no allocation for it whatsoever, and we have got no indication, no desire, no intent to move down that path.”

This morning, Mr Collier issued a press release announcing “school reforms to deliver equity and efficiency”.

The Government will cut 150 of 1200 jobs from the Education Department’s head and regional offices, Mr Collier told 6PR today.

And 150 teachers' assistants tasked to help students with anaphylaxis will be axed.

A further 200 education assistants could be cut, with Mr Collier saying schools could have the option to “buy back” those positions, presumably if savings are made in other areas of school spending.

In the statement, Mr Collier said the funding overhaul meant that school funding would be allocated on a child-by-child basis based on individual needs rather than by school types or programs.

He said that "overall teacher numbers would be maintained in 2014".

The statement made no mention of teacher numbers beyond that date.

Mr Collier said that under the new student-centred funding model, schools would receive a base amount for each student, with additional funding to help children with extra needs.

Work would begin immediately to establish the new funding model in time for the 2015 school year.

Staff would be cut where positions could no longer be justified, he said.

"There would be reductions in central and regional office positions and education assistants to ensure children received the best value from WA’s $4.4 billion education budget," Mr Collier said.

“This is about building a better education system for our children and ensuring that we have resources where they are most needed - not just where they have always been.

“WA’s public schools are now responsible for the education of more than 276,000 students across the State. The education system is growing rapidly and facing rising costs, largely associated with record student growth.

“We are focused on implementing reform that makes our education system more effective; for example, since 2004-05 the number of education assistants has risen 73 per cent - up from 4455 to 7709 - but they haven’t always been allocated effectively.

“We now have a historical distortion whereby some education assistants have remained at a school even though circumstances at the school have changed and they are no longer required.

“All children with a genuine need for an assistant will continue to have access to one.”

Mr Collier said education assistants provided solely for students with anaphylaxis were no longer required because an online allergy training and support program was now in place for school staff. Schools would continue to be funded to supply auto-injector pens.

He said funding would be better targeted.

Students with low socio-economic backgrounds would be funded based on their individual circumstances, rather than a school being assigned a socio-economic index.

Mr Collier said the new funding model replaced the system that a recently released University of Melbourne review found to be complex, confusing and well past its use-by date.

The union representing departmental staff slammed the decision.

“The impact on schools and the school communities is going to be huge, something the Barnett Government doesn’t seem to care about or understand,” CPSU/CSA branch assistant secretary Rikki Hendon said.

The union would seek an urgent meeting with the Education Department to seek details of which positions would be cut.

Ms Hendon said they would be calling for an urgent meeting with the Education Department to outline what positions would be cut.

“Our members carry out very important and varied roles in the central and regional offices, including Aboriginal education, student attendance, psychological support, standards and integrity and curriculum support,” she said.

“The cutbacks will create major workload issues for staff in the schools, meaning students and teachers will get less access to much-needed support.”