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Byron Shire
September 23, 2021

Teacher shortage hitting schools across NSW

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Ring of steel called for as Byron and Tweed locked down – again

Councillors and members of parliament from across the region are calling for greater restrictions on who can come to the Northern Rivers and other vulnerable regional areas from COVID hotspots in NSW.

With the mandatory vaccination date getting closer, the NSW Teachers Federation says there is already a shortage of teachers.

The NSW Education Department will certainly lose teachers next term owing to the mandate and the NSW Teachers Federation says classes are being combined and students given only minimal supervision on hundreds of occasions in city and country schools in NSW due to growing teacher shortages, new figures provided to Parliament show.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said the NSW Government figures are alarming and teachers were reporting class sizes of up to 45 students as a result. ‘This is an example of the very real impact teacher shortages are having on students and teachers in schools from the inner west of Sydney to the Far West of NSW.

A stark reminder

‘As we prepare for schools to go back next term, it is a stark reminder of why teacher shortages must be addressed as a matter of urgency.’

The schools include:

  • Murrumbidgee Regional High School in Griffith where a lack of teachers has left students under minimal supervision over 475 times already this year. Classes have been merged at that school over 143 times. 12 permanent teaching positions at the school are vacant.
  • Canobolas Rural Technology High School in Orange where Year 11 and 12 students have been left with minimal supervision over 300 times. Year 7 to 10 classes have been merged over 200 times. Eleven permanent positions at the school are vacant.
  • Concord High School in Sydney’s inner west where classes were merged or under minimal supervision 169 times before the start of remote learning. Six permanent positions at that school are vacant.
  • Mary Brooksbank, a special school near Campbelltown, where a lack of casual teachers has meant students with severe disabilities have been forced into combined classes on 78 occasions.
  • Narrabri High School in the west of the state where classes have been merged on 195 occasions due to a lack of teachers. There has been minimal supervision of students on 73 occasions.

Uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads

Mr Gavrielatos said the Gallop Inquiry into the work of teachers warned in February that uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads were contributing to the growing shortages of teachers.

‘If we don’t pay teachers what they are worth, we won’t get the teachers we need,’ he said.

‘We know teachers face an enormous challenge meeting the needs of students after a long period of remote learning. We cannot afford to have shortages of teachers now and in the years ahead as we try and get all students back on track with their learning.

The current industrial award covering the salaries and conditions of teachers is due to expire at the end of the year. Mr Gavrielatos said teacher shortages would be ‘front and centre’ when negotiations begin next month.

‘For too long the government has had its head in the sand when it comes to the uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads of teachers and the way they are reducing the attractiveness of teaching.’

‘If you are not concerned about teacher shortages, you are not concerned about children missing out.

‘Teachers need a competitive salary and they need a reduction in the crippling workloads that they face every week. They need more than thanks from the NSW Government.”

In its recent submission to a national inquiry into initial teacher education, the NSW Government warned of growing shortages of teachers with the worst impact in rural and regional areas and in secondary schools.

Mandatory vaccination turning teachers away

With over 72,000 signatures on a Change.org petition and teachers shedding their NSW Teachers Federation membership like a COVID-19 super spreader, one would have to question making vaccination mandatory when teacher numbers are already too low.

The petition says that teachers in NSW are being forced to take the Covid-19 Vaccine otherwise they cannot return to work.

Many teachers have said they will not be returning to work once the mandate comes into effect. One teacher recently told The Echo that they felt‘disgusted, replaceable and appalled’ at the lack of support from the NSW Teachers Federation. ‘I have cancelled my membership’. 

Organisers of the petition believe this is not only unlawful but unconstitutional. They say people should be able to choose what medical procedures and interventions they have without the risk of losing their job.

The petition is asking for all parents and teachers who are concerned with these mandates to sign this petition and protect the basic human right to freedom of choice.



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  1. What about the vaccinated teachers who will refuse to work with unvaccinated!Don’t people understand their in a pandemic….you can’t press a pause on this global virus.Please think of others and get vaccinated.❤️

    • Are you saying teachers will refuse to work with unvaccinated children? That doesn’t make sense, since children under 12 cannot and should not be vaccinated.

    • Don’t be so hysterical! They don’t have Covid just because they’re unvaxxed!! But if by chance they have been exposed, they will have symptoms and stay home, unlike the vaxxed who will spread it around obliviously.

    • Hi Laura. I genuinely hear you and understand this could be scary for you working with unvaccinated teachers. Please research this before giving into fear. Unvaccinated people are of minimal risk to you if in fact you are vaccinated. Unvaccinated teachers are at far greater risk of being infected but they take on that risk with the choice of not vaccinating. More worrying is in mandating teachers to be vaccinated are our children next? The risk of vaccination children far outweighs the risks associated with Covid. Do we take such a huge risk on our children for adults to feel safe. Laura, you if vaccinated are safe. Is your need to FEEL safe really justification to take away people’s rights? No one is trying to harm anyone in asking for the right to make decisions about their body. I wish you love and freedom of fear.

    • You realise the vaccinated carry the same viral load as the unvaxed? It’s happening all over the world with the vaccinated cases outweighing the non vaxed in hospitals. Time to get off the Australian propaganda news and see what’s happening in the real world.

    • Just like the whites refusing to work with the blacks

      And share a bathroom

      And be served in the same restaurant

      We are not diseased, Laura. Vaccinated people can carry the virus and transmit it just as every single person on earth can. If you’ve been vaccinated, they say you have a better chance at surviving covid. So why are you worried about other people’s medical status?

