Who's in charge of schools in the Hills?

Should your child’s principal have complete control over their school’s budget, including the hiring and firing of staff?

The concern with such a system, says Hills Teachers Federation representative Brenton Robins, is that principals are being set up to fail.

This will be discussed at a community forum organised by the federation in Baulkham Hills next week.

Mr Brenton's school, Castle Hill High, was part of the Department of Education and Communities' 47 School Trial, under which principals were given such autonomy.

"Under the trials scheme schools received extra funding and that extra funding allowed us to achieve some reasonable outcomes with our students at Castle Hill," Mr Robins said.

"What concerns me . . . is that when this Local Schools, Local Decisions is rolled out among all schools in NSW, that extra funding will no longer be available and the result will be larger class sizes and less permanent positions for teachers."

His concerns over the department's intention to use this structure to turn teaching into a casual rather than permanent job are not unfounded.

In its own evaluation of the 47 School Trial, the department revealed that 171 permanent teacher positions were filled by casuals — an average of 3.6 per school.

If multiplied across the system this could result in the loss of 8000 permanent teaching positions, the Teachers Federation stated on its website.

Theo Bougatsas, the Teachers Federation organiser for the region, said the 47 School Trial had been rolled over into the Empowering Local Schools Program and had been expanded to include 228 schools.

He said Castle Hill Public was initially in the new trial but teachers voted to pull out.

"Under this [scheme], all the executive positions are up for grabs, so you might end up with no heads [of departments] but teachers filling their roles," Hills Teachers Association president Martin Neville said.

"In the past, curriculum choice was based on student need and numbers, not the availability of staff and funding," he said.

"The only thing that binds the government legally to the current student-staff ratios is the staffing agreement. It expires at the end of the term and then it becomes 'policy', which can be changed at the whim of the government."

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