Education at risk

Southern Riverina teachers striking earlier this year.

Quality education for young people is at risk.

And it is all because of the NSW Government’s inability to deliver meaningful change for teachers, local educators say.

That is why Southern Riverina teachers will take part in a state-wide 24 hour strike tomorrow - the second in as many months.

And in what he said was proof of a “sad state of affairs”, Finley NSW Teachers Federation branch secretary Matt Whitty said public school teachers will not be striking alone.

“This is the first time in more than 25 years that the Teachers Federation and the Independent Education Union will strike in unison,” he said.

“It is sad that it has actually come to this.

“We (the Teachers Federation) invited the government to speak to us before it delivered the budget, but the government has not negotiated on anything.

“We have workload issues, a shortage of teachers and now the government has gagged teachers from talking to the media about the shortage.

“The government is not listening, and it’s the students who will pay the price.”

Mr Whitty said the main consequence of the government’s continued refusal to “come to the table” is that “kids are not being taught”.

Mr Whitty said if working conditions and wages are not addressed meaningfully, the teacher shortage will never ease.

“We have never, until this year, had to merge classes and put them in the quad with one teacher,” Mr Whitty said, specifically citing experiences at Finley High School.

“And at the end of last year, we had all four Year 12 classes in the library at one time.

“Each class was a different subject, but they only had access to one teacher because we just don’t have enough of them

“This is all because the government will not invest in any real strategies.

“And we have been warning them this was coming for at least 10 years, maybe more.”

Mr Whitty said some schools in Sydney, and some schools interstate, are giving entire year levels days off school because of a lack of teachers.

He said teachers can only “have their fingers crossed” that it “does not come to that” in the local area.

The Teachers Federation is asking the NSW Government for a pay increase of at least five per cent, and improved working conditions which include at least two additional hours of relief from face-to-face teaching.

It believes granting these demands will encourage more people to consider teaching as a profession.

The first strike earlier this year was in response to the NSW Government’s offer of a 2.5 per cent pay rise.

The government has since countered with a three per cent offer, which some district teachers say is still “insulting”.

“It’s a wage that will not meet inflation, and not meet the increasing costs,” Mr Whitty said.

“To put it simply, it is not a competitive wage.

“We’re already having issues with people not joining the profession, and this will not help.”

Local teachers will gather tomorrow at the Finley RS Club. They will tune in to the live broadcast of the Sydney rally, and Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos’ address.