Bright kids to be victims of teacher cuts, say protesters

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Time to take a break from Federal issues? Here’s a Territory one that teachers and students reckon is hot enough to take to the doorstep of NT Chief Minister Adam Giles.

 

The main prop of the protest was a coffin in which elements of local education may be buried soon, says Senior Secondary School teacher Penny Whiley (pictured).

 

She says the school has already lost three teachers – those by their own choice, but they won’t be replaced. Ms Whiley says five more are due to be axed by the end of the year.

 

While the numbers seem small, the consequences are likely to be grave.

 

Some secondary school teachers are specialists, unique or one of a small number, and their removal would take away the opportunities of “our incredibly gifted students” as the curriculum is reduced to “a very basic education”.

 

The specialist subjects include chemistry, physics, higher maths, women’s, classical and legal studies.

 

Ms Whiley herself teaches senior English and is the only teacher of philosophy in the Territory.

 

“Where will our bright students go?” she asks. “Very experienced teachers are thinking of leaving because they don’t know whether they will have a job here next year or not.

 

“This fight is not about pay or holidays. It is about maintaining the status of public education. Some of us have spent 20 years or more, delivering NT education, making sure our kids get good jobs and are able to go to uni.

 

“Many of our NT senior students surpass the achievement standards of SA.”

 

UPDATE THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 10:10am

 

Martin Bennett, from the Department of Education and Children’s Services, has sent the following update on changes to teacher allocations in Territory schools:–

 

Early childhood classes will be boosted by 63 teachers, in the 2014 school year, creating additional teaching positions in Transition, Year 1 and Year 2. Overall, 35 fewer teaching positions will be allocated to schools compared to the previous year.

 

As usual, each school will manage teacher allocations to meet the needs of students and create an efficient working environment for its staff.

 

Principals are consulting with teachers and school councils regarding the impact of these changes to their schools.

 

Any reduction in school staffing will be limited to five teaching positions in any school in 2014. Initially, permanent teachers will be given priority in filling vacancies, and all permanent teachers will be retained.

 

Contract teachers fulfil important roles in our schools, substituting for permanent staff for limited periods, and will be considered for employment following the placing of permanent teachers. While permanent teachers are given preference in employment, contract teachers may be offered positions where future vacancies are identified.

 

Since August 2012, 300 short-term contract teachers have been placed in permanent positions. The number of temporary teachers has reduced to 13 per cent in 2013, compared to an average of nearly 30 per cent in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

 

Teachers affected by the new teacher allocation arrangements will be supported by their principals and regional office staff, to identify future opportunities for employment.

 

The emphasis will be on placing local teachers and local graduate teachers, including those who have completed scholarships. In keeping with this commitment there is no intention to conduct interstate recruitment this school year. We will instead employ teachers living in the Territory.

 

 

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4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Posted September 5, 2013 at 11:20 am

    The sad part about this issue is its regularity of re-appearance in our recent history. Hands up those who remember the uproar over not just cutbacks to staff but the closure of schools following the NT Government’s Expenditure Review Process in 1990/91?
    This was part of an overall reduction of public service numbers and services following the NT elections of October 1990 – unfortunately it’s the Indians on the ground that bear the brunt of these cut-backs (how-ever they are implemented) rather than the big chiefs in the departments.
    I was a student in Alice Springs in the 1970s, the period of time when the NT gained a fully-elected Legislative Assembly and then “responsible” self-government.
    In those times the first Chief Minister, Paul Everingham, often emphasised the need to improve education services and job opportunities to encourage young Territorians to continue staying in the NT rather than seek opportunities elsewhere. That vision seems to have long disappeared from view in today’s regime.

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  2. Geoff Aitken
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Excellent action Penny (but sad it is even necessary) and wonderful commentary from the other commentators. It is also alarming that the Advocate has no equivalent article questioning our Conservative Government’s decision … unfortunately perhaps the Murdoch interests lay with attacks (to our south and east) levied at Federal Labor.

