Last year, a review of the Independent Public Schools (IPS) initiative for Western Australia’s schools warned that the policy is worsening inequality and reinforcing a two-tiered system.
The report – by the Education and Health Standing Committee – made 21 recommendations and outlined 43 findings regarding the initiative.
The authors of the study said the IPS initiative had exacerbated existing inequalities in the public education system and that the committee had yet to find any academic benefit of the IPS initiative.
This week, those concerns were addressed head-on when Western Australia’s Education Minister, Sue Ellery, announced that the state’s 524 independent public schools must now consider hiring “redeployees” from the Department’s pool of staff whenever there is a vacancy.
The move marks a shift away from the current model, which allows IPS principals to cherry-pick the best staff for their schools.
While principals will still be able to select staff locally, the new changes mean that where they have a vacancy and the Department has a permanent teacher it needs to place, then every school will be equally expected to take that teacher on.
However, some say the move doesn’t go far enough.
State School Teachers Union WA (SSTUWA) president, Pat Byrne, sees the new policy merely as ‘a first step’ and says the union will continue to lobby the State Government to make more changes.
“The government needs to ensure that all independent schools take on redeployed teachers when they are asked to,” Byrne told The Educator.
“Our position is there should be the one system of staff placement across the whole state, and clearly it is an inequitable system when a particular group of schools [non-IPS] are disadvantaged when it comes to hiring staff.”
Byrne said that while non-IPS schools should have access to the best teachers and school staff, the current” two-tiered system” doesn’t facilitate this and needs to be addressed.
“This policy change will reduce IPS schools ability to ‘cherry pick’ staff, by requiring them to demonstrate they have considered a suitable match from the redeployment pool,” she said.
“The SSTUWA see this as a step in the right direction towards restoring some equity to process of staff placement across all public schools.”
However, he pointed out that at this stage there has “effectively been no change” in the way that IPS operate with regards to staffing, apart from the Principal having to “consider” referred teachers prior to making appointments.
“WAPPA believes that the time is now right for us to celebrate the success of IPS, reflect on what have been the best aspects of IPS and develop a new system which ensures that all government schools work under the same parameters giving us a strong and equitable government system,” he said.