DOORSTOP INTERVIEW: The chronic teacher shortage in NSW; Matt Kean


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PRUE CAR, NSW LABOR DEPUTY LEADER: Prue Car, Deputy Labor Leader and Shadow Minister for Education. Just a few words, mostly about the Premier and the Education Minister’s announcement this morning. Well, this really is a government that is completely out of steam and out of ideas. They have been warned time and time again over the past decade about the chronic teacher shortage in NSW, and today they announced another roundtable. Dominic Perrottet, we all know, loves the sound of his own voice but another talk fest is not going to recruit one single teacher to NSW schools. The challenges that NSW schools face is a chronic teacher shortage across the state. We are thousands of teachers short, the government has been warned time and time again about this. Even the teachers that appeared at Dominic Perrottet’s press conference said they were under increasing demands of their workload, and there just simply was not enough of them.

So NSW faces chronic teacher shortages across the state, the impacts on our children are clear; merged classes, minimal supervision, and standards, as we know, are dropping through the floor. Another talk fest is not going to recruit one single more teacher to the classrooms that we need right across NSW. The truth is from Dominic Perrottet, we need a little less conversation and much more action.

I’ll open to questions.

JOURNALIST: The Premier suggested that it might not be more teachers that are needed, but perhaps more administration staff. Do you think that’s a good idea?

CAR: It’s very clear that we need more teachers in NSW. The government’s own documents time and time again, have shown that we have thousands of teachers short across the classrooms of NSW. Only last week, we had 15,000 teachers out the front here in Parliament saying the same thing. If Dominic Perrottet doesn’t think that we have a teacher shortage in NSW well, he really is failing to listen to teachers and parents right across the state.

JOURNALIST: A big part of this is about pay as well, what’s Labor’s position at the moment about removing the wage cap and I think I was at the protest and the teachers union last week and some were saying that they would like a pay rise of about 7.5%. Is that something that Labor would support?

CAR: Labor has been very clear in saying that teachers are not paid enough and I think that parents across NSW after the horror two years that we’ve had know that that’s the case. Teachers are simply not paid enough, there’s not enough of them coming into schools, into classrooms and then they’re not valued enough in order to stay there. The government needs to sit down with the teachers and negotiate in good faith. Teachers simply cannot pay their mortgages, pay their rents, so many of them in droves are leaving the profession and it’s just not about pay. It’s also the chronic teacher shortage across the state which the government has failed to manage. In fact, they’ve sat on their hands and it’s gotten worse and worse over the past decade.

JOURNALIST: So would Labor support the removal of the wage cap?

CAR: Well, Labor supports the teachers being paid more, valuing their work and we plead with the government, as we’ve continued to do, to sit down in good faith with the teachers and negotiate a way forward. They simply cannot meet their financial requirements at the moment. Wages are going down in real terms in NSW for key workers, for teachers, nurses, paramedics, the workers that got us through the pandemic, while inflation rises and everything else this government is responsible for, tolls, fines, taxes, charges, rises;  the highest tax in government of anywhere in Australia, wages are going down for key workers.

JOURNALIST: To your point about sitting down with teachers, when you say that are you talking about sitting down with the Teachers Federation or sitting down with teachers as they did today?

CAR: Sitting down with the teachers union, the government must sit down with the teachers union in good faith to negotiate about the concerns around pay and not just about pay, about the chronic teacher shortage across the state. The government has clearly failed to both listen to teachers for a decade, as well as crucially to act. Today they’ve only announced another talk fest, a small number of teachers from the 2,200 schools across the state, and they’ve just not done enough over the past decade that they’ve been in government.

JOURNALIST: Would Labor support external contractors been brought in to run playground supervision and administrative tasks such as print rooms?

CAR: Well, teachers need support from the government and more teachers in schools in order to get through the work that is required of teachers. Teachers desperately need more support from the government so they can spend more time in front of their children, teaching children in the classroom at a time that we know that standards are dropping through the floor.

JOURNALIST: Do you know of any Putin sympathisers in the right wing of the Liberal Party?

CAR: Well, let me just say a few words about Matt Kean’s comments this morning. Unfortunately for the families of NSW, particularly in areas like the suburbs of Western Sydney, we have a NSW Treasurer who’s simply not focused on the job. The truth is that cost of living is going through the roof in NSW and we need a Treasurer that is focused on driving down the cost of living. Who can keep up with the Matt Kean circus? I certainly can’t. One moment he’s wearing a Donald Trump badge, the next moment is in the eastern suburbs, bemoaning the Donald Trump takeover of the Liberal Party of NSW. Maybe Matt Kean should actually focus on his job driving down the cost of living for NSW families.

JOURNALIST: Another thing that was canvassed, the advisory group this morning was sharing of resources between public and private schools. What do you think of that?

CAR: I think the government should be focused on resourcing public schools so that they can actually provide the best quality education for our children in the classrooms. And the most important thing for the government to be doing for education full stop in this state right now, is finding a way to urgently address the teacher shortage crisis across NSW. There needs to be a massive recruitment drive to get teachers into the classrooms and we need to value our teachers so they stay there in front of our children to get them ready for the world and their lives.

JOURNALIST: Earlier this week, we had an Upper House committee into school infrastructure in NSW that heard that parents were essentially being pushed to send their kids to private schools because their schools were underfunded, under built. How much more support do public schools need?

CAR: So many parents feel like they’re forced to send their children to independent schools. Many, many parents choose, but many parents feel like they’re forced to send their children to independent schools as the government doesn’t build the schools required and they underfunded public schools that exist in certain areas. This week we’ve had revelations that there are so many children that actually don’t go to the toilet, don’t eat or drink during the day because the government simply will not upgrade toilets in public schools. How is this acceptable in 2022? That says everything about the government’s priorities, and like it does when they don’t recruit the teachers that we need in these classrooms.

Thank you everyone

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