IR issues continue to haunt schools

INDUSTRIAL relations and staff management issues are proving problematic for both public and private schools in WA.

Two of Perth’s leading private girl’s schools, Penhros and MLC, have had significant staff turnover.

An unfair dismissal case involving Penhros’s head of physical edu-cation, Bev Smith, recently concluded in the WA Industrial Relations Commission, with Ms Smith being awarded $10,000 compensation.

The commission is still considering the matter of her lost wages.

It is understood Penhros is employing a human resources officer.

The Uniting Church is also bringing in its own complaints procedure to help sort out any industrial relations disputes that may arise in the future.

In MLC’s case, 13 staff left and the school’s principal was eventually removed by the school’s owner, the Uniting Church.

Manning Primary School principal Rob Searle lost 13 staff and about 35 students at the end of last year.

A State School Teachers Union spokeswoman said incidences of industrial relations problems such as unfair dismissal were more prevalent in independent schools.

“State school principals have access to industrial relations advice from both the Department and the union,” she said.

Dwyer Durack partner Guy Stubbs said principals, like any other business manager, had to seek advice in areas they were not expert in.

“In the private sector they have access to organisations such as the Association of Independent Schools to turn to for advice,” Mr Stubbs said.

However, he believes there is

some improvement in principals’ approach towards staff in both sectors.

Aquinas College board chairman Graham Goerke said industrial relations was one area where the education industry contrasted from other businesses.

“How do you assess the performance of teachers,” Mr Goerke said.

“Have they delivered the curriculum? Do they have an appropriate teaching plan?

“Is there sufficient control exercised over the classroom?

“Then there is the question of appraising them for professional development.”

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