Anti-racism and ESL campaigning moves into new ground

Multicultural Officer/Organiser Ambler Flohm today launched a specific platform on the NSWTF website for anti-racism issues – a much-needed resource given the depressing findings of a survey carried out by Federation on anti-racism activity in schools.

She told Annual Conference the new area of the web site carried Federation’s anti-racism policy, professional learning information, online resources including videos, a multicultural events calendar, media stories on relevant issues and media and social media opportunities.

View the site here.

Ms Flohm said 23 per cent of public schools took part in Federation’s anti-racism survey, which showed that a quarter of them lacked an anti-racism officer despite it being mandatory Departmental policy for a school to have one.

Many of the anti-racism officers had not received training and those who had, said their training had occurred some time ago. Half the schools had no anti-racism programs or events and a similar number had no resources on the issue.

“In summary,” Ms Flohm said, “anti-racism officers were under-utilised or non-existent.” She noted the welcome efforts of teachers being trained in anti-racism policies.

Ms Flohm said the 896 ESL teaching positions in NSW had remained static since 2012 despite there being many thousands more ESL students. The ratio of ESL students to teachers had been 100:1 in 2012 and was now 161:1.

The position could have been worse had it not been for sustained campaigning by Federation with community groups to keep the current number of ESL teaching positions, as announced by the NSW government last September, and draw $14 million of Gonski funding towards the sector.      

“The union sincerely thanks all those is schools, and the broader community who worked to achieve this outstanding result and continue to stand up for the rights of English as a second language speakers to access support in public schools,” Ms Flohm states in Federation’s Annual Report.

Ms Flohm said Federation had been engaging a wider range of community groups from language backgrounds other than English in ESL campaigning and collaborated with universities on research in this area.

A successful community ESL forum held last July in Federation's auditorium brought together more than 200 teachers, principals, parents, students and community members to pledge to protect ESL provision from the impact of the government’s Local Schools, Local Decisions policy.

The forum heard “powerful stories” from ESL students of how ESL teachers allowed them to reach their full potential, Ms Flohm said.

She outlined two academic studies that spelled out the decline in ESL commitment by Australian governments.

University of NSW School of Education Research Fellow Dr Michael Michell's paper, NSW – The Failing Multicultural State outlined the damage already done to the NSW ESL program and presented numerous case studies on what was now occurring in schools under LSLD.

In other work, University of Sydney Faculty of Education and Social Work, Associate Professor Dr Ken Cruikshank highlighted the damage that had been done to ESL programs under devolution in Victoria, where the number of qualified ESL teachers in the Victorian public education system K-6 has dropped by over 40 per cent. 

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