Multicultural Matters

On 22 May, more than 80 teachers from across the 14 Sydney and regional Intensive English Centres (IECs) came together to discuss matters affecting teachers in IECs and the broader multicultural education area. With eight out of the 14 centres electing a new Federation Representative in the past 12 months, a renewed focus on the work of IEC teachers was at the forefront.

This followed the successful IEC forum held in September last year where members debated significant matters pertaining to IECs, culminating in substantial Federation policy being debated and passed at December state council, titled Intensive English Centres – Honouring the Past, Securing the Future.

At the forum, Federation outlined how it had worked with the Department to achieve system-wide improvements for IECs and their operations within their host high school contexts. This has been a critical step in resolving significant workplace conflict across a number of IECs over the past 12 months with devolutionary policies providing impetus to undermine the independence, structure and specialist regional provision of IECs.

Teachers were provided with the Supplementary Guide for Intensive English Centres, which had been sent to IEC leaders, host high school principals and their regional directors the previous day. Discussion included the Estimated IEC SBAR Funding and the focus on the allocation of funds being fair, equitable, transparent and reflective of the needs of students in IECs.

Federation highlighted sections of the guide, which provided clarity and direction on how host high schools and their IECs need to work together in a collegial environment.

Strong statements throughout the guide, such as the following, were exemplified:

  • While IECs are located within a school, they are not a faculty.
  • Because of their unique role and purpose, IECs have resources to function as a subunit within a host secondary school, managed by a designated executive officer, the IEC deputy principal or IEC head teacher.
  • For an IEC to function efficiently and effectively there needs to be ongoing collaboration, cooperation and trust between the host school and the IEC team.
  • The IEC deputy principal/head teacher is responsible for the overall management of the IEC and has oversight of: day-to-day operations, staffing and recruitment, financial operations, teaching and learning programs, staff and student welfare, parent and community engagement, student enrolment, assessment and reporting, class formation and timetabling, professional learning for teaching and on teaching staff, transition of IEC students to mainstream educational settings.

Sections from the guide under “How do IECs operate within a school?” and “Determining the IEC Budget” were also discussed at length.

Federation also reported further on its progress in relation to the implementation of this policy with a particular focus on the following sections:

  • Federation will continue to protect at all costs the specialist provision of Intensive English Centres servicing their designated regional enrolment area.
  • Federation reaffirms its commitment to long-standing and agreed policy in relation to this critical part of public education provision, which includes, but is not limited, to the following:
    • IECs must be co-located or annexed on a public high school site
    • IECs must continue to operate autonomously on a day to day basis from their host high school, including, but not limited to, the employment of staff
    • Staffing entitlements, including executive release and the appointment of 1.4 teachers per class must continue to be secured in industrial agreements, be adhered to, and monitored through the Federation’s and Department’s Joint Monitoring Review Committee (JMRC) and other relevant Joint Committees and avenues
    • Agreed IEC class sizes, including regular and special needs students at 18 and 10.22 respectively, must be adhered to
    • The entitlement of additional resources to IECs, such as SLSO – Ethnic (Bilingual support) at 0.5 per IEC class, school administration entitlement based on IEC student enrolment and IEC school counsellors entitlement must be provided to each IEC for their centre’s use, not of the host high school
    • Agreed 70 per cent to 30 per cent permanent to temporary/casual teacher ratio to allow for flexibility with fluctuating student numbers
    • Permanent IEC teachers are appointed qualified EAL/D specialists.
    • Federation will pursue with the Department procedures that ensure all IECs, their teachers and students have access to the funds and resources to which they are entitled and to ensure the smooth and equitable operation of these specialist regional centres.

During a dedicated agenda section, three new workplace Federation Representatives from Lurnea, Chester Hill and Marsden IECs addressed the forum. They described how they had brought their staff together to identify, discuss, and strategise on professional issues affecting their work and their students’ learning and wellbeing.

Successful outcomes and associated resolutions to these matters from their actions were also reported. Matters involving temporary teacher engagements, advocating for better resourcing for students with disability and obtaining equitable resources for their centres were explored.

Teachers also heard an update on how the recent federal election outcome would result in the continuation of inhumane policies affecting our refugee students and their families, and the associated consequences for our IECs.

The forum concluded with an open discussion around matters associated with IEC provision and their teachers. These included an update from Chatswood IEC on their relocation, international student placement in IECs, the current context in relation to IEC student numbers, the upcoming IEC Conference and EAL/D staffing provisions in the mainstream; all to be reported on in further detail in the next Multicultural Matters, among other things.

Federation congratulates IEC members of Federation for their ongoing and extraordinary commitment to their union, heartwarming in the current political context.

Amber Flohm Multicultural Officer/ Organiser