On the day the NSW Education Minister was in Taree announcing funds for childcare centres, hundreds of teachers from the Manning, Great Lakes and Camden Haven attended a rally at Club Taree on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, calling for the government to invest in more teachers and better pay.
The rally at Taree is part of a state-wide strike organised by the NSW Teachers Federation.
Some schools closed for the day, and others had minimal supervision for students, with staff walking off the job. In some cases, supportive school principals joined their staff at the rally.
Teachers at the rally talked of chronic teacher shortages and crippling workloads, leading to a reduction in quality of education and the resultant effects on children.
Sharon Middleton, president of the Wingham Teachers Association, talked of the lack of teacher numbers and casuals facing all schools.
"It means that classes are split. Sometimes we have multiple classrooms outside ... being supervised by a casual.
"Children aren't learning, which means our community suffers. Children don't get that learning continuity, they don't get that drive to learn.
"I'm worried about it's going to mean for our future," Sharon said.
The government has not been forthcoming about coming to the table to negotiate and were forced to take this action today.- Paul Hunt, treasurer Wingham Teachers Association
Simon Maidment, president of the Wallis Lakes Teachers Association, said that teachers are being expected to maintain an "unmeasurable extra workload".
"The three colleges in the Great Lakes, quite regularly there is one teacher to supervise 60 students out of the classroom, because there are just no rooms and teachers to support those kids, because we can't retain casuals in the area," Simon said.
"It's regularly that the teachers are not getting their release from face to face (teaching), they need to cover sicknesses of other teachers.
"Again it comes back to getting casual and permanent teachers into the area that are needed to ensure that students are getting a proper education.
"Stress is high, across all areas, and it's just becoming increasingly worse."
James Langley, president of the Camden Haven Teachers Association, said that the pool of casual teachers available to state schools is so limited that small schools, in particular, are suffering. He gave an example of one small school that could not get a casual teacher for an entire four week block, with remaining teachers forced to work an extra 27 hours a week.
"This is destroying the education of students in small schools, that's the kids from the bush getting hurt by teacher shortages," he said.
"Where is our National Party supposedly delivering for us? It's not happening. We need the National Party, If they really want to represent these seats, to get down there and start protecting small schools."
The NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said the NSW premier has failed students, their parents and the teaching profession.
"One of the most fundamental roles of a government is to ensure there is a qualified teacher in every classroom with the time and support to meet the needs of each child.
"The simple truth is that if we don't pay teachers what they are worth and address crippling workloads we will not retain nor attract the teachers we know we need," he said.
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