The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles!

Subtitle

Teaching in Queensland.

What you really need to know.

So you are thinking of becoming a teacher?

In Queensland?

And you are planning to spend several years of your life studying at university?

And you are planning to take on a huge HECS Debt?

Because you want to be a teacher.

In Queensland.

Well, before you commit to the study and the HECS debt, why not spend a few minutes thinking about the working conditions of Queensland teachers?

In Queensland -

 Classroom teachers' pay is poor compared to other states.

 There are few permanent teaching jobs available.

You will probably have to spend many years doing day-to-day 'casual' work.

 If you are lucky, you may be offered a teaching 'contract'.

But you probably won't be paid during the school holidays.

 

To get a permanent teaching job in Queensland you will probably have to spend several years living and working in a remote community. 

 

And you will always work in fear.

 99.6 per cent of Australian teachers claim to have been bullied at work.

UNE research suggests that workplace bullying is 'rife' in Queensland schools.

 

If you are well-qualified, you may be at particular risk -

Because well-qualified teachers are regarded as "academics' and 'troublemakers' in Queensland.

You may be driven into ill health and out of work.

 You may even be driven to suicide.

 

 In Queensland teachers have no job security -a secret file of falsified 'records' concerning you can be produced at any time -

 - especially if you try to deal with the problems at your school. 

 

Robina Cosser says : I first arrived in Queensland in 1987. I realised within the first few weeks that many of the teachers I was meeting were afraid. I could not understand why the teachers were so afraid. I had no experience of corruption.

 Sharan Rai Photography 

 

I began this website in November 2007.

I wanted young people who were thinking about becoming teachers -and their parents - to understand what was really 'going on' in Queensland schools.

And I wanted the true history of Queensland schools to be recorded - because I had become aware that the official records could be extensively falsified.

 

Many Queensland teachers have contacted me over the past seven years.

Based on their stories, and on my own experience, I believe that the problem is systemic -

 

1) The Queensland Department of Education must develop a better promotion system. 

Before teachers are considered for promotion or for 'Acting' positions, they need to be required to pass a written exam to demonstrate -

a) that they are able to read and to comprehend Departmental policies and

b) that they are willing and able to apply those policies to their own behaviour.

And, having demonstrated their understanding of Departmental policies, principals need to be held responsible when they are found to be in breach of those policies.

 

2) The Department must make clear to principals that they will no longer tolerate them abusing the Managing Unsatisfactory Performance (MUP) process to drive classroom teachers into ill health and out of work. Or even to suicide.

a) If a principal abuses a teacher and makes the teacher ill, the principal seems to then rush to put the teacher into an MUP process.

This seems to be a common strategy to protect the principal from a WorkCover complaint.

If the teacher is in an MUP process, WorkCover will describe the principal's abuse as "reasonable management action" and refuse to compensate the teacher for the abuse.

b) Principals seem to threaten teachers with the MUP process just before school holidays.

This seems to be a strategy to drive the teacher into applying for a transfer, sick leave, resignation, ill health retirement or suicide.

But there will be no official record of the fact that the teacher was being threatened with the MUP process.

And it is quicker and easier for the principal than actually dealing with the bother of the paperwork of the MUP process.

 

3) Queensland classroom teachers must have proper WorkCover investigations into workplace problems.

WorkCover used to investigate Queensland teachers' workplace bullying complaints.

Now they will not.

Now WorkCover demand that a sick teacher collect documentary evidence of the abuse.

The sick teacher is in no condition to do this, and may be reluctant to ask his fellow teachers to expose themselves to "payback".

WorkCover seem to have chosen to fail Queensland teachers in order -

a) to falsify the official records of the level of workplace abuse in Queensland schools and

b) to economise on the cost of investigations and compensation.

 

4) Queensland classroom teachers must be better protected from principals whose judgement is affected by drugs or alcohol.

Nearly half of Australian school principals take prescription medication for a diagnosed condition.

There is a real chance that their decision-making may be affected by these drugs.

Most principals report that they have "a healthy alcohol intake".

A principal who threatens a teacher with the MUP process should be required to provide a written statement that his/her decision-making has not been affected by the effects of drugs or alcohol.

The behaviour of children and parents may also be affected by drugs or alcohol.

Any child or parent making an allegation concerning a teacher should also be required to provide a written statement that their judgement has not been affected by drugs or alcohol.

 

5) Queensland classroom teachers must be protected from political pressure.

The Department of Education Code of Conduct must clearly state that principals should not pressure teachers to join a particular political party, or a particular branch of a political party.

 

6) Queensland classroom teachers must have access to Departmental policies.

