Federation to fight NSW Government plans to downgrade education provision in prisons and sack teachers

Education in prisons is essential in reducing recidivism and breaking the cycle of poverty and crime.

Up until now educational services have been provided in NSW gaols by highly qualified, experienced publicly-employed teachers. In a shock move, the NSW Baird Government has dismissed the teaching workforce with a plan to have clerks, who will not necessarily be required to have any teaching qualifications, take over the teaching of inmates.

"It is an absolute insult to the teaching profession and an appalling attack on the rights of inmates that the State Government has dismissed the teaching workforce from corrective services and plan to downgrade educational services," Federation President Maurie Mulheron said yesterday.

"Mike Baird is a fanatic when it comes to privatisation and attacking the public service," he told the union meeting of Corrective Services teachers held in Sydney.

Only 20 teaching positions will remain within the department— 138 teaching positions are set to be scrapped.

The 158 current teachers will be able to apply for 67 new clerical positions, to assess inmate education needs and source training or "source and manage the delivery of education and vocational education programs".

But, the positions will not require a teaching qualification. Training— as opposed to the educating of inmates— will be provided by an external provider, for which there is no guarantee that educators will be required to be qualified teachers.

Mr Mulheron said of the plan to privatise gaol education services, "This is an extremely ideological attack on public provision. This has nothing to do with improving corrective services or educational services to support the most vulnerable people in our community. It's all about shifting public dollars to private for-profit providers. This Government has learned nothing from the behaviour of shoddy private providers operating in the VET sector."

The Baird Government has already gutted TAFE funding, meanwhile sending the dollars in the direction of private vocational education and training providers. It has also— unsuccessfully— sought to introduce a new position called 'trainer' (paid much less than a teacher and requiring lesser qualifications) into the TAFE enterprise agreement.

Mr Mulheron said the union would fight the campaign in terms of social justice and getting the best conditions for members.

Federation is seeking an urgent meeting with the Premier and has already met with Opposition leader Luke Foley, shadow spokesperson Guy Zangari and the Greens justice spokesperson MLC David Shoebridge.

Mr Mulheron said community support would be sought to lobby MPs on the issue.

Members are asked to send an email to Corrective Services Minister David Elliott, asking him to maintain public education in the prison system. Unions NSW have passed a resolution encouraging affiliates to complete and distribute the email.

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