About 50 people, mostly teachers from Tamworth and surrounds, attended last night’s education forum to discuss the crisis in education.
Labor’s Regional And Rural Education Forum saw local teachers relate their experiences as educators and ask questions of both the Shadow Minister for Education Prue Car and local candidates. The event was organised by Tamworth Labor candidate Kate McGrath, who was joined by Northern Tablelands candidate Yvonne Langenberg, and Barwon candidate and Narrabri teacher Josh Roberts-Garney. Greens candidate Ryan Brooke and independent Mark Rodda also attended, with Rodda sitting on the alongside the Labor and Union representatives. Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey, and Mark Northam of the Independent Education Union were also on the panel.
The shadow minister dominated proceedings. Car promised “to fund schools properly, once and for all” if elected, reducing the workload that teachers faced, and converting 10,000 teachers across the state on temporary contracts to full-time.
Eliminating the pay cap on teachers’ salaries was also touted to make teaching competitive with other industries, as well as a “line by line audit” of day-to-day requirements teachers are expected to undertake as a means of finding where workload could be cut.
While such proposals were offered as statewide solutions that would play just as well in Burren Junction as in Bondi Junction, some of the specifics of rural teaching were lost on Car, when one teacher stated that prospective Western NSW teachers needed to be “offered more than a heat week”.
“What’s a heat week?” Car responded, saying that she would need to ask former teachers what has “worked in the past” in rural NSW.
Attacks were levelled at the current government, with Car vowing to change to “change the tone” around how teachers were spoken about by ministers if elected. Mark Morey stated that essential services, like teaching, deserve better, and that “the government is collapsing rural communities”.
“It must be hard to trust a Minister who has such disdain for your profession,” Kate McGrath said, referring to Sarah Mitchell.
Independent Mark Rodda, “a product of TAFE”, criticised the LNP’s “emasculation” of TAFE, saying that the Tamworth TAFE campus is a “ghost town – you can almost see the tumbleweeds”.
Car reiterated Labor’s promise to give 70% of all vocational funding to TAFE.
Commenting to The New England Times at the end of the event, Car said: “A future Labor government, if elected, would work to resolve the issues that are contributing to the teacher shortage, uncompetitive pay, crippling workloads and permanency.”
“The Liberal National Government has made this crisis worse and worse, and only a Labor government would give the state of New South Wales a fresh start to fix the teacher shortage.”
Both Tamworth Nationals candidate Kevin Anderson and Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell were invited but did not attend the event.