School reforms ‘to happen’

Thursday, 17th May, 2012

By Erica Visser

Drastic reforms to NSW schools are going to happen whether teachers like it or not, according to local MP John Williams. 

The Member for Murray-Darling met with around 50 teachers yesterday to discuss uncertainties over the proposed ‘Local Schools, Local Decisions’ policy.

Local teachers expressed fears over the security of the incentive transfer system- which attracts a large number of staff to Far West NSW, alongside other benefits such as rent subsidies. 

The reforms would also give greater responsibility to principals to dictate where funds went, as well as the power to make permanent positions temporary.

Mr Williams’ comments come as the NSW Teachers Federation prepares for tomorrow morning’s two hour stop-work meeting, despite urges to call it off from State Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli.

Mr Williams admitted that he was “not an expert on education”, but said he “totally supported and trusted” Minister Piccoli.

“The reform is all but done,” he said.

However, Mr Williams guaranteed teachers at yesterday’s meeting that he would take up some of the concerns raised with Minister Piccoli.

“I will ask about the Teacher Transfer System and see if I can get some assurances on that, also for programs continuing- I’ll see if I can get some security in that respect,” Mr Williams said.

However, he put most of the NSW Teachers Federation’s concerns down to “alarmist and scare tactics”.

“There’s no such thing as a reform going through and no one objecting to it,” Mr Williams told the crowd.

“You can’t build a bridge without people objecting to it.

“I’m not going to stand in the way of this reform...This is not about teachers, it’s about better education.”

Mr Williams responded to many of the posed questions by claiming that they were “unknowns” and that if the reform did disadvantage the Far West region, he would “deal with the fallout” afterwards.

“The job of a member of parliament is dealing with issues as they arise,” he said.

“I can tell you if someone comes to my office with a concern, I have to deal with it.

“We’re pre-supposing that these issues will arise when some of them may not happen.”

Teachers Federation Western Region Organiser, Brett Bertalli, said that it was “crystal clear” that Mr Williams had not read the documents on the policy written by the Federation.

Mr Bertalli rejected the claim that the Federation had instilled fear within teachers via propaganda.

“These are very educated people who have read both sides of the debate and have decided to sacrifice wages...because they are so concerned about the changes,” Mr Bertalli said.

“The information is only being trickled to us.

“This policy was announced 12 months ago by (Minister for Finance and Services) Greg Pearce as part of fiscal reforms- it’s not about improving education.”