The NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) has sought legal advice after the state’s teachers were asked to sign a controversial non-disclosure agreement covering question testing for NAPLAN online.
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and the NSW Education Department say the agreement is to ensure the security of potential test content, so that no student has any unfair advantage when taking the test.
However, the NSWTF says its members were told they cannot retain a copy of the document, which they worry could leave teachers legally vulnerable if they breach the agreement.
“The Federation does not accept that individual teachers can be asked to sign an agreement with a third party in order to perform their duties as an employee, particularly when the full nature and consequences for a breach of that agreement are unknown,” read a statement from the NSWTF.
“At the very least, people should be entitled to keep a copy of any document they are asked to sign. The Federation is seeking further legal advice and will provide an update to members as soon as possible.”
ACARA and the Department say the request is nothing new as teachers involved in trialling NAPLAN test items have been asked to sign confidentiality agreements since 2008.
However, NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) president, Maurie Mulheron, said he was not aware of teachers being asked to sign a similar agreement in past years.
“It's an individual, personal agreement signed with a third party, and the third party is not your employer, the NSW Department of Education,” Mulheron said.
“There's no information on what would happen if you breached the agreement.”
The NSWTF says the situation ignited after staff at a high school in Illawarra reported that they were asked by a Pearson invigilator to leave a briefing about the NAPLAN online test when they refused to sign the agreement.
NSW Secondary Principals' Council (NSWSPC) president, Chris Presland, told The Educator that in previous years, teachers had signed similar agreements, but it had never been at the request of a third party.
“The biggest issue is the lack of clarity around what it is that teachers will be agreeing to. Prior to this request, there wasn’t any advice provided by our employer – and this has caused confusion,” he said.
“It would be very unusual for teachers to sign an agreement of this nature with a third party without some advice or direction from the Department.”
Presland said clarification about the document from the Department would have prevented the current issue from snowballing.
“When you see this agreement, there is almost nothing on it, which raised more concerns. It’s such a broad blanket statement with no indication of consequences,” he said.