BY ROSS CAMERON
The strike by NSW Teachers recently is an important moment in the life of the O'Farrell administration. Any government can do the easy things - writing press releases, announcing inquiries, changing the names of departments. The test is who can do the hard yards of reform that will improve the quality of life of ordinary citizens.
Real reform will be resisted by powerful vested interests. So it is with the push by the NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, to give greater power over budgets and hiring staff, to school principals.
It is not a new idea but it is a good idea. We cannot expect to hold principals accountable for their performance if we do not give them the executive authority required to do their job.
Anyone who has ever run a voluntary organisation, a company, a football team, will tell you that the most vital decisions relate to personnel. One person with the wrong attitude can drag down and infect the entire show. By the same token, one skilled and motivated teacher can make a huge difference. Recent American research showed that the impact on life outcomes of losing a really good teacher was so great that parents would be rational to pass the hat around to keep that teacher in their child's classroom.
It is also the case that conditions vary across geography and time. The principal is the person to judge what personnel the school needs, and what options are available. The principal should decide if the school is better served by two deputies (which is the template) or one deputy and a literacy resource. The principal ought to be free to employ casual and contract staff - immediately increasing the field of potential candidates.
While one may have a low regard for the leadership of a range of trade unions, education unions - and the NSW Teachers Federation in particular - are by far the most malignant because they have the power to shape the next generation of young Australians.
Give the power to principals to choose their A-team (SMH)