WA Independent Public Schools shakeup: Principals lose hiring freedom

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Principals of WA’s 524 Independent Public Schools (IPS) have been directed to consider “redeployees” when hiring new staff, in a policy shift described as “the beginning of the end” of the popular IPS system.

Since 2010, IPS principals have had complete autonomy over staffing, but under the change, they will have to consider education department “redeployees” before hiring any teachers, support staff and school administrators.

If IPS principals choose not to hire from the department’s pool of available staff, they will have to provide a written explanation justifying their decision.

The change, driven by Education Minister Sue Ellery, is a direct response to concerns IPS has produced a two-tiered education system, which has allowed independent schools to snap up the best teachers, while leaving non-IPS schools with the scraps.

It is understood the new system will be trialled for a year and if IPS principals do not recruit more teachers from the general pool, they could be forced to.

A 2016 parliamentary inquiry into the IPS found the system exacerbated inequality in public education and reinforced a two-tiered system.

Independent Public Schools were introduced by the Barnett government in 2010, as a way of giving schools greater autonomy over staffing and allocation of resources.

The system has been a huge success — in 2010 there were just 34 independent public schools, compared to 524 this year, attended by more than 83 per cent of all public students.

But the uptake has meant the responsibility of hiring redeployees has fallen on non-IPS schools almost exclusively.

Opposition education spokeswoman Donna Faragher said the Liberal Party would fight hard to ensure the IPS system was not systematically dismantled.

“We believe very strongly in the IPS system,” she said.

“The fundamental change that would cause me the most significant concern would be if there was any change to allowing principals to not have the flexibility to choose the staff that best meet their needs.”

‘Sense of entitlement’ to best teachers

WA Primary Principals’ Association (WAPPA) president Ian Anderson predicted the change was the “beginning of the end” of the IPS — which he welcomed.

He said over the years, Independent Public Schools had developed a sense of entitlement to the best teachers and that was not healthy or fair in a government system.

“We can’t continue with the process as it’s going with a large number of IPS and a two-tiered system,” she said.

“Either every school is an independent public school or there is a name change.

“Let’s recognise that we need one system that goes across all government schools.

“Let’s take the best elements of what IPS has been able to bring about and move into whatever the new system is going to be, which is across all government schools and provides equity and opportunity for all kids.”

State School Teacher’s Union of WA president Pat Byrne said the policy change was an improvement but did not go far enough.

“Our position is there should be one system of staff placement across the state,” Ms Byrne said.

“It’s completely unreasonable to say this group of schools can cop people who are perceived to be dud teachers and this group can’t, that is simply unfair.

“We’re all trying to make sure that kids in the public system are getting the best education they can, it’s not ‘I’m looking after me and bugger everybody else’.”

She said there were many reasons why teachers ended up on the redeployment list and the assumption that they were incompetent was unfair and wrong.

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