Some under-funded public schools are hiring out their teachers to private schools to raise more money – a practice the education union says could be in breach of departmental rules.
The Harlequin Group of Companies is an organisation which helps 100 Victorian public schools to manage their budgets. Its director, Philip Rainford, told The Age that his service allows schools to make the most of under-utilised teachers.
“If the teacher has down time, rather than sitting them down doing nothing, the school arranges for them to work at another school. The school gets paid in exchange,” he said.
Rainford added that many private schools hire these teachers on a casual basis via an “old boys’ network”, with their assistance ranging from days to weeks.
Victorian Principals Association president, Gabrielle Leigh, told The Educator that it was understandable that cash-strapped schools were engaging in such practices.
“The bottom line is government schools in Victoria are severely underfunded especially compared to the rest of Australia,” she said.
“[However] I have not heard of this practice in government primary schools. Most likely there are insufficient staff for the needs of the students.”
Leigh added that there are arrangements between government schools to share staff and that this made “logical sense”.
“When teachers are on leave they can seek other employment but only with permission of the principal. The school would not be receiving funds,” she said.
However, Australian Education Union (AEU) Victorian branch president, Meredith Peace, said the practice breached department rules and regulations, adding that the practice was a sign of the pressure that cash-strapped public schools are under.
“It is a very sad state of affair when government schools have to look at other funding sources so that they can provide the programs that our students need,” she said.
NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) president, Maurie Mulheron, told The Educator that although he had never heard of a NSW school engaging in this practice, it would breach a number of departmental policies and be “absolutely unethical”.
“It is one of the most disgraceful ideas I’ve ever encountered in my 38 years as a teacher,” he said.
“The only solution for the underfunded public school system is to support the Gonski model. That is where all our energies need to be directed.”
Mulheron added that schools need significant government investment that is guaranteed, recurrent and permanent – not “precarious fundraising”.