Another storm brewing in New South Wales
There were no familiar cyber creature comforts such as an idyllic backdrop or a home office setting in sight, when New South Wales Teachers’ Federation president, Angelo Gavrielatos, zoomed in to PPTA’s recent I&O conference from a park bench near a regional airport on a rainy Saturday morning.
The steady rain provided the perfect ambience for Angelo’s eloquent description of the “perfect storm” that teachers and their communities are facing in New South Wales.
Recipe for a perfect storm
“We have all the ingredients of a perfect storm: a dramatic decline in the number of people wanting to enter Initial Teacher Education and become teachers; on top of that we’ve got only 50% completion rates at universities, resulting in only 3000 people graduating as teachers every year at the moment and that is not enough to cover natural attrition from retirement and resignations; we’re looking at significant increases in enrolments over the next 20 years, 200,000 more kids will require an extra 11,000 teachers; and there will be an increase in resignation and retirement rates from an ageing profession.
“In New South Wales, salary increases of two percent have seen our profession slip further back against other degreed professions and it acts as a disincentive to recruit teachers.
“There are more than 2000 teacher vacancies across New South Wales and this is affecting the right of every student to have an experienced and qualified teacher in front of them. We have a serious teacher shortage and it is going to get worse.”
More than thanks needed
An independent Commission of Inquiry established by the Teachers’ Federation had also found that there needed to be a significant reset in teachers’ salaries and conditions. “The Commission concluded that we needed a 10-15 percent salary increase over two years and a reduction in face to face teaching time of two hours per week per teacher.”
Angelo said as soon as the Commission released its findings last year, New South Wales teachers embarked on a campaign, with the theme ‘More Than Thanks’. “Quite frankly we’re tired of the platitudes from policy makers without tangible attempts to address the relentless demands of our work. The More Than Thanks campaign seeks a tangible reset. The bottom line is that we need an urgent policy reset not only to look after the profession as a whole today but also to look after the profession tomorrow.
“Our claim is simple and entirely formed by the Commission of Inquiry’s findings. Our claim is for all teachers.
Build on parents’ new found respect
“Teachers have gone over and above the call of duty trying to maintain a semblance of continuity and normality during lockdown after lockdown; dual mode (hybrid) teaching is very hard to do. Teachers are also Mums and Dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who are working to understand and manage the complexities of this pandemic on their lives. We want more than thanks.”
Meanwhile both New South Wales state and the Australian federal governments continue to refuse to accept there is a perfect storm building. PPTA Te Wehengarua members will watch with interest.
Mr Gavrielatos’ advice for PPTA as it prepares to campaign for a new collective agreement?
“You need to work with your community and parents, take advantage of the new found respect that parents have for teachers because of the lockdowns. Take time to build union strength - once you’ve tasted solidarity, there is no going back to individualism.”