“A Lack of Teachers”: That’s Why NSW Educators Are Striking on Wednesday

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Teachers strike

A “lack of teachers” is the reason why NSW “teachers and principals have made the difficult decision to go on strike” this Wednesday, the NSW Teachers Federation asserts in a 27 April statement that it adds the NSW Department of Education would rather the public doesn’t read.

“Uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads” are the key issues as to why children’s education at both public and private schools is currently being diminished by the teacher shortage.

Indeed, the statement underscores that COVID-19 isn’t the reason for staff shortages, it’s simply exacerbated the pre-existing problem.

In February, there were 2,383 permanent vacancies across 1,251 schools, which constitutes more than half state institutions. It seems a profession expecting staff to work 60 hours on average, while wages are decreasing in real terms, isn’t attracting new blood, but is rather seeing old-timers leave.

The Perrottet government is offering the profession a 2.04 percent pay increase, which the Federation says won’t keep pace with rising costs, especially with inflation now running at 5.1 percent.

The teachers’ representative body is calling for an annual increase of between 5 and 7.5 percent.

A program of deliberate neglect

A recent poll of around 10,000 teachers statewide found that 70 percent were considering quitting the profession due to their workload, while 90 percent believe the wages they make fail to reflect their “expertise and responsibilities”.

Teachers are calling for an additional two hours of preparation time every week, as the current two hours allotted to primary school teachers hasn’t changed since the 1980s, while the allocations for secondary school teachers remain at 1950s levels.

The Teachers Federation commissioned a report by education economist Adam Rorris, which forecasts that due to rising student numbers there will be a need for an additional 20 percent more teachers – or 11,000 extra educators – in a decades time.

Of course, this ultimately leads to a failure to provide today’s children with a basic education, which isn’t the blame of teachers who’ve dedicated their lives to enhancing it, but is rather on the state Liberal Nationals government, which at the federal level has been attacking tertiary education.

Teachers strike

Kicking against the…

On top of the 4 May walk out, the NSW Teachers Federation has placed an immediate ban on the implementation of all new government policies and initiatives that were supposed to commence this term, whilst further authorising teacher walkouts when any NSW state MPs are on school grounds.

Ahead of a scheduled visit to Marsden High School by NSW premier Dominic Perrottet last week, saw about 40 teachers walk off the site, as they were holding protests signs stating “Teachers deserve more than thanks”.

Perrottet told the press that his government was working through the pay issues and implied that the “one-in-a-hundred-year pandemic” was a major reason for it, despite the Federation having made more than clear this was already on the table before the outbreak of COVID-19.

The Federation has warned parents that they’ll have to make alternative plans on Wednesday, and hopefully, this inconvenience will spark contemplation as to why the state government would deprioritise their kids’ futures, whilst taking hefty taxes out of their pay packets every week.

Images from the NSW Teachers Federation

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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