Why I Went on Strike

Last week I, along with thousands of other NSW public school teachers, went on strike for 24 hours. Many sections of the media portrayed it as a dispute between teachers and the government, and questioned how long parents would continue to support teachers if the dispute becomes prolonged.

The thing is, this is not a dispute between teachers and the government. We are not asking for more pay, or for improved working conditions (though both would be nice). We took this action because we are trying to save our public education system. This is a dispute between anyone who values a well funded, quality public education system and the NSW government who seem to think that there are more important things to spend our taxes on.

A few months ago, the NSW State Government announced a radical restructure of our public education system called “Local Schools, Local Decisions”. The government claims that these so-called reforms will improve the quality of the education that is delivered in public schools across the state. As part of that reform, 200 positions were axed from our state office. Adrian Piccoli, the NSW education minister said in relation to the job cuts,

‘Taxpayers expect efficiency. Where we can reduce the bureaucracy and eliminate duplication we will, in order to maximize the resources going to schools.

Here is just one example of how Piccoli’s job cuts are eliminating duplication:

NSW is a large state, and we are divided into educational regions. Each region had a literacy consultant for primary and another for high school. Their role was significant. The consultants would run professional development courses across each region. They would keep us up to date with the latest best-practice models, would visit us in schools, working with individuals and teams to improve our delivery of curriculum. Whenever a new syllabus came out, the consultants would work with us, assisting us in understanding the documents adapting them to suit our individual school contexts. They were experts, and worked closely with many of us as mentors. I can honestly say, I would not be nearly as effective in teaching or leading literacy at my own school if it was not for the ongoing support of these experts.

In a remarkable act of efficiency, and to eliminate duplication, we now have just one primary literacy consultant for all of NSW.

That’s one consultant for 1, 605 schools!

I would very much like to know how reducing our support in this way is intended to improve educational outcomes.

Including the literacy consultants, 200 similarly important jobs were cut from our state office at the beginning of June. In yesterday’s  Sydney Morning Herald, it was revealed that a further 2, 400 jobs will go over the next four years.

The infrastructure that supports the delivery of quality educational programs is being dismantled, and our minister has not provided any information about how education will be supported in the future. It seems that this so-called reform is driven by cost cutting, rather than any true vision for education. Is that what we really want for our children in NSW? In the words of Eva Cox,

We live in a society not an economy

For more information or to send a message to the minister go to the Local Cuts website.

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2 thoughts on “Why I Went on Strike

  1. This is an appalling situation, and intolerable for anyone who cares about the professionalism of teachers and the wellbeing of children and young people. Thanks for raising awareness of this issue, which is affecting school systems wherever there are politicans who are ruthless enough to pursue tax-cutting populism at the expense of education. I’ve come to hate those words – ‘restructuring’ and ‘reforms’ – which are nothing more than smokescreens for reducing expenditiure on public services such as education. Thank goodness there are people like yourself who are prepared to go out and demonstrate in order to raise awareness. Likewise taking the time to write about these matters.

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