Labor candidate for Prospect Hugh McDermott (fourth from