Queensland Minister for Education Grace Grace
Queensland Minister for Education Grace Grace

Unions calling the tune yet again

IF YOU listen carefully to state Education Minister Grace Grace, you can hear the bell toll.

Its solemn tones, audible between the lines of the Minister's pronouncements, sound the eventual death knell of Queensland's independent public schools.

At the state Labor conference this month, delegates will be asked to approve a motion capping the number of independent schools.

Ms Grace has already announced a review of these schools.

In what must be a coincidence, she announced this review shortly after the Queensland Teachers' Union demanded that the independent schools be axed.

Lesser beings might see this as evidence of a trade union pulling the strings of a sworn minister of the Crown. This, of course, would never happen.

In announcing the review, Ms Grace said she wanted to "have a look at what are the benefits of independent public schools. I want to have a look at what are some of the negatives.

"Some of them have done very well, there are some very good points with the IPS scheme, but clearly there are some negatives in how they are often used," she said.

Existing independent public schools would "stay the way they are, at the moment," she said.

When a politician says they will not follow a particular course of action, like axing the independent public schools, "at the moment" what they are really saying is this:

"I won't axe them now but I will axe them later when the dust has settled."

Questioned in state parliament, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there were no plans to close the independent public schools.

She didn't say there were no plans to close them "at the moment" but the union, which has been campaigning against them since their inception, is not in the habit of being denied.

An article in the Queensland Teachers' Journal in June decried the independent school model as being "condemned around the world". Really?

Queensland Minister for Education Grace Grace
Queensland Minister for Education Grace Grace

Queensland has 250 independent public schools, all operating under a scheme created by the Newman government.

Independent public schools remain state schools, but among other things, principals have greater autonomy in hiring teachers.

This, of course, is what the union hates. Principals can hire the teachers they want rather than having some who may be of questionable ability thrust upon them.

According to the state Education Department's current website, the "Queensland Government is committed to providing state schools with greater autonomy in decision-making and increased capacity to work in new ways to maximise learning outcomes.

"The independent public schools initiative delivers on this commitment.

"IPS are a catalyst for positive system-wide change that leads to improved services and learning outcomes for all state school students.

"Schools also have greater flexibility to tailor the curriculum to directly suit the needs of their students.

"This tailor-made approach will mean students may benefit from opportunities such as International Baccalaureate, extracurricular and gateway programs, or access to centres of excellence."

What's not to like? Sounds like just the sort of school to which a parent would be only too happy to send their child.

So who will triumph? Will it be the parents of kids in 250 independent public schools throughout the state or the Queensland Teachers' Union?