On November 3, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC), while directing the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) to lift its bans on public school teachers using A-E gradings in end-of-year school reports, refused to grant an order sought by the state Department of Education and Training that subjected the union to fines if it failed to lift the bans.
Of around 2200 public schools across NSW, at least 1300 have voted against using the retrograde and inaccurate reporting system. Some 8000 teachers signed onto a public statement opposing the grading system that was published in the November 8 Sydney Morning Herald.
Deputy IRC president Rod Harrison ruled that both parties resolve the issue in the first half of 2007. He acknowledged that evidence brought by the union "establishes a serious concern as to whether the A-E reporting system can be effectively implemented in all schools in 2006". Harrison also ruled that the state Labor government's attempt to tie funding to the A-E reporting system was "difficult to accept".
The NSWTF will begin freedom of information applications to access Board of Studies advice to state education minister Carmel Tebutt that the union believes may have been inconsistent with BOS policy, or outside its statutory authority. The investigation will also help prepare for potential action against the BOS in the NSW Supreme Court.
The union argues that mandatory imposition of certain reporting practices is a form of coercive federalism whereby funding for schools is conditional on them agreeing to the federal government's education policy. The Howard government is seeking to make funding to state schools conditional on the use of the grading system.