ACT News

ACT kids head back to school with strike action hanging over them

Australian Education Union ACT secretary Glenn Fowler.
Australian Education Union ACT secretary Glenn Fowler. Photo: Supplied

Children will head back to classes on Monday amid the possibility of a teacher strike hanging over their heads, as the ACT government works with educators to thrash out a new enterprise agreement.

Canberra's teachers want a small reduction in work hours for secondary teachers and primary school teachers, using the time instead for communal staff training.

An Education and Training Directorate spokeswoman said ACT teachers already had among the lowest face-to-face teaching hours in the country.

The previous agreement expired in September and the government has  been working with teachers and the Australian Education Union to work out a new one since last April.

Australian Education Union ACT secretary Glenn Fowler said teachers wanted a reduction in teaching hours to ensure they could spend more time on training.

He said some primary school teachers were working up to 50 hours a week at present.

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"Essentially they're giving up to 13-14 hours a week beyond what they should be expected to give," Mr Fowler said.

"We surveyed them a couple of months ago and 98 per cent of ACT teachers said that the number of tasks they're asked to do has increased over the past five years."

Mr Fowler said the union wanted teaching hours reduced so teachers had time every week to focus on training with their colleagues, which would improve outcomes for students.

He said while there were  no planned strikes, negotiations had reached a critical point and issues over working hours needed to be resolved soon.

In 2011, teachers took two-and-a-half strike days to protest their pay increases as part of the previous enterprise agreement negotiations.

"Teachers in public schools know that one unavoidable consequence of making that career choice is that every now and then we have to stand collectively and insist on  what we need," Mr Fowler said.

"It's part and parcel of the job."

ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations spokeswoman Viv Pearce said parents were supportive of professional development for teachers but were  concerned about the possibility of strike action.

She said the vast majority of ACT parents considered teachers in the territory to be hardworking and high quality.

"I think we're pretty lucky here in the ACT  with the quality of our teachers," Ms Pearce said.

The directorate spokeswoman said the negotiations between the government and the teachers was progressing in good faith and the directorate was comfortable with the progress being made.

She said ACT teachers had among the lowest face-to-face teaching hours and student teacher ratios in the country.

"Notwithstanding this, teacher workload is an issue that is being addressed at bargaining and the directorate is focusing on the core role of teachers in an effort to find tangible workload reductions," the spokeswoman said.