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  3. Ian Sharp
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Good on you Penny! Well said. Expect a deafening silence from the NT Government though.
    I found a glossy leaflet in in my letter box after the NT budget, ‘What’s in the budget for Greatorex’ from my local member Matt Conlon, MLA.
    Nice pic of Treasurer Dave Tollner with Matt, all smiles. As an ex chalkie I was interested in the education section of the glossy, because the Education budget had been slashed in real terms.
    Quite a bit of the savings ($37 million dollars) came from ‘Administrative and program efficiencies’, and ‘structural reforms’ to quote the budget papers available online. What does this mean?
    In his budget speech in Parliament, Treasurer Tollner explained, the NT Government has decided to change staffing ratios in our public high schools to ‘bring us into line with other jurisdictions’.
    Senior Secondary Schools will have their staffing formulas changed from 1 teacher to 14 students, to 1:18. This will have the effect of reducing the teaching staff at Centralian Senior College by 4-5 teachers.
    But there was no mention of this is in Mr Conlon’s glossy leaflet. Yet Centralian is located in Greatorex? An oversight? Or was the purpose of the glossy in fact to gloss over the unpalatable?
    I understand Centralian Middle School will also lose teachers as its staffing formula has been changed too. These two Government high schools are the most important secondary institutions in our town, they are the ones offering education to ALL comers.
    This of course includes our most disadvantaged students, many of whom are indigenous. We all know that a big part of the push to alleviate many of our social problems in town depend on ‘Closing the Gap’ between our indigenous and non-indigenous people. This has bipartisan support from all major political parties. And education is a key part of the Closing the Gap initiative.
    More than a decade ago a new Principal was appointed at Centralian Senior College, Annette Jamieson. At her first meeting with the staff Annette told us bluntly that our Year 12 results were not good enough.
    We were surprised, we were rightly proud of what we had achieved over the years, many of our students had gained excellent results and had the opportunity to go on to be doctors, lawyers and all sorts of other exciting and worthy careers. But we had very few indigenous students pass Year 12.
    All sorts of reasons of course, and this was common all over the NT in those days. Annette said ’not good enough’, and that it was now a priority to bring our indigenous graduate rates up to match those of our non-indigenous students. The College hasn’t quite got there yet, but it has made huge strides with Departmental support, now more than two dozen indigenous students achieve their NTCE each year, one of the best success rates in the NT.
    So why is the Giles Government now slashing teaching resources in these two vital local schools? Necessary to ‘bring us into line’ with schools on other States / Territories? Since when have we prided ourselves as being in line with them down south?
    Since when do Victorian schools have to cater for large numbers of indigenous students, some from town camps?
    What nonsense we are being fed! It seems public education was chosen as a ‘soft target’ way of cutting the budget, to reduce government debt.
    And yet while making big cuts to Government Schools in the NT, the Giles Government was able find some extra funding for Private Schools!
    At the same time as cuts have been made to our Government high schools, the NT has so far refused to sign up to the Federal Government’s Gonski plan which would pump an extra $200 million of Federal funds into our schools. Crikey! Wednesday, Thursday, Friday!
    The Giles Government should stop playing politics and support public secondary education in the NT by getting on board with the Gonski plan.
    Or at least have the guts to produce glossy leaflets that tell us the truth about what they are doing.

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  4. Deborah
    Posted September 3, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Hear, hear!
    How can any government consider cutting education as a benefit of the greater good? I’d suggest it benefits a few at the top.
    As citizens we should be very careful of anyone touting tax cuts as reform. Personally, I’d much rather pay taxes and enjoy the benefits of public infrastructure; all the basic stuff we often take for granted.
    If we decide that a private business model education is better, how long do you think it’ll be before the focus is on how much money the institution is earning, rather than quality of education?
    A very scary thought indeed. Hon Giles … might be a good time to do some homework!

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