From the President - Term 3, 2019

Welcome to second semester!

Council activity

Council has been busy this year with a range of issues, most recently involving school transport, disability and inclusion, completing our Building Safe and Supportive Communities for Learning project, and contributing to the development of three-year-old preschool strategy. We have provided submissions to government on the Education Act, ACT budget and Melbourne Declaration. Council’s Policy Officer, Veronica Elliott, and I also provided evidence at the recent parliamentary inquiry into school violence. We are also pleased that our first reconciliation action plan has been approved in principle by Reconciliation Australia, and look forward to sharing this with you when it is ready.

New teacher pay deal

Council is also pleased that our teachers are set to become the best paid public school teachers in Australia, after being the lowest paid in 2011. Simply, if we want a strong education system and high quality, professional teaching for our children, then we need to pay our teachers properly. The wage agreement also included a small reduction in face to face teaching hours in primary schools, a class size maximum and strengthened health and safety measures.  Increasing teachers’ preparation time and managing class sizes helps support teachers to deliver more personalised learning — something parents highly value and Council welcomes.

School security

School security is a persistent issue we have been working on with EDU and P&Cs. A number of P&Cs whose schools have been affected by vandalism have told us how confronting and upsetting it was for the school community to see their school damaged or precious resources stolen. Apart from the damage to morale and perceptions of community safety, vandalism and criminal activity have a very real impact on education and school budgets and can interrupt learning. 

One school P&C approached us nearly two years ago for help getting approval to purchase a CCTV camera for their school. We started working with EDU and the school on policy and proposals, feeling it was a solid solution worth exploring. We have faithfully kept this on our meeting agendas, including with the Minister for Education, consistently pushing for CCTV at the school.

We have now had robust discussions about school security with many stakeholders and note:

  • Few parents or teachers consider it appropriate for schools to have ‘surveillance’ on students. CCTV is seen to be a good solution for external security, but privacy issues are a significant hurdle and community concerns must be addressed.
  • CCTV can be a very effective tool when used appropriately — police can publish photographs looking for perpetrators and use the footage as evidence at prosecution.
  • CCTV is not as intrusive as a fence, but is still seen to be an effective deterrent.
  • For CCTV to be used effectively, it needs to be monitored. This is expensive.

The ACT CCTV Code of Practice places a high threshold for use, and substantial compliance burden, on agencies wishing to use CCTV. There is a basic threshold outlined in the code, requiring Government agencies to fully assess the purpose of the surveillance and demonstrate that CCTV will serve this purpose, be cost effective, and that no alternatives or better solutions are available. 

Earlier this year, EDU commissioned an expert  feasibility study to consider if CCTV or other protective security measures would be most appropriate in protecting schools. The expected outcome of the study is the recommendation that infrastructure changes and other security measures be tried, prior to the use of CCTV at the school in question. The next steps are for the school to have the infrastructure affected redesigned for purpose and re-located to areas that are subject to ‘natural surveillance’. It remains to be seen whether this will solve the security problem long term, but we are pleased to see action to resolve the matter. We also acknowledge the investment EDU has made in seeking independent advice.

If you have ongoing issues at your school with security, you can ask your principal to request a security assessment, or contact us.

Kirsty McGovern-Hooley, Council President