NSW teacher shortage on the cards

SALARIES make the headlines but they are not the most important element of the current industrial action by NSW teachers.

“This campaign is also about staffing and standards but these things are being ignored,” according to Bellingen High teacher Peter Vernon.

Mr Vernon is also president of the Bellinger River Teachers Association. He says a severe teacher shortage is looming but the NSW Department of Education and Training, continues to do nothing about the problem.

“By 2012 16,000 teachers will be eligible to retire ... the shortage is worldwide so bringing in overseas-trained teachers, as they did to solve a similar problem in the 1960s, will not work,” he said.

“Meanwhile standards for TAFE teachers in particular are being cut savagely - for example, now degrees are no longer necessary to teach at TAFE. We are very worried these losses will also be transferred to the public school system.”

Job appointment by merit is another issue.

“The current point system, where teachers accrue points and are then appointed to a position accordingly, has been in place for 15 years. It helps to attract teachers to the less favourable parts of the State. Under the new system teachers who go to remote areas or work in difficult schools would be stuck there ... so why would you go in the first place?

“The staffing agreement between the government and the NSW Teachers Federation ended last year - we have been asking all year for negotiations - we've had no response.”

Himself a father, Mr Vernon said his greatest fear was for the future of equitable education State-wide.

“Other countries have gone down this path and ended up with extremely divided systems, public versus private - we are heading the same way.

“And ultimately it's the socio-economically disadvantaged kids who will suffer the most.”

He said salary negotiation was important because that was the key to enhancing the profession.

“It's the only way to get new people entering the profession.

“This campaign is about the future of education for our kids - we can't afford to do nothing.”

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