      Turn off the TV, politicians have never cared about your health and they never will.

  2. What a great shame the Echo have conflated two issues here.

    Are we talking vaccinations or teacher shortages, or shortages due to vaccinations. It’s a muddy article.

    Is the petition mentioned the views of teachers or a bunch of anti-vaxxers looking to push a different agenda? I’d suggest the latter.

    Teachers are massively undervalued in esteem and remuneration- that’s why there is a shortage.

    Vaccination is supported by most teachers. Very few will be anti, a few will be hesitant. Far fewer than we see in our general community. Why are the Echo focussing on Vaccine issues with teachers and not naming the elephant in the room – Mullumbimby has amongst the lowest COVID – 19 vaccinations in NSW.

    Now there is a story backed up with facts, not conjecture like this article calls on.

    Homeschooling has brought home to parents that incredible work teachers and schools do everyday.

    Pay them more, tell more positive stories a about them and watch the shortage issue evaporate.

    • No such thing as an anti vaxxed .. There is such a thing as a well researched pro pro vaxxer who say no to being the governments human guinea pig. These jabs are all in trial until 2023 ! You get the jab you are the trial ! Wake up !

  3. Let them quit if these intractable ones won’t vaccinate, and hire cooperative ones in great numbers of teachers, teachers’ aids and support staff, and massively improve pay and conditions, for a job that was always demanding and important and now is way more than that. Only really stupid governments underpay child care workers and teachers, such central people for children’s happiness and welfare. Public education has always been a poor relation for the private school boy elite that has always controlled education finance in Australia. No good saying shame, shame about not valuing teachers and public education, they don’t have any.

  4. What’s wrong with thinking about your own health? Many that are unvaxxed have serious concerns about the safety of the vaccines on their health and that stupid comment doesn’t make things easier. How about instead of criticism, show respect and support.

  5. There WILL be teachers that leave the profession due to forcible vaccination. I fully support this. Bigger than this issue is educators’ and government’s role in ‘teaching’ our society and our children that it’s okay to discriminate and aim to create a segregated society. There was no talk in social media groups of people calling for any form of segregation, UNTIL the government’s rhetoric shifted and our own Premier began Vocalising segregating views. It’s shameful.
    How do teachers teach about bullying and being tolerance to varying view points if the government, leading by example, tells otherwise? Where do schools’ own bullying policies uphold to bullying from their employer? Secondly, I want my daughters to know, without qualification, that they have the rights to their own body. They need to know that ‘no means no’ with anything they are not comfortable with. This notion is not isolated to sexual abuse, it’s about empowering our young without qualification.

  6. Schools and child care centres, with their majority populations unvaccinated, are becoming major sources of spread in both Melbourne and Sydney. One small school in Melbourne, given some attention in yesterday’s press now has 30 cases.

    I’m not setting myself up as a virologist or vaccinologist but I’d just to question some of the statements that I read, ever more frequently and confidently asserted, with what I take to be the expert advice.

    The vaccines aren’t perfect but they are showing very high protection against serious disease and death – pretty important when we see what is already happening to the health systems of NSW and Victoria where treatment for all conditions is put in jeopardy.

    They are said to offer around 50% protection against infection – which means you can’t then pass it on. I’d rather it was more but, no mathematical wiz, I figure that if I am mixing with mainly other vaccinated people, who each have that 50%, my protection is multiplied. And I’d much prefer not to get it at all (long term effected unknown)

    People are infectious before they show symptoms so staying home when I’ll doesn’t do the whole trick. Those who go along with the “best to develop natural immunity” theory may be unlikely to stay home anyway with mild symptoms.

    Most primary school students will not have vaccines for some time. Their best protection is to have the adults around them vaccinated.

    Teachers don’t have a nice spacious offices and tea rooms to work in. When not teaching they sit cheek by jowl in crowded work areas and all gather in crowded staff rooms at the same lunch and recess times.

    With the delta phenomenon, the younger unvaccinated population in schools and child care are making them major outbreak venues. Note the much publicised small Melbourne school that now has 30 cases.

    The Department of Education, knowing that their employees face high exposure to the virus have an OH&S obligation to take whatever mitigating measures they can. With thousands of unvaccinated students in their care they have the “in loco parentis” duty of care to do whatever they can to protect them. Teacher unions have the same obligations to consider.

    Personally I think to be teaching unvaccinated, when you have the opportunity, you would need to have rocks in your head.

    I don’t think anyone should be forced to take a vaccination but I think there are many issues beyond freedom of choice to be considered. Perhaps there are circumstances where those who make the decision are justified in saying your choice but if you want to work here these are the rules.

  7. I’m a teacher leaving the profession because they want to jab me with a truly untested-over-time drug.

    Let the industry suffer. Let the schools have a hard time finding new teachers. They already are.
    They haven’t been handing out permanent roles for ages, anyway. They only offer contracts these days.

    If this is what the government wants, let them have it.

  8. Lots of teachers are leaving because of constant harrassment from students, parents, admin., politicians and media, combined with disempowering lack of support in classrooms and rigid curriculum.
    It’s unlikely the vaccination situation will make much difference for most.
    In no other profession are staff expected to put up with constant abuse and degradation with little or no protection.
    The exhaustion resulting from jumping through every hoop of requirements is not ameliorated by term breaks any longer.


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