Some schools seem to a) restrict access to departmental policies or b) monitor teachers' internet usage.

So teachers worry that if they look at, for example, the Grievance policy, alarms bells may ring and a proactive 'payback' process may be put in place.

 

7) The Queensland Education Department has a Workplace Health and Safety responsibility to develop a Grievance form with a section that teachers can fill in themselves, explaining their Grievance in their own words.

It is too easy for a principal to record a false reason for a teacher's Grievance and then find their own falsified version of the teacher's Grievance 'unsubstantiated'.

 

8) Queensland classroom teachers need an independent helpline.

Teachers all over Queensland are seeking advice on how to deal with difficult situations.

Many teachers are working in remote areas, far from their friends and family.

Teachers who are driven into ill health soon run out of money and can't afford legal or medical support.

A teachers' helpline could also collect independent data on the sorts of issues that are stressing classroom teachers.

This data could be used to prompt new policies.

 

9) The Queensland Department of Education has a Workplace Health and Safety responsibility to conduct proper investigations into the Grievances of classroom teachers. 

I was advised by a QTU officer in 2001 that he had never known a Queensland teacher's Grievance to be upheld.

Many other QTU officers later told me that this was the best advice that I could be given "based on many years of experience in dealing with the department".

Abusive Queensland principals and departmental officers must not be allowed to investigate themselves and 'find no evidence' of their own abusive behaviour.

This is like allowing a thief to investigate his own robbery.

 

10) The Queensland Department of Education has a Workplace Health and Safety responsibility to ensure that departmental investigations are conducted by officers with no conflict of interest in the situation.

Every Investigation Report, "Briefing For the Minister", etc. produced by a Department of Education officer should be required to contain a statement that the Departmental officer understands the concept of 'Conflict of Interest' and -

a) that he / she has no conflict of interest in this situation

b) and he /she is aware of no other conflict of interest which may be affecting the investigation.

 

11) All documents used / consulted in creating Crime and Corruption Commission reports, Departmental reports, Briefings for the Minister, etc. must be listed in the body of the report, briefing, etc. 

A copy of each document used must be stored with the report - and must be available under Right to Information. 

It is too easy for a CMC officer or a departmental officer to claim that he or she 'cannot remember' why he made a particular finding and that he 'cannot remember' what documentary evidence his or her investigation finding was based upon.

This situation facilitates corruption.

It also facilitates abuse of the Right to Information process.

 

12) Australia must have a nation-wide base-line entry standard to the teaching profession.

At the moment the word 'teacher' has no clear meaning in Australia.

A teacher could be a person who did well at school themselves - or it could be somebody who failed miserably at school and is semi-literate but who was let into a university teaching course anyway.

It can be really, really difficult working with fellow-teachers (and principals) who are poor thinkers, semi-literate, etc.

Do not underestimate this problem.

 

13) Well-qualified Queensland classroom teachers must be protected from attack by dim principals.

There is a need for some research (possibly conducted by the Queensland College of Teachers) into the work experience of well-qualified teachers.

Sometimes Queensland principals seem to feel driven to 'prove' that they "can't tell the difference" between a well-qualified teacher and a poorly-qualified teacher.

Sadly, many people in the business of education in Queensland do not seem to value education.

If well-qualified teachers are really wanted in Queensland, they must be protected from workplace abuse. 

 

 

14) Queensland classroom teachers need their own union.

At the moment the QTU represents classroom teachers and principals, Regional Office staff, Head Office staff, etc.

The union has a policy of not supporting members who are in conflict with other members.

So Queensland school principals and senior public servants know that classroom teachers will receive no legal support if they are bullied at work.

Classroom teachers need their own union.

 

15) Queensland classroom teachers need access to unbiased legal advice when they are dealing with workplace problems.

 

 

16) Queensland classroom teachers need their own professional bodies to represent their interests in the media.

Principals not only have the union, they have several professional organizations.

The Chairmen of each of these organizations can speak to media on behalf of their members.

Even the chairmen of each local branch of these organizations can speak to media.

So the interests of principals are very well represented in the media.

But nobody speaks up for classroom teachers.

  

17) Teachers working in rural and remote areas of Queensland need secure accommodation.

No young Queensland teacher should be sent out to a remote island, a remote community or a rural area to sleep in accommodation that is not secure.

During the Christmas holidays all departmental accommodation should be checked to ensure that it is secure.

Teachers in remote areas should be provided with free phones to report security problems directly to the Regional Office and to call for help (or to contact their families) in emergencies.

Teacher accommodation in remote communities and on remote islands should have an alarm system (like a very loud fire alarm) that can be triggered in an emergency.

