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30 October, 2021

Teachers walk out

Gilgandra High School teachers have staged a 10-minute walk out last week, following changes to the NSW Department of education’s incentive scheme.

By Emily Middleton

NSW Teachers Federation members staged a 10-minute stop-work action at Gilgandra High School last week. Photo supplied.

The alterations, which took affect on September 27, provide incentives for teachers to relocate to regional and rural areas. Schools are rated according to various factors using a points-based system. Those rated four points or higher are recognised as being rural or remote, which provides teachers with access to a range of relocation incentives.

For example, Warren Central School and Trangie Central School are both four-point incentive schools. Coonamble High School and Gulargambone Central School are six-point incentive schools.

Gilgandra, however, is rated two points, which places it on par with some metropolitan schools.

Local teachers met on October 7, where they called on the NSW Department of Education clarify whether Gilgandra High School will be included in the new incentives.

They also asked the department to outline its plans for adequately staffing schools such as Gilgandra High School, which has struggled to attract teachers for some subjects in recent years.

“It’s the students that are being let down,” said Gilgandra High School Teachers Federation representative, Bree Patton.

“It’s the students that are missing out, it’s the students that are being taught by teachers who are out of their area, they’re the ones having the uncovered classes.”

The department failed to formally respond, which resulted last week’s walkout.

“Teachers voted [on Thursday, October 14] and said they would stop work out of sheer frustration at the lack of attention to our concerns, and we stopped work for 10 minutes between 8:47 and 8:57,” said Miss Patton.

“There was minimal disruption to the school day, the students were still supervised, as we just stopped work for 10 minutes. In the coming weeks we’ll hopefully get a positive response from the department with a real plan on how they are going to address the staffing shortages.”

The incentive program changes include increasing the value of targeted recruitment bonuses from $10,000 to $20,000. It also includes an increase to the number of Teach Rural Scholarships and expanding eligibility so temporary teachers can also receive further incentives.

“We are already investing record amounts in school infrastructure and technology in regional parts of the state, so it’s time our incentives program is upgraded to attract top-quality teachers to the bush,” said deputy premier at the time, John Barilaro.

NSW Teachers Federation organiser, Tim Danaher, has said that teachers have been waiting 10 years for a 10-year workforce plan from the government.

“They have produced nothing that reflects the scale of the crisis we are facing, or the solutions required. The government’s own internal documents show that they have been fully aware of the worsening staffing crisis, and they have betrayed teachers, parents, principals, and students by repeatedly denying the seriousness of the problems instead of addressing them,” said Mr Danaher.

“Their own advice is clear that the decline in the salaries of teachers compared to other professions is limiting the attractiveness of the profession.”

Mr Danaher says that if shortages are going to be fixed, teaching needs to be made attractive once again.

“We have to fix the shortages and once again make teaching an attractive choice for high achieving young people, and we can’t do that with uncompetitive wages and unsustainable workloads.

“The government must provide a workforce plan that must include action on two of the biggest factors leading to teacher shortages: uncompetitive wages and unsustainable workloads,” said Mr Danaher.

“To get staff out here, we need things like enhanced incentives, and we need the department to come out with a plan to help it, because the issue isn’t going away.

“It’s only getting worse and it is widespread,” said Miss Patton.

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