Holding their banners high and voicing their concerns loudly, more than 50 local teachers united to protest over government inaction on worsening staff shortages and its impact on schools and student’s education during a planned rally in Grafton last week.
After gathering in Memorial Park early on November 9 where they met with NSW Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos, the group marched across Prince Street before stopping outside the office of Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, intent on making their position clear.
Describing himself as disgusted by the lack of respect being shown to teachers by the NSW Government, Mr Gavrielatos said without action, the shortages of fulltime and casual teachers will increase due to rising enrolments, and with a rapidly ageing workforce, unsustainable workloads, and a 30 percent decline in the number of people studying teaching, the shortages will only worsen.
Mr Gavrielatos also identified insufficient salaries compared to other professions as further concerning evidence of the state-wide shortage.
“Teachers are instrumental in every community and the NSW Government needs to invest in them because children, especially in rural and regional areas, are bearing the brunt of the shortages and as a consequence their education is being put at risk,” he said.
“Every parent in country NSW wants to be reassured that in every classroom there will be a teacher with the time and resources to meet their child’s needs, yet the government’s inaction has seen the shortages grow.
“If the NSW Government doesn’t act now, teacher shortages will only get worse.”
His words were echoed by Federation Representative at Grafton High School Simon Robertson, who said the rally aimed to draw people’s attention to the drastic state-wide shortage and to emphasise teachers deserve more than thanks for the incredible jobs they do.
“We had four weeks this year where we had 144 periods of classes uncovered, so that’s 144 times a class didn’t have a teacher,” he said.
“We had one teacher on four classes, kids being put in the quadrangle, kids not being taught basically for days on end.”
Speaking as a local teacher and a parent of public-school kids, Mr Robertson said the situation is devastating.
“Kids come to school for education obviously, but they also come to play sport and go on excursions, and this year we had to cancel excursions and in-school learning opportunities because we didn’t have available staff.
“It’s devastating as a teacher and as a parent when that happens.”
Mr Robertson said if teachers had better working conditions and were paid better, NSW would not be experiencing teacher shortages.
Following the rally outside his office, Mr Gulaptis revealed he had recently had a zoom meeting with Mr Robertson and had raised the concerns of local teachers with the Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell.
“I think we do need to value teachers more and they should be paid more,” he said.
Mr Gulaptis said the matter is currently before the Independent Review Commission (IRC).