Canterbury-Bankstown public school teachers will demonstrate outside Premier Morris Iemma's Lakemba office on April 10 to express their outrage at the state Labor government's refusal to re-negotiate a state-wide schools staffing agreement.
According to Leeanda Smith, the NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) Canterbury-Bankstown organiser, "The renewal of a state-wide schools staffing agreement will reassure parents and school communities that all schools will be staffed by qualified teachers who deliver curriculum continuity, stability and equity for all students, irrespective of geographic location or the socioeconomic status of the community".
Abolishing the current staffing model will jeopardise curriculum guarantees for students and the transfer rights of teachers, and set the stage for a more deregulated staffing system. When schools in difficult-to-staff rural and remote areas subsequently find that they cannot attract and retain qualified teachers, the state government is likely to blame principals.
The impact on students and school communities will be severe. In recognition of this impending disaster, teachers at many schools have taken industrial action, including at Karabar High, Tumut High, Braidwood Central School, Stewart House School and Bradfordville Public School. Support for teachers has come from school communities, parent and citizen organisations and advocates for public education.
Teachers are irate that NSW education minister John Della Bosca and the education department's director-general, Michael Coutts-Trotter, have put forward misleading information extolling the virtues of staffing methods that have failed in Western Australia and Victoria.
According to Nola Edsall, president of the Canterbury-Bankstown Teachers Association, "It is imperative that the voices of teachers in NSW public schools are heard. We are proud of our profession and take exception with the state government's contemptuous attitude. We have had a staffing agreement in place since 1993."
"Why now is the government so keen to cast [the staffing agreement] aside and introduce changes that will destabilise schools across the state?", Edsall asked.
Teachers are holding a state-wide stoppage on April 8. Participants will hear a report from the NSWTF and then vote on further industrial action.
[Noreen Navin is a NSWTF state councillor and vice-president of the Canterbury-Bankstown Teachers Association.]