Govt manipulating statistics, teachers say

CLAIMS by the New South Wales State Government and the Department of Education and Training that controversial new staffing arrangements for public schools are being used successfully across the State have been met with anger by local teachers.

Acting Minister for Education and Training John Hatzistergos released a statement yesterday claiming that new data released by the Department of Education and Training shows the staffing arrangements are proving successful.

“In term two of this year, of 149 classroom teaching vacancies where school communities were given a say in how they wanted to select their teachers, 74 chose to use open advertisements and 75 opted for the existing statewide staffing system lists,” he said.

“A 50-50 split shows the modest changes to staffing arrangements are working. It also proves the transfer system has not been dismantled and remains a viable option in staffing schools.”

But Richard Braithwaite, NSW Teachers Federation representative for Orara High School, said Mr Hatzistergos' comments were nothing but a manipulation of statistics.

“This exactly something you would expect of the Government,” he said.

“What he doesn't say is that by 2010, there will be no statewide transfer systems at all. And as for the transfer system, as at the end of term one this year, no one has been allowed to apply.

“Its statistics - you can change them any way you like. If everything was rosy, do you think we would be giving up pay to say that this system isn't what we want? The reality is it's not acceptable.”

Teachers along the Coffs Coast will strike from 9am to 11am today to attend meetings linked by a Sky Channel hook-up.

They are expected to vote for a protracted campaign of rolling stoppages.

Most schools still open: Department

Almost 90 per cent of NSW public schools will be operating with at least minimal supervision , the Education Department says.

Education Department director-general Michael Coutts-Trotter said 88 per cent of schools would remain open during the strike period.

About 250 schools will have no supervision for students, he said.

"Parents have been advised of alternative arrangements by school newsletter or a note home and some schools have placed advice on their websites," he said in a statement.

Mr Coutts-Trotter said the action was unnecessary because discussions between the union and the department were due to commence later this month.

"NSW public school teachers are among the highest paid in the country, with salaries ranging from $50,000 for new teachers to $75,000 for experienced educators.

"The wages of our most experienced classroom teachers have increased by 75 per cent since 1995."

Teachers Federation president Maree O'Halloran said the backlash from industrial action will be worthwhile if it secures higher pay, retention of the transfer system and proper funding of public schools.

"When you take industrial action you could get the community offside," she told the Nine Network.

"But when you're dealing with the type of government we've got, it seems that nothing other than a crisis makes them listen.

"For these two hours they (the students) won't have lessons.

"But if the state government doesn't start funding schools and TAFE colleges properly, doesn't start paying teachers properly and doesn't put the transfer system back in place there will be lots of schools who don't have enough teachers."

Ms O'Halloran would not comment on the possibility of future industrial action, saying the federation had successfully negotiated with the department in the past.

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