Nurses in Aurukun are housed in secure accommodation within a health centre precinct.

All of the nursing staff have duress alarms.

A security Officer is on duty between the hours of 5.00pm and 8am, seven days a week.

And CCTV cameras monitor the clinic from Weipa.

 

But the Aurukun teacher's accommodation is "dilapidated ... and unfit for the teachers who live in them," according to Noel Pearson.

 

This is not a new situation.

 In 2008, Labor Member for Cook Jason O'Brien said, "Quite frankly, some of the housing teachers are expected to live in is in such poor condition you nearly want to cry."

 

Queensland teachers seem to have been let down very badly by their employers and their union on this issue.

 

 

Island and Community chairmen need to take responsibility for talking seriously to the young men in their community about cultural differences, etc.

They need to make it very plain to the young men of the community that any culturally inappropriate behaviour should not be misinterpreted and that the teacher should be treated with respect.

 

18) Older teachers working in rural and remote areas of Queensland need single accommodation.

Young teachers may enjoy sharing a flat.

Flat-sharing is normal in your twenties.

But no 50-year old female teacher should be expected to share a bathroom, kitchen and living area with a stranger - especially a 50-year old man from a totally different cultural background.

Mature teachers need single accommodation - motel-style units could be easily set up and moved from site to site as needed.

 

19) Queensland teachers (and their students) need better classrooms - with proper sound-proof walls, air-conditioning, properly designed furniture, emergency alarm systems, decent pinboards, etc.

You can't teach properly if your classroom has only three walls and you are continually exposed to noise from other classes, musical activities, etc.

You (and your students) cannot feel safe if a drunk parent is rampaging around the classroom and you have no way to call for help.

 

20) Queensland classroom teachers need better teaching materials.

Teachers can't work effectively if they have to use photocopying paper with holes in it, for example.

 

21) Queensland schools need to use evidence-based teaching methods.

Queensland teachers must not be pressured to adopt teaching methods that are based on twitty 'beliefs' or 'philosophies'.

 

22) The Queensland Department of Education must make clear to Queensland children and their parents how they are expected to behave in schools.  

Australian children's books often celebrate the fun of being naughty.

Children's books in other countries (France and Indonesia, for example) celebrate good behaviour.

We need to make it clear to Queensland children - and their parents - how we want them to behave.

 

23) We need notices at the entrance of each Queensland school to say that abuse of school staff will not be tolerated.

 

24) We need CCTV in all Queensland school offices and classrooms.

CCTV would protect children from abuse.

It would protect teachers, particularly male teachers, from false allegations.

It would enable parents to see how their children and the other children in their child's classroom are behaving.

It would facilitate professional discussion.

It would enhance safety and security.

 

25) We need laws against drinking during pregnancy.

Some of the children causing problems in our Australian classrooms, playgrounds and communities seem to be suffering from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder - permanent brain damage, caused by drinking during pregnancy.

We need to change community attitudes to drinking while pregnant. 

We need notices about this problem in ladies toilets in pubs and hotels all over Australia.

We need laws that ban the sale of alcohol to pregnant women.

 

 

26) Special Needs teachers and Workplace Health and Safety Officers need more support.

These teachers seem to be particularly vulnerable to injury, false allegations and 'payback' allegations.

 

For too long the Queensland Department of Education agenda has been about controlling information about problems rather than actually fixing the problems.

"I don't think there is any doubt whistleblowers are being bullied. ...

This is a systemic problem ...

The agenda is about controlling the public relations rather than fixing the problems," says Queensland opposition education spokesman Dr Bruce Flegg.

 

Teachers bullied to hide problems in schools, Bruce Flegg, Member for Moggill, Media Release, 30 November 2009

Teachers bullied to keep quiet on problem schools, AAP, The Australian, 30 November, 2009

QLD : Teachers complain of bullying, Australian Teacher Magazine

Queensland teachers can't talk about these things openly. 

Because a Queensland teacher who tries to discuss a professional issue - such as the number of children missing from their classrooms, roaming about the school, disturbing other classes - runs the risk of being attacked and driven out of work.

I suspect this is because it is easier for the principal to attack the teacher than to deal with the problems raised by the teacher.  

Many years ago I read "a teacher's story" on Brian Martin's website : http://www.bmartin.cc/dissent/documents/teacher.html .

This teacher's story really shocked me because it was so similar to my own, but it had happened five years before my own story had begun!

This teacher had tried to discuss a professional issue.

A "Diminished Workplace Performance" attack had been launched on her - and she had been driven out of work!

