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Principals lose hiring freedom in WA Independent Public Schools

Since 2010, IPS principals have had complete autonomy over staff selection, but under a change of direction ordered by Education Minister Sue Ellery, they will have to consider education department "redeployees" before hiring any teachers, support staff and school administrators. If IPS principals choose not to hire from the department's pool of available staff, they will have to provide a written explanation justifying their decision.

Independent Public Schools were introduced by the Barnett government in 2010, as a way of giving schools greater autonomy over staffing and allocation of resources. At the start, there were 34 independent public schools and this has increased to to 524 this year, attended by more than 83 per cent of all public students.

And, though freedom to choose their own staff and how to allocate resources has been popular, a 2016 parliamentary inquiry found the system exacerbated inequality in public education and reinforced a two-tiered system.

The IPS uptake has meant the responsibility of hiring Dept of Education 'redeployees' – teachers, administrators and support staff  available for work – has fallen on non-IPS schools almost exclusively.

Ms Ellery said the new policy had been introduced to try to reduce inequity between IPS and non IPS schools.

"The new [policy] change is that they are required to demonstrate they have considered a suitable match, if one is suggested to them, from the re-deployment pool," she said.

"But the decision as to who they hire, and the reasons for hiring them, remains with the school principal.

"What we've done is ask them to consider taking staff from the redeployment pool, in an effort to address what is a two-tiered system.

"The small number of non-IPS schools, who are often not IPS, because of the particular difficult circumstances of the community they serve, it is important they also get access to the very best teachers."

In an ABC News interview, State School Teacher's Union of WA President Pat Byrne said the policy change was an improvement but did not go far enough.

Interviewed by the ABC, she said: "Our position is there should be one system of staff placement across the state.

"It's completely unreasonable to say this group of schools can cop people who are perceived to be dud teachers and this group can't, that is simply unfair."

WA Primary Principals' Association President Ian Anderson predicted the change was the "beginning of the end" of the IPS. He said over the years, IP schools had developed a sense of entitlement to the best teachers and that was not healthy or fair in a government system.

"We can't continue with the process as it's going with a large number of IPS and a two-tiered system," she said.

"Either every school is an independent public school or there is a name change.

"Let's recognise that we need one system that goes across all government schools.

"Let's take the best elements of what IPS has been able to bring about and move into whatever the new system is going to be, which is across all government schools and provides equity and opportunity for all kids."

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