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Welcome – End of Parliamentary Year

Dear friends and colleagues in AACS,

The entire city of Canberra breathed a sigh of relief last night when Parliament closed its doors and Senators and MPs departed for a two month hiatus.

It was a week of high-drama. Sitting weeks at the start of next year are likely to follow a similar pattern with the Government having no majority in either the House of Representative or the Senate.

The year ends with a Bill affecting schools awaiting debate in the House of Representative, another Senate Inquiry on discrimination in faith-based schools underway, and the Ruddock Review having been promised to be released in advance of Christmas. There is plenty of challenges yet to navigate in this particular battle.

Meanwhile, funding  agreements are yet to be finalised between the Commonwealth and State Governments, though progress has certainly been made. It has been a big year in education at the Commonwealth level!

This update summarises where a few different items are up to, and gives you and is our last general newsletter for the year. Please note some key dates we are highlighting for next year, in the article on the Parliamentary sitting calendar. We now can enter a period of more rest, but it would be great for you to have some dates for next year locked aside, so that we are well-positioned for when the year begins again.

We have been completely blown away by the support and encouragement we have had from you all, particularly over the past two months. We couldn’t be more grateful, or more proud to be representing Christian schools.

Grace and peace to you all,

Erik and Annette

  


Religious Freedom: Where are we up to?

Parliament has closed for the year which means there will not be any changes to the Se x Discrimination Act (SDA) in 2018.

This extremely unlikely outcome is in no small part the result of the efforts of our schools, who have worked extremely hard to make sure our voice has been heard and understood in the Parliament. Thank you.

Many of us have learned a lot over the past couple of months as we have engaged in Parliamentary processes. We have had people meeting with local MPs, making phone calls, submitting to Senate Inquiries (thank you Simon Lainson!) speaking to journalists and appearing before their state Government (thank you Mike and the team in Tasmania!)

Representatives from our schools in Tasmania, appearing before their state parliament.

Through all of this, our hope has remained secure in our God who sustains all things.

Next year:

Between now and February, the Ruddock Review is likely to be released, and a Senate Inquiry will look at the specific legislation that was tabled over the past fortnight regarding faith-based schools. That legislation has not been resolved, only delayed.

We will be making submissions to the Senate Inquiry by 21 January 2019.

At the moment, some of the key fault lines regarding where lines should be drawn in legislation are:

  • Should schools be able to teach according to their religious convictions, if that teaching could be considered “detrimental” to students who are gay, transgender, from gay families, the child of a surrogate etc.?
  • Should schools have freedom to make their own decisions about how to best support and care for children who are transgender (while balancing the needs of the broader school community) or should they be compelled to accept and accommodate whatever a child requests regarding gender identity?
  • Should faith-based schools be permitted to require their teachers to uphold and live according to religious beliefs that include beliefs regarding sexuality, gender and relationships?
  • What particular behaviours amount to “discrimination”?
  • What of these freedoms/restrictions should apply beyond schools to other “religious institutions” like churches and synagogues and theological colleges?

As of yesterday, the Opposition have taken a position that they want to end discrimination of students and teachers in faith-based schools while still allowing schools to require that children participate in chapel and religious education classes etc.. There is some dispute about whether there legislation would also restrict teaching in churches, theological colleges and other religious institutions. Our legal advice is that it certainly would restrict teaching in those other settings.

We will provide more specific details of the legislation and the impact of particular clauses, next week.


Parliamentary Sitting Calendar

Next year’s Parliamentary sitting calendar has been published.

(Click here to download a PDF of it, and see it at the bottom of this post.)

The yellow dates are the particularly important ones to pay attention to. Please put those dates in your diary now. Also, please keep time aside for that first sitting period in February (11-21) when Parliament will be sitting and the Sex Discrimination Act legislation is likely to be being debated. It would be great if you had some capacity during that time for phone calls, communication with parents etc., as needed.

It would also be great if you contact your local MP and Senators from your state now, to see if you can get a meeting booked in for the first week of February, before Parliament resumes. These can be follow up meetings, now that there is specific legislation to discuss. Ask a couple of parents to be on standby to attend with you.

You will note that the AACS AGM and the Christian Schools Policy Forum will likely be either directly after, or a week or two after, the General election. This is an unusual time for the forum, but it will also be a positive opportunity to gather, reflect and plan for the future, after what will have been an intense period of time politically.

The speaker at the dinner on the Monday night will be Justine Toh. We may hold the dinner in a different venue to usual, given that the focus will be less on MPs than it usually is.

 More details will be provided when registration opens.


School Funding – Commonwealth and States

Today is the due date for all school funding agreements to be in place between the Commonwealth and State Governments. It was reported in October that after this point, the steady flow of funding to states would be affected.

At this stage, Victoria, the ACT and Queensland are still yet to sign. We have contacted the Minister’s office to find out if there are any implications our schools should be aware of. It is very unlikely that anything will actually be affected though and our latest conversations with the Minister’s office indicate that the final agreements are very close to being finalised.

Click here to read more about the National School Reform Agreement.

 


Status of Teaching: Inquiry

On 15 November, the Minister for Education, Hon Dan Tehan MP, asked the House of Representatives standing committee on Employment, Education and Training to look into the status of the teaching profession. Submissions are due by 21 December 2018.

The specific scope of the committee is to “consider opportunities to improve outcomes in a range of areas including:

  1. Increasing the attractiveness of the profession for teachers and principals, including workplace conditions, and career and leadership structures.
  2. Provision of appropriate support platforms for teachers including human and IT resources.
  3. Identifying ways in which the burden of out-of-hours, at-home work can be reduced.
  4. Investigating ways to increase retention rates for the teaching profession, and avoid ‘burn-out’ among early-career teachers.”

If you have any comment on any of these areas, please email us at annette.pereira@aacs.net.au.

It would be particularly good to hear what the main causes of attrition are among your teachers and staff and what the main obstacles are to people progressing into school leadership.

Click here to go to the Inquiry home page.


Update of Melbourne Declaration

In 2008, the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians was agreed by all Australian education ministers. Those goals set the 10 year direction for education and were foundational for the Australian curriculum. They are an important framework for how education policy is implemented across the country.

These goals will soon expire and so are due for review. The Minister for Education, Hon Dan Tehan MP, has announced that he will take a proposal for updating the Goals to the Education Council meeting on 14 December.

Click here to read the current Melbourne Declaration.


Red tape in Education

A Senate Inquiry looking at the impact of red tape in the private education sector has issued its Interim report.

Through the Inquiry process, Private Education providers universally agreed that compliance burdens are onerous and need to be rationalised. Many also suggested that the burden of regulation is stifling innovation.

The Report makes seven recommendations. Among those are the suggestions that COAG reviews the breadth of regulation at state and commonwealth levels to find opportunities to reduce red tape and also that a standardised “one-size-fits-all” regulation system is developed.

Click here to read the report.