Teachers threaten action
Thursday, 21st February, 2008
Broken Hill teachers will stop work next month as the NSW Teachers' Federation ramps up its campaign against plans to change the way schools recruit staff. Members of the Barrier Teachers' Association yesterday resolved unanimously to hold a stopwork meeting of local teachers in mid March. Association President Maureen Clark said the resolution to stopwork was passed unanimously which "showed the level of concern" of local teachers.
The stopwork, involving primary and high school teachers, would be held ahead of a State-wide stoppage planned for April 8. NSW Teachers' Federation western region organiser, Brett Bertalli, said that he wanted Broken Hill to lead the campaign in the west because teachers, students and their parents in this part of the region stood to be the most affected by the changes. The Department of Education has said that the changes would allow for greater flexibility, while incentives to attract teachers to more remote schools, including priority transfers, would remain. But the Teachers' Federation says the changes, which will allow schools to advertise to fill some vacancies and also give principals the power to veto transfers into or out of a school, will lead to severe teacher shortages in country areas. In a letter to the BDT, Regional Director Carol McDiarmid said that incentive transfers would have priority before a principal at any school could choose to advertise to fill a vacancy. But Mr Bertalli, who has been meeting local teachers this week, said that principals could get around the system through an exceptional Circumstances clause. "What she doesn't say is they (incentive transfers) can be vetoed ... principals and directors under the new agreement will have the ability to block or veto a transfer." Under the incentive transfer system, teachers who agree to move to remote areas receive higher transfer points than those in more populated areas.
Mr Bertalli said the clause effectively created "another hurdle" for teachers who wanted to use their priority transfer points to move back home. He said about 70 per cent of teachers in the western region were recruited through the incentive transfer scheme. "As soon as teachers hear they are being blocked (from transferring) they won't come back here. "Why would you come out if you can't go back? "They no longer have that promise so that pool of teachers is evaporating." Mr Bertalli said the region's schools would likely not see the impact of the changes, which are due to come into effect in April, straight away. "(But) in five or six years when all the baby boomers retire, how do you get teachers out here without the promise of a transfer? "People in Broken Hill need to be very concerned about this." An auditor-general's report found the State had a shortage of teachers qualified to teach maths, science and design technology, according to Mr Bertalli, who said English was close behind.
He said changes to staff recruiting would exacerbate the problem and lead to teachers being required to take up subjects for which they were not qualified to teach. "So you'll have PE teachers teaching maths, PE teachers teaching English and science." Mr Bertalli said many teachers he had spoken to were worried about the changes. He said half of a group of beginning teachers who attended a conference at the Musicians' Club last week indicated they would not have come to the region if the changes were already in place. "Teachers are absolutely livid over these changes and are ready for a fight."