What had been done to me was being done to other Queensland teachers!

Attacking teachers with the DWP (now called MUP), abusing the process to drive good teachers into ill health and out of work, was "a departmental process" - a lazy Queensland public service way of avoiding dealing with the problems in Queensland schools.

 

Read more about what happens to women who whistleblow - or even just try to deal with problems in their workplace : http://www.whistleblowingwomen.com/whatwehavelearned.htm

Listen to Cynthia Kardell talk about what happens to public servants who try to disclose corruption :  http://www.frequency.com/video/cynthia-kardell/4567642 

Cynthia describes a process of slow, insidious torment that is designed to shut you up and even to drive you mad.

 

Read this Advice for Whistleblowers.

Talking openly about the problems in Queensland schools is against the Queensland teachers' Code of Conduct.

But you can find out what Queensland teachers really think about their working conditions, because - The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles

Robina Cosser

The Teachers Are Blowing Their Whistles is edited by Robina Cosser, M.Ed (SYD) : [email protected]

Robina worked in England, New South Wales and Queensland as an art, primary, Special Needs, English as a Second Language, Indonesian Language teacher, Advisory Teacher and as the Cairns-Based Regional Teacher-Linguist (working with Indigenous languages).

Robina is now Schools Contact Person and Past Vice-President (2010-2016) of  Whistleblowers Australia.

Robina also edits Whistleblowing Women


Robina's publications and media -

In December 2017 Robina began a petition to Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Labor Premier of Queensland, calling for safe housing for all teachers working in remote areas of Queensland.


Robina's talk to the 2016 Whistleblowers' Australia conference (scroll down to page 14 of the January 2017 edition of The Whistle, the newsletter of Whistleblowers Australia)


Robina's submission to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee's review of the Queensland Crime and Corruption Amendment Bill 2015 is submission number 6 on this linked page. (Click on View Submissions)


Robina Cosser , Fighting the good fight , An ABC OPEN short story, 25 February 2015


Several members of this website - and Robina herself - were quoted in Trent Dalton's Weekend Australian cover story "Class warfare" (July 19-20 2014) :

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/life-on-the-front-line-of-teaching/story-e6frg8h6-1226989800189


Robina's submission to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee's review of the Crime and Misconduct and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 can not be published.

The submission can only be read by searching for 'Robina Cosser' at the TOP RIGHT HAND CORNER of this Queensland Parliament House search page  (ignore the PAGE NOT FOUND) : http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/global/search/


Robina was interviewed on Mornings With Steve Austin : Unspoken truths of the teaching profession, Steve Austin, Rebecca Armstrong, 612 ABC Brisbane, 29 November 2013


Robina Cosser, The Waste in Our Schools, On Line Opinion, 27 November 2013


Robina Cosser, So you're thinking of Blowing the Whistle?,  p10-11, The Whistle No 75, July 2013


Robina Cosser ,  "Why Cameron Dick's workplace bullying reference group will fail Queensland teachers - again"  The Sunshine Coast Daily, 1 August 2011, and the Bullied Academics website, 18 August 2011


Robina Cosser, 'Blowing the whistle into an empty room' , On Line Opinion, 14 December 2010, and The Whistle No 65, January 2011


Robina appeared in the Today Tonight program Teachers Marching Out Friday 26 February 2010.


Robina Cosser ,  Dealing With a "Reformed Policy" , p.6-7,  The Whistle, January 2010 .


Robina Cosser, Submission to Anna Bligh's Green Paper on Integrity in Queensland , The Premier's Department website , 4 September 2009, and the Press Releases page of this website.


In August 2012, The Teachers Are Blowing their Whistles was selected by the State Library of Queensland for inclusion in the PANDORA Archive, Australia's archive of 'websites of lasting significance'.

Inclusion in the PANDORA Archive will enable public access to this website in perpetuity.

Our stories will live on.

Our children will know the true history of Queensland.

  • We need more whistleblowers in Queensland schools.

    The dysfunction and b-st-rdisation in Queensland schools rarely becomes public.

    Queensland schools are better than the Queensland Police at 'covering up'.

    We need more whistleblowers in Queensland schools.

    Davo of Cairns, Reader's comment 22 of 68, Staffroom turns into war zone as Indooroopilly State High School calls in mediators, Tanya Chilcott, The Courier-Mail : 26 November 2010.

    Problems?

    Most of the material on this website is already in the public domain (it has been published before).


    The information on this website may support other teachers who are dealing with workplace problems.


    But if you would like your name removed from the website, or if you feel that your own point of view has not been properly represented, please contact


     [email protected]


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