Member for Murray Helen Dalton has told the ‘Weekly that there have been a number of school strikes around Wentworth recently, with staff protesting chronic teacher shortages at their school.
Many staff are said to be concerned about the NSW Government’s review paper, which is not publicly available, that flags reducing incentives for rural schools.
The Government argues that Wentworth isn’t really disadvantaged, because it’s close to Mildura.
Mrs Helen Dalton has called on the NSW Government to guarantee it will not reduce incentive packages offered to teachers who work in rural NSW schools.
Mrs Dalton, a former primary teacher, says staff at several schools across Western NSW have walked off work recently, fed up with chronic teacher shortages.
“Rather than address these shortages, the NSW Government is actually looking at reducing the incentives to attract teachers to these schools,” she said.
“This will worsen the teacher shortage crisis and see rural students fall even further behind their Sydney peers.”
Teachers at Darlington Point Public School walked off work recently, protesting the NSW Government’s failure to fill multiple vacancies at their school.
Gol Gol Public School, Coomealla High School and Wentworth Public Schools were subject to strike action in March.
“At present, the NSW Government offers incentives (such as bonuses, rental subsidies etc) for staff to move to rural schools,” Mrs Dalton said.
“Generally speaking, the further away you are from Sydney, the more incentives they offer.
“However, this Department’s latest review paper states schools near Wentworth benefit from being close to the Victorian town of Mildura, so may not warrant incentives.
“These schools are doing it really tough, with multiple teacher vacancies and students missing classes due to a lack of teachers.”
Mrs Dalton predicted that if the NSW Government reduces incentives, this situation will just get worse.
“The Education Minister needs to do the opposite: boost incentives at Western NSW schools, and talk to them to find out why recruitment is so difficult,” she said.
Mrs Dalton is also critical of the NSW Government’s plans to ‘turn tradies into teachers’ mid-career.
“I don’t think fast-tracking qualifications to become a teacher is the right way to address the rural teacher shortage,” she said.
“I used to be a primary teacher. It’s a tough job. A short course won’t cut it.”