Achieving excellence through early childhood education and sound system-wide staffing

Federation will seek commitments from all major political parties regarding an expanded public preschool provision, improvements to school staffing, an increase in permanent teacher allocation and a strong and effective non-school based teaching service in the run up to the state election in March 2023, delegates affirmed at Annual Conference.

Deputy President Henry Rajendra said the measure of any government must be what it does to address the needs of its most vulnerable citizens, and its preparedness to commit to appropriate policies, strategies and resources – supported by credible research, evidence and analysis – that extend beyond the electoral cycle.

On this measure, successive governments ‘of every stripe’ have failed to fulfil their responsibilities to meet the learning needs of all students, particularly those students who: are Aboriginal; from low socio-economic backgrounds; require support for English as an additional language or dialect; live and learn with disability; and/or, are from remote or rural communities,” he said.

Few government failures have been greater than that of the current NSW Government, particularly when assessed against its squandered opportunities in a period of relative growth in overall funding for education.

Under the current Coalition Government, the minimum Schooling Resource Standard [SRS] remains elusive for all public schools while the funding of many private schools continues to exceed the SRS.”

Conference noted that early childhood education serves as a foundation for all children to engage in a critical phase of their development. It provides the platform for early intervention to ensure that all children benefit from the available provision and it develops the skills and attributes for starting formal schooling and engaging in later stages of learning and life.

Federation has long called for a major expansion of the number of public preschools across the state, with delegates welcoming the announcements of both the NSW Government and NSW Opposition to provide universal preschool education for all children in NSW by 2030.

The government delivery of a comprehensive, universal and free public preschool education for pre-kindergarten children may well be the single greatest educational reform in decades and will have a direct bearing on positive educational outcomes and life chances for thousands of students,” said Mr Rajendra.

Delegates particularly welcomed the NSW Opposition’s commitment to prioritise public preschooling in an expanded provision of public preschool education.

Delegates also endorsed improvements to school staffing and a robust and effective service transfer system.

In the context of the debilitating state-wide shortages of teachers, the prioritisation of service transfers in all schools for all teaching service positions would represent a significant distribution mechanism by which every student in NSW public schools has access to a teacher with specialist qualifications,” said Mr Rajendra.

Conference also addressed the issue of precarious employment for teachers and the lack of potential teachers finishing their degrees.

The latest data tabled in parliament shows the number of temporary teachers has increased by 70 per cent during the life of this government and is much higher than has been previously reported, at 30 per cent of the total workforce.

Just as concerning, only 22 per cent of preservice teachers enter the workforce in permanent roles. This impacts on attractiveness of a career in education compared to other sectors where permanent jobs may be more available for university graduates.

Finally, delegates reaffirmed Federation’s commitment to a strong and effective non-school based teaching service.

The NSW public school system has endured multiple department restructures” and realignments, austerity measures and policy failures such as Local Schools, Local Decisions” and more recently the School Success Model”. Successive governments have cut valuable non-school based teacher positions, eroding support for all aspects of public schooling.

Consequently, in 2022, non-school based teachers within the Department of Education’s structures have been given an impossible task: to provide meaningful support for the work of schools without the necessary personnel, resources and conditions.

Delegates have endorsed a position calling on the NSW government to implement a comprehensive analysis of non-school based teacher positions with a view to enshrining through regulation the ample staffing of a state-wide system of qualified non-school based teachers to underpin the growth of a system which guarantees our students can thrive into the future.