Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Striking for fairness

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Members of the NSW Teachers Federation who work at the schools staged a walk out in protest of poor working conditions and state-government inaction.

During the walk-out, which did not impact the learning or supervisio­n of students, teachers drafted a letter to NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell.

In the letter, they asked the minister to: ● Award teachers a 10 to 15 per cent pay rise.

● Award teachers an additional two hours relief from face-to-face (RFF) teaching.

● Increase staffing entitlemen­ts to facilitate inbuilt relief.

● Increase incentive transfer points (which incentivis­e teachers working in rural and regional areas) from four to six points per year.

Grattan Institute research indicated that while starting salaries for high school teachers are initially competitiv­e compared to other industries, wage growth stagnates shortly thereafter.

Its research indicated that secondary teachers aged 24 to 34 are well within the upper half of Organisati­on for Economic Cooperatio­n and Developmen­t rankings, while secondary teachers aged 45 to 54 are in the lower half with ‘‘pay rises ceasing entirely after just nine years’’.

It suggests this ‘policy’ effectivel­y disincenti­vises career growth, which has resulted in a deficit of educators who specialise in subjects such as health, science and humanities.

NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Henry Rajendra said instead of addressing the deficits, the NSW Government has repackaged programs for schools which suggest increased support, but realistica­lly mean the opposite.

‘‘The state government has persistent­ly pushed responsibi­lity away,’’ Mr Rajendra said.

‘‘In 2012, the New South Wales Coalition government introduced the ‘Local Schools Local Decisions’ reform, which increased individual schools’ share in the education budget from 10 per cent to 70 per cent.

‘‘The reform reasoned that individual schools knew the needs of its students better than the government, so the Coalition reassigned much of the education department’s budget and decision-making responsibi­lities to local schools.

‘‘It was nothing but a cost-shifting exercise that abdicated the responsibi­lities of state government.

‘‘We need central support.

‘‘I’ve heard from school principals who were crying out for assistance, and were told by state reps ‘the answer is in your bank accounts’.’’

Mr Rajendra said while the program provided additional funding and responsibi­lities, it did little to alleviate pressures on teaching staff, whose pay, benefits and entitlemen­ts are still dictated by state government guidelines.

He said while schools may be able to afford more staff, they have no influence over which, or how many teachers they can attract.

‘‘Schools might have the budget to recruit part-time staff, but they can’t do anything about the chronic shortage of part-time teachers,’’ he said.

‘‘The answer isn’t more casual more permanent staff.’’

Deniliquin High School has been trying to recruit staff in to five position since the start of this year, which Mr Rajendra highlights something must change.

‘‘Staff at Deniliquin High are fed up with the additional workload in the form of extra teaching periods which they are assigned to teach when no casual teachers are available,’’ he said.

NSW Member for Murray Helen Dalton, who herself is a former teacher, said the NSW Government had the opportunit­y to address many of the issues raised by each of the protesting schools when the independen­t Gallop Inquiry put forward several recommenda­tions this year.

Commission­ed by the NSW Teachers Federation, it sought to investigat­e the work of teachers and principals and how it has changed since 2004.

Among its findings, the report suggested ‘‘there have been profound changes in the work and workload of teachers’’ resulting in the ‘‘intensific­ation of teachers’ work’’ and that ‘‘salaries have declined compared to other profession­s and urgent action is required’’.

It further found that ‘‘the government’s plan to cap wage increases at 1.5 per cent will make it impossible to fix teacher shortages and recruit the additional teachers required’’.

‘‘The minister (Sarah Mitchell) knows the stories. She’s toured the regions and she’s seen the tears — I know because I was there — and yet she has done nothing to address these issues,’’ Mrs Dalton said.

‘‘The Gallop Inquiry recommenda­tions, released February of this year, have yet to be acknowledg­ed or implemente­d by the state government.

‘‘I feel like getting on a rooftop and shouting ‘regional people matter, we pay our taxes, we contribute more than enough to GDP and yet we have to fight for resources that we used to have’.’’

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