Today our teachers deserve our support
The Age – 5 September 2012
Today, thousands of teachers and principals from every part of Victoria will jump in cars, catch buses and board trains into the heart of Melbourne to march on Parliament House against Ted Baillieu.
They are seeking from the Premier not a dollar more or a dollar less than they were promised.
With hundreds of schools closing, this will result in inconvenience for many parents as they look to make alternative arrangements for kids who should otherwise be in the classroom learning.
I am very much aware of this inconvenience. My wife Catherine and I received a letter from the principal of our children’s local primary school in Mulgrave warning of large disruptions.
But despite any inconvenience we may face as parents, Cath and I will be supporting every one of our teachers in the action they take.
We do so because the reason teachers will be marching up Bourke Street is simple and strong; Ted Baillieu deceived both them and the entire education sector they so proudly work in.
The Premier’s promise could not have been clearer – he would make teachers “not the worst paid, the best paid”.
Once elected in November 2010, it was virtually one of the first promises he broke, and so began a long list of damaging cuts to our education system.
In just 20 months we have seen school maintenance funding reduce to a drip, $290 million slashed from TAFE, $50 million ripped from VCAL and important programs like the School Start Bonus cut.
There has been enormous anger with these cuts, particularly the TAFE campus and course closures, and this has meant the discussion about attracting and retaining quality teachers to the profession has taken a back seat.
Hopefully today’s mass meeting of Victorian teachers, principals and others will bring it back into sharp focus for the Baillieu government.
The action is about improving our Victorian schools by supporting better employment conditions for teachers to retain and attract the best and brightest to the profession.
For example, one in five Victorian teachers are currently employed on short-term contracts and more than half of new teachers are still on contracts five years after they enter the profession. 44 per cent of education support staff are on fixed-term contracts.
This number is expected to increase as Ted Baillieu’s public-sector job cuts weaken the government’s ability to monitor inappropriate use of short-term contracts in schools.
Surveys show the problem is affecting teachers’ self-esteem and morale.
The lack of tenure and job insecurity makes it more difficult for these teachers to get a mortgage or car loan. It makes it difficult for them to commit to living in one area, and worryingly, it inhibits a teacher’s commitment to their school and students.
The last thing I want to see is our best and brightest young teacher graduates and teachers moving out of the education system, out of teaching or moving interstate to get a permanent job.
A Labor government under my leadership will make teacher recruitment and retention a priority as part of a drive to improve the quality of education in our schools.
I am not interested in using these pages to make promises I cannot keep, but what I will commit to is working closely with the union and the education sector on addressing tenure for our dedicated teachers.
If you are one of the many parents who will be inconvenienced by today’s action, put any frustration you may feel into calling or emailing Ted Baillieu’s office. Tell the Premier to honour his word, and stop the attacks on Victorian education.
No Victorian teacher ever takes lightly their responsibility to our kids. Today they deserve our support and respect.