Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

The NSW Teachers Federation is putting pressure on the federal government to fully fund NSW schools, with Federation president Henry Rajendra speaking outside Tamworth Public School this morning about how the shortfall is affecting New England schools. 

The event is part of a wider campaign aimed at forcing the Albanese government to make up for the schools funding shortfall.

NSW public schools are currently only receiving 89% of needed funding according to the Federation, with 144 unfilled vacancies in the Rural North area, which includes New England, affecting 54% of our local schools. 

“We’re short this year alone at $1.9 billion, which, had we had that money that would enable the system to employ well over 12,000 extra teachers,” Rajendra said.

“We’ve got private schools that are over funded in this country, by the federal government and the state government, while New South Wales public schools remain underfunded, we were promised.”

“In fact, it was in writing between the then Prime Minister and the premier of New South Wales in 2013, that we would be on the trajectory to 100% of the minimum level of funding required to meet the needs of all students by 2019. It’s now 2024.”

“We have been hitting up every prime minister since 2013.”

“And we’re still waiting.”

Lack of funding forces local teachers to work harder, longer hours

For Tamworth Public School teacher Heather Richards, more funding would result in better outcomes for students.

“We absolutely need more teachers in our schools,” Richards said. 

“The ones that are here are just working so hard. And we need smaller class sizes to get around all of those special needs that we have in our classrooms.”

“We need to cater for everybody.”

Richards said that the lack of funding meant teachers like herself worked harder and harder.

“I know for myself, I’m here very late of an afternoon and early in the morning just to try and do everything that we need to do to keep on top of all the programs and to cater for all of our students.”

But despite the challenges, Richards says she still loves turning up every day.

“We just love the kids and we actually love our job. It’s just that our job is very difficult to do some days.”

Prime Minister’s responsibility

The Federation has deliberately targeted the Federal government, with Rajendra saying that they’re backing the NSW State government which is already pursuing Canberra for more funding. 

“This is the responsibility of the Prime Minister,” Rajendra said. 

“We’re calling on him. We’re pleading with him: stand up for rural communities.” 

“We know that he has deeper pockets compared to the State government.”

Rajendra said the Federation appreciates the strong words and support for public education that Albanese has had.

“We just need them now to match those words with funding.”

“I’ve had good constructive discussions with (Education Minister) Jason Clare,” Rajendra said, “We need them to step up.”

Rajendra said that he does not want it to become an election issue – he wants it settled now.  

“Education, particularly public education, should not be political fodder.”

Minister: this will take time to fix

In a statement to The New England Times, Minister for Education Jason Clare said “I’m working with my state and territory colleagues to get all public schools to their full and fair funding level and to tie that funding to the reforms that will help children catch up, keep up and finish school.”

“That’s what the next National School Reform Agreement we have to strike this year is all about.”

“We have a teacher shortage crisis in this country, ten years in the making and it will take time to fix.

“Being a teacher is the most important job in the world and we don’t have enough of them.

Clare mentioned that the Government had launched new teaching scholarships to encourage more to become teachers, as well as improvements to teacher training and the “Be That Teacher” campaign to highlight the value of teachers in Australian society.

“That’s what the next National School Reform Agreement we have to strike this year is all about.”

“We have a teacher shortage crisis in this country, ten years in the making and it will take time to fix.”

Top image: NSW Teachers Federation President Henry Rajendra at Tamworth Public School (Tom Plevey)

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