We asked all the candidates across all the electorates in the Illawarra the same question about education:
How will you relieve the pressures on our local teachers in order to help them concentrate on learning? What steps will you take to help our children thrive and grow in public schools?
Cath Blakey (The Greens): As the daughter of a literacy teacher I know how hard teachers work and the damagecaused by years of under-resourcing our educators. I did all my schooling in the public education system, and my daughter is due to start kindergarten next year. I want school to be a place where children can thrive, learn critical thinking, develop creative skills and build social connections. But at the moment the Liberals and Nationals have stopped listening to teachers, are short-changing students, and have no plan to attract and retain teachers in the public system. As your Greens MP for Wollongong I will push the next NSW government to deliver: The Department of Education must be resourced to reinvest in our teachers, and ensure they have professional salaries, more time to plan, and more reasonable workloads. No one should leave TAFE or uni with a debt that takes a lifetime to pay off. HECS was introduced by Labor, and made worse by Liberals. Contestable vocational training funding was introduced by federal Labor, and made worse with the implementation by the NSW Liberals. But during the pandemic - in what I take as a recognition that course fees are a barrier to learning - the NSW Liberal government made a COVID stimulus investment in free short courses. In less than 6 months it saw enrolments rise over 100,000 students. Let's invest in vocational education, and workforce planning so there are qualified and resourced TAFE teachers to deliver it. With energy, digital and environmental transitions underway, we need a skilled and education-empowered workforce. Instead of Minister announcements that leave TAFE faculties scrabbling for teachers and facilities, we need long-term stable career pathways for educators. As a parent of a four-year-old I recognise that access to quality early education is foundational to children's lifelong health and wellbeing. Early childhood educators need the pay and conditions needed to retain and attract quality educators to the profession. For the Greens full policy platform: https://greens.org.au/nsw/education2023
Kit Docker (The Greens): From speaking to teachers and parents across the Illawarra, it's clear that children across our region's schools are being left behind in a big way. It is not uncommon for children to turn up to school only for there to be no teachers available to teach their class. We also have many skilled and experienced teachers who are forced to teach outside the Illawarra due to rampant casualisation of the teaching profession in the region. Our party's policies on education are written by teachers who believe in the universal value and benefit to society of well-resourced public education. To achieve positive change the Greens will be pushing the next NSW government to: Supporting our public schools is one of the best investments we can make. Together we can return our schools to a world-class level.
Jamie Dixon (The Greens): There isn't an issue in this election, from climate change to cost of living, that the next generation won't be able to solve, given free and equitable access to quality public education. In order for us to get there though, the educators currently in our classrooms, whether its in a prior to school setting, primary, secondary, or in our TAFEs, need better resourcing, and conditions that reflect the essential role they fill.
The elected Greens, whether in balance of power or not, will continue to push for a removal of the public sector wage cap, and an immediate 15 per cent wage increase. We will provide at least 2 hours per week Relief from Face to Face teaching, and ensure that all schools receive 100% for School Resourcing Standard funding. The Greens will budget a $1 billion fund for school maintenance to clear the backlog, and get our children out of demountables. We will rise the award for early childhood educators to bring them in line with later stage teachers, as is the case in Victoria.
In the medium term we will fund the recruitment of an additional 12,000 teachers to fill the gaps in teaching positions, and provide additional counselling support staff across NSW to take the burden off classroom teachers, and ease the relief teaching budget for our public schools.
While the primary focus of our policy is to respect, recruit, resource, and retain our current educational workforce, the Greens will also commit to providing bipartisan support for essential local infrastructure such as a new primary school for West Dapto, and a new High School for Flinders.
Tonia Gray (The Greens): The education sector across the lifespan (early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary) is well and truly broken and has been for the last decade. Teachers are burnout, dispirited and undervalued which is attributed to a myriad of factors, but the top four are:
1: Teacher workload: Unsustainable workloads and the minutiae of administration. We need to reduce the constant change in curriculum and/or programs, the duplication of data entry across school-based and department record systems. SLSOs should be able to supervise play breaks like they do in many other countries around the world.
2: Unacceptable exposure to parent aggression and media's negative portrayal of the profession. The Minister Sarah Mitchell has no respect for the profession as witnessed in her condemnation of the profession for striking last year! (Personally, I believe she should have been marching in the streets for you, especially after your herculean efforts during COVID, flipping to online learning in two weeks). Parental expectations that they will access the teacher via phone during teaching hours or that afternoon, escalating incidents of disrespect, threat and aggression - particularly towards principals.
3: Salary: It starts out at an acceptable level and then plateaus quickly. Highly accomplished teacher accreditation designed to enable expert teachers to remain on class at executive level salary... YET the accreditation process is overly cumbersome, arduous and time consuming. This dissuades you from applying and very few teachers bother with the complicated, year-long process for minimal financial gain. The distinction between classroom teacher and assistant principal/head teacher salary is ridiculous .. about $10,000 difference after tax.
4: Burn out and teacher shortage: the department has no idea of the reality. A friend just resigned from a substantive executive position and had no exit survey. How can the department possible say they know what is going on for teachers or why they are leaving the profession when no-one asks? Secretary and Minister say there is no shortage, have they seen split class/minimal supervision data from schools? Change will take bold ideas and bold action. The Greens are the only party to address a holistic approach to education for a better NSW.