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Broadcast reveals inquiry is tuned in to profession’s priority issues
There’s been too little concern for what the avalanche of policy and program changes means for teachers, “Valuing the teaching profession — an independent inquiry” head Geoff Gallop said today (23 October).
Members tuning into a special Federation broadcast got an early glimpse into the inquiry panellists’ observations and thoughts so far. They are examining the nature and value of teachers’ and principals’ work and how they can be better supported in their roles.
Former Justice of the NSW Industrial Court and Deputy President of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, the Hon Dr Tricia Kavanagh, said that as an ex-teacher she was “a bit over-whelmed” by what she’s heard regarding the great skill modern teaching requires and the huge load of extra-curricular work that teachers have to do.
Fellow panellist, former head of the NSW Institute of Teachers, Patrick Lee, said he’d been struck the rising expectations upon teachers and principals, the increasing complexity of student populations and the circumstances of schools.
The inquiry has received more than 1000 submissions from teachers, principals, schools, education experts and academics. Expert witnesses gave evidence in an initial round of hearings in term 3.Twenty six members representing all classifications from a wide variety of school settings across the state will begin giving evidence on Monday 26 October. Their evidence would form a very important part of the inquiry’s assessment, Dr Gallop said.
Upcoming witnesses deliver powerful statements
The broadcast introduced some of the Federation members who will appear before the inquiry this term. Their comments articulate the realities of working in the NSW public school system.
“The salaries are just not commensurate with the job and not even close to being commensurate with the job,” said principal Cheryl McBride. “I lament when I see that our salaries, compared to people in other disciplines who have nowhere near the level of demand, are earning a far greater salary,” she also said.
School counsellor Michael Sciffer said the expectations for teachers to cater and adjust for reading disabilities, emotional disorders, behaviour disorders, autism and mild intellectual disabilities are much greater than when he started teaching.
“You would create a lesson around what the syllabus required and you aimed I guess for the middle of the ability range in your classroom and you might you might have had a couple of activities for the kids who were ahead of that. And then you might spend your time in the classroom supporting those students who were who were below that level,” Michael said.
Country principal Neal Reed said there is a very strong understanding of the need for teachers to differentiate the teaching and learning that occurs in the classroom but schools in rural areas find it hard to attract temporary or casual staff who can release teachers from face-to-face teaching so they can build their skillset to meet the needs of those students.
“The staff in rural schools require a very broad range of skills to meet the increasing complexities of student mental health, of other diagnosed disabilities, and to do that within a context of limited support services in in those communities as well...that's left for schools to manage. Out west, for example, there aren't enough counsellors to support the needs of all of those students.
Improvements in working conditions and salaries overdue
There’s never been another period in our history where the change to the profession has been as significant as it has been in the past 17 years, Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos told broadcast host Tracey Spicer. “There’s been no changes at all with respect to the time that teachers and principals get, the support they need in order to perform their tasks,” he said. “In fact, the support has been stripped away in the last 10 years.”
“What’s clear is teachers and principals need more time and support to do their job and what is also clear is that the salaries of teachers and principals have to increase dramatically so they are competitive with other like-professions, in order that enough teachers are attracted and retained in the numbers required [for the expected explosion in enrolments].”
Federation trusts the inquiry’s report, due in term 1, 2021, will be as significant as the report of the Inquiry into the Provision of Public Education, the Vinson Report, which influenced education policy for more than a decade.
If you missed the broadcast, you can watch it below. For more information on the Inquiry, click here.
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