Matters of State with Member for Orange Phil Donato

Matters of State with Member for Orange Phil Donato

EDUCATION CRISIS

Last week I was in NSW Parliament bringing to the attention of The House some important issues, and none more so than the teacher shortage and emerging education crisis.

Earlier this year when questioned in Portfolio Committee No. 3 - Education, which examined the proposed expenditure for the education and early learning, Minister Sarah Mitchell went on the record denying a teacher supply crisis.

Having spoken to educators across rural and regional NSW, the reality is that there are many schools which are struggling to fill vacant teaching jobs.

As an example, the Canobolas High School in Orange has teacher shortages to the extent that it has resulted in 849 merged or uncovered classes in 2021, and as of last Wednesday there have been a staggering 852 uncovered or merged classes for 2022, year to date!

The Friday before that the school had 15 classes merged into one at their school hall. Sadly, this is a frequent occurrence.

That's just one school in hundreds across regional NSW which are experiencing significant teacher shortage and, worse, children going without critical education.

Multiply those uncovered or merged classes by those affected students and the number of students negatively impacted with the loss of critical learning and development is shocking.

The period of a child's education and development is absolutely time critical.

A reasonable person would consider the teacher shortage at the Canobolas High School and other regional schools in a similar position, and the detrimental effect it is having on our children's education, would agree that the teacher shortage and undelivered education most certainly meets the definition of a crisis.

The parents of students who are losing out on their education would be justifiably outraged. Education is a fundamental right in a first world democratic nation, but our State Government has been derelict in its responsibility to ensure teacher supply.

The teacher shortage at the Canobolas High School isn't a suddenly emerging issue, I've already made the Minister aware of this last year and made a reasonable suggestions for her to consider implementing to attract teachers to the school.

In response to the concerns I raised the Minister she said, "The Government is currently reviewing the incentives used to attract and retain teachers to rural and remote parts of New South Wales."

Clearly the review hasn't translated to solutions, at least not for the Canobolas High School.

There's also worsening psychological impact for the teachers, administrative and support staff, who out of the goodness of their hearts and dedication to their profession, are taking on additional workloads and consequential stress to help students who are missing out on teacher-led education.

We may see teachers and support staff burn out, which is unfair on them and their families, and we will see more teachers eventually leave the school and possibly even leave the profession altogether.

When the Minister says she's incentivising, it's just lip service.

The NSW Teacher's Federation has estimated NSW has a current shortfall of 2,382 teachers and that by 2036 we will need an additional 14,422 to 20,585 teachers just to cover the predicted enrolment growth. This number doesn't include natural attrition with teachers leaving the profession.

The current Teacher Supply Strategy will provide only 3,700 additional teachers over 10 years, so clearly the strategy isn't a solution. The problem isn't going to go away, and I'll continue to pursue the NSW Government on this critical issue.

GUM SWAMP BIRD HIDES

Gum Swamp attracts a variety of bird life, which is also attractive to nature lovers, birders and twitchers. I recently visited a few of the new multi-level bird hides to view the bird life on the swamp.

This is a great development for locals to enjoy nature, to educate children about our diverse local and migratory bird life, and to attract more visitors to the local area.

If you haven't yet been out to have a look, I recommend you head on out and take a peek. If you want a challenge, grab a pair of binoculars and a bird book, and see how many different bird species you can identify.