It’s 1984, teacher, and the pigs tell the ‘facts’


Andy Tayler

We all knew that bad news was coming for education in NSW gaols. None of us, though, were prepared for the hammer blow that was delivered on Thursday, May 12.

The 157 current education staff will have only 20 true education positions to fight over: the rest of us will lose our jobs. This is the endpoint of a review initiated by the government early last year and conducted without any input from teachers or the Federation. It is, in short, a ministerial hatchet job.

We have been trying to make sense of the announcements since they were made. Fact Sheet #8 seems to contain the bulk of the arguments for the new structure and against the current workforce, and the more I read it the more Orwellian the title became.

It begins by stating that “there is a need to increase [inmates’] literacy and numeracy skills, and develop employment skills”.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald in Easter 2015, I stated that we had a significant number of vacancies. This was denied by our management but in January this year a copy of the true staffing position came into my hands. In rounded figures, Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) had budgeted for 3900 teaching hours but only covered 2700, a gap of 1200 hours — but the lack of outcomes in literacy, numeracy and job readiness is the teachers’ fault!

Next came the claim that “inmate programs reflect the available teachers at a centre, not the needs of inmates”. The makeup of the workforce is based on management decisions. We occupy positions justified in business plans submitted by centre management to the principal of our RTO for approval and funding. But the (claimed) mismatch of teaching skills and inmate needs is the teachers’ fault!

The same paragraph went on to state that “between a quarter and a third of vocational education programs delivered by CSNSW teachers are in art and music rather than areas linked to inmate employment”.

This is a remarkable feat given that of the 208 full-time equivalent positions, nine were specifically for art (only 5.6 are actually occupied) and less than one position for music (the 0.9 FTE is fully occupied), totalling 6.5 FTE. So it would seem that 4 per cent of the teaching positions have accounted for up to 33 per cent of the delivery. Really? The depth of this insult to the intelligence is beyond description.

There is a plan, though! It is that 67 new positions will be created at lower pay grades, reduced conditions and requiring no educational qualifications. Management’s thinking seems to be that the 137 unlucky enough not to win the 20 true education jobs will be eager to apply for a cut in pay, conditions and prospects.

The “Fact” Sheets then tell us that once these new positions have been filled, “consideration will be given to redeployment within the broader Department of Education, where this is feasible”. DEC does not recognise service within CSNSW for accreditation since we are an adult training organisation. Feasibility is not strong here but neither is the ministerial grasp on the realities of the portfolio.

Who will replace us? According to the “Fact” Sheets, “Contracts with specialist training organisations will specify the quantity and quality of services”. For an indication of the identity of these specialist training organisations we need only look at the providers of education in the two privately-run gaols in NSW, Junee and Parklea. They both use TAFE — which this government gutted last year.

It is not the teachers in NSW gaols who should be facing the sack, it is the Minister.

Andy Tayler is Secretary of Corrective Services TA and a Correctional Education Officer at Long Bay CC