Teachers union NAPLAN back down under ALP anti-worker attack

On Thursday 6th May the AEU the public school teacher union backed down on a NAPLAN boycott in the face of an anti-worker attack from the Federal ALP led by Julia Guillard. The AEU responding to grassroots teacher anger had called a boycott of the NAPLAN to prevent the publication of “League Tables” of schools based on the new Federal “MySchools” Website. Teachers across the country had been threatened with disciplinary action and individual fines of up to $6600 as Guillard gleefully used anti-worker laws to bully teachers into submission.

Teachers rightfully were concerned that the NAPLAN tests which are national literacy and numeracy tests will be used to create “League Tables” which are an unreliable and narrow form of assessement will be used to attack government schools and teachers, particularly in working class areas.

According the World Socialist Website

“The testing mechanism is an important part of the Rudd government’s drive to further promote a shift of students from public to private schools, to amalgamate and close so-called underperforming schools in working class areas, and to restrict education to the most narrow and empirically measurable activities with the ultimate aim of producing a more “productive” workforce.”

The focus on “data” will inevitably be used to also used against teachers as the basis for the introduction of performance pay which will pit teachers against each other competitively and also discourage teachers from teachers in “underperforming” ie working class schools.

The anti-worker Orwellian named Fair Work Australia had declared the decision by teachers to boycott the NAPLAN illegal industrial action and threatened to fine the union collectively but also individual teachers up to $6600. State Industrial Tribunals in Qld and NSW also threatened teachers with fines. Julia Guillard even threatened to use parents as “scabs” to administer the tests whilst ALP governments at a state and territory level joined in the chorus of threats against teachers.

In the face of this bullying the weak AEU leadership quickly caved on Thursday May 6th accepting a meaningless “compromise” from the Federal ALP that a “working group” of experts would be set up including the AEU to investigate the use of data on the MySchool website. Not a single commitment was made from the Federal Government to even review the use of data on the MySchool website was made. That the union was prepared to accept this shows that their dominant concern was to force the ALP to bring the union fatcats “back to the table” in the implementation of education policy. They do not care the the substance of this policy is regressive, neo-liberal crap but they want to make sure they get to still be part of the process.

The establishment papers the Age and the Herald Sun have both used the union backdown to build the profile of their “Thatcher in the making” Julia Guillard with the Hun crowing Gillard shows her mettle and Michelle Grattan ludicrously said the crushing of the union ban showed Guillard compared to Rudd was soaring like Mary Poppins

The Socialist Equality Party organised a public meeting in Sydney and Melbourne to discuss the failure of the NAPLAN Boycott and passed a resolution calling for a campaign of continued boycotting of the tests and the setting up of committees of teachers to plan industrial action against the attacks on public education independent of the co-opted teachers unions.
SEP public meetings oppose Australian government’s assault on public education
Socialist Party public meeting resolution

The World Socialist Website also has some excellent analysis and background to the dispute and the Union cave in on the following links
Australian Teacher Union calls of boycott
NAPLAN testing and My School: Rudd’s free market education agenda



May 10, 2010 5:10 a.m. EST

AHN News Staff
London, England, United Kingdom (AHN) - Head teachers across England are boycotting primary school exams this week. The move is expected to affect half of the 600,000 British children aged 10 and 11 enrolled in England’s 17,000 state primary schools.

The students are scheduled to take reading tests on Monday, writing and spelling tests on Tuesday and math tests on Wednesday and Thursday.

The boycott is spearheaded by the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Head Teachers in protest over their perception that the exams - known by its old name Sats - destroy, rather than enhance the children’s education because teaching is geared towards passing the test and boosting scores. Failure to reach targets places the head teachers’ jobs, the educators claimed.

At an anti-Sats picnic in central London on Sunday, children’s author Alan Gibbons pointed as an example the use by schools of extracts to discuss a metaphor or simile, instead of requiring the pupils to read the whole book.

Among the areas where the boycott will push through are in Hartlepool, Calderdale, West Yorkshire, Kent, South Yorkshire, Manchester, Hertfordshire, and Barking and Dagenham.

If the boycott will push through, it would stop the publication of exam league tables this year, which is the basis of setting standards among British schools.

The head teacher boycott has caught even the attention of the three major political parties that prior to the May 6 poll, the parties called on the educators not to push through with the industrial action. The issue would be one of the problems the newly elected and reelected MPs would have to face, along with addressing Britain’s huge budget deficit.


Age Feature article from May 11th 2010 which asks

"Today, more than a million students will begin sitting the controversial NAPLAN tests - but for whose benefit?"


By Terry Cook
14 May 2010

Australian workers could not be blamed for believing they were in a time warp when the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) launched a multi-million dollar campaign late last month entitled “Work Choices: Whatever the Name, Never Again”.

The campaign includes expensive television commercials featuring workers testifying that they lost working conditions and basic rights under the Work Choices industrial relations regime of the previous Liberal-led government of Prime Minister John Howard.

The commercials show the current Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott declaring in a recent speech that “the phrase Work Choices is dead” with a voice-over warning that only the name is dead, not the policy.

In the lead up to the 2007 federal election, the ACTU ran a “Your Rights at Work” campaign with similar ads. Its purpose was to corral the growing opposition to Howard’s Work Choices and to promote the Labor Party, which promised to abolish the legislation if it won office.

The Howard government is long gone. But Labor government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has replaced Work Choices with its own Fair Work Australia (FWA) legislation, which has retained or toughened all the essential features of the previous laws.

With a federal election looming later this year, the ACTU has launched its new campaign in a desperate bid to shore up flagging support for Labor by raising the spectre of a revived Work Choices. However, its campaign slogan—Work Choices: Whatever the Name, Never Again—is inadvertently an indictment of the Rudd government’s Fair Work Australia and the role of the trade unions in enforcing it.

Labor’s legislation strengthens the anti-strike provisions of Work Choices. It outlaws all industrial action—including strikes, partial stoppages, go-slows, overtime bans and work-to-rules—except during the limited bargaining periods for enterprise agreements. Secret ballots must be held before any strike, a process that can take weeks. Details of any proposed action must be provided to employers allowing them to plan strike-breaking. Even then, the Fair Work Australia tribunal can block a strike on the basis that “good faith bargaining” has not taken place.

Like Work Choices, any industrial action in solidarity with other sections of workers, or over broader economic, social or political issues is prohibited. Strikes to oppose privatisation, job cuts, plant closures, victimisation or state repression against workers are also outlawed. Workers, who infringe FWA provisions—such as the construction workers at the Woodside’s Pluto LNG project who struck in January for eight days to defend basic conditions—face massive fines and even imprisonment.

The ACTU has not opposed any of these measures, which is not surprising as all of the unions voted at the 2007 Labor Party national conference in favour of the Fair Work Australia framework. The ACTU’s main criticism of Work Choices was that by encouraging individual contracts it was sidelining the unions. By protecting collective bargaining, the Labor government ensured a continued role for the trade unions and their support in enforcing the FWA legislation.

Labor has also retained the Howard government’s Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), which has extraordinary police powers to investigate and prosecute construction workers. The ABCC will be replaced with a specialist department within FWA which will be armed with the same powers. The unions have criticised the ABCC but have conducted no concerted campaign to demand its complete abolition.

With the assistance of the trade unions, Labor’s FWA apparatus has been used to back employers and suppress key struggles, including by construction workers on the Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge site, paramedics in Victoria, Qantas baggage handlers, Telstra and Australian postal employees—all fighting to defend long-standing working conditions.

Moreover, by binding workers hand and foot, Labor’s laws have encouraged employers to take aggressive action of their own. There have been a series of punitive lockouts, including in the casino, food processing, mining, health, and construction sectors, against workers engaged in action during the so-called “protected” period allowed under FWA laws.

Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard, who has overseen the implementation of the FWA, has repeatedly demonised workers and sided with employers. “Unlawful industrial action is wrong,” Gillard arrogantly declared earlier this year in response to the Pluto strike. “People should expect to be punished; they should expect to feel the full force of the law; no apologies, no excuses, full stop.”

The ACTU current campaign to turn Abbott into a bogie man to stampede workers behind Labor is a sham. The unions have not defended the rights of workers, but have functioned as the industrial policemen for Labor’s FWA regime. If Abbott were to win the next election because of widespread disgust with Labor and its policies, the unions would continue to collaborate in suppressing opposition in the working class.

It should be recalled that Howard’s ability to implement Work Choices depended on 13 years of betrayal by the previous Hawke and Keating Labor governments. Enterprise bargaining, workplace restructuring, privatisation and the end of the eight-hour day had all been implemented by Labor with the backing of the unions. When Labor was thrown out at the 1996 election, the ACTU quickly reached a modus operandi with the Howard government as it extended Labor’s “reforms”. It would do the same if Abbott came to power.

The necessary political conclusions should be drawn. Liberal and Labor both serve the interests of finance capital and the corporate elite. Whichever comes to power after the next election will be compelled to make far deeper inroads into the social position of the working class as the global economic crisis continues to worsen.

Workers can only defend their living standards and basic rights by breaking from the two-party system and by mobilising independently on the basis of a socialist perspective and for a workers’ government. That necessarily involves a rebellion against the entire system of industrial laws and against the unions that enforce them.


May 16, 2010

The NAPLAN test is a bad, bad thing, and no child of Dave O'Neil's will sit it - this or any other year.

WHEN I first heard of NAPLAN I thought it was a warehouse near Highpoint where you could buy bulk nappies. Or maybe it was a much-needed addition to Disneyland, where tired parents could drop in for a snooze. But even old Walt Disney couldn't have dreamt this one up; it was far too sinister for even his frozen brain. NAPLAN, I discovered, is the standardised test that students across Australia are currently sitting.

I just can't think why you'd have to do this. Surely you can judge a school on its own merits. Walk around, have a look in the classrooms, talk to the teachers, sit in on a lesson or two, hang out at the school gates and chat to the parents. But no, kids have to be seated and tested. And it's what happens to these results that really annoys me. They end up on the My School website, or, as I like to call it, ''My school's better than yours dot com''. Because that's what happens. You can't tell me that every parent doesn't skip straight to their kid's school, clock the score, then check out the figure for the next closest school. ''Aha, we kicked their backsides! Eat our dust, St Josephine's!'' Underperforming schools will become even worse off, the private schools will get more enrolments, the slow destruction of public education will continue.

Well, I for one ain't having it. I went to my primary school, where I found the teachers handing out flyers urging parents to withdraw their children from NAPLAN testing. This is why my son goes to an inner-city primary school, I thought. It's a hotbed of ideas, no uniforms, and a hell of a lot of recycling! They don't just do a school concert at the end of the year, they write their own musical. I promised the teachers I would take their anti-NAPLAN message to the world.

The next day, I turned up to my radio job and started a war against NAPLAN. Now bear in mind that I work on Classic Rock 91.5 FM and my role is that of the ''funny fat man''. The last campaign I had on air was to bring back the Barney Banana ice-cream. Which, I may add, we succeeded in doing - for six months, before it was withdrawn due to lack of sales. But what a glorious half a year that was.

We opened up the mikes. I had turned into an AM shock jock. I'm pretty sure I said: ''Hands off our schools, Gillard.'' The phones lit up, it was a NAPLAN bashing session. One man from Brighton tried to argue against me; I cut him off in true Steve Price style. I started to understand why Andrew Bolt is the way he is, I was loving my opinionated self. I drove home on a high, stopping off at a cafe where I gave an impromptu speech to a mothers' group about the evils of NAPLAN. They all seemed impressed. They gave me a standing ovation - well, they got up and left.

That's it, I said to my wife as I walked in the door. I am going up to the school and pulling our son out of NAPLAN. I am making a stand. As I walked towards the school, I thought of my own education. I had loved primary school and I certainly didn't remember many tests. I remembered British Bulldog at lunchtime and breaking the occasional arm; I remembered being the burning-off monitor and getting to throw old Clag bottles in the incinerator. And what was Friday afternoon without us all gathering around a crackly speaker with our Sing books and belting out classics like The Purple People Eater. Primary school should be a fun time where you learn by accident. Sure, teach them how to read and write, but enough with the tests. They've got all of high school and uni for tests.

And what the hell were they going to ask a child my son's age anyway? Who is Bob the Builder's girlfriend? Don't answer that, it's Wendy. Technically they're not together, but we all have our suspicions. Sorry, I digress. Why interrupt a school day with an outside test? Is it covering what the kids have been learning that week? I wouldn't think so: how could a national test possibly do that? And how does one test, on one day, give any real indication of a school's performance?

I approached the teacher and said, ''I'm withdrawing my son from NAPLAN.'' She smiled (she was anti-NAPLAN, of course). ''Your son's in year 1, NAPLAN doesn't start till year 3.''

Right, good one. Well, just letting you know in advance. Two years' notice I gave them. Did I feel like an idiot? Yes? Would I fail the NAPLAN test? Probably.

Dave O'Neil is a radio presenter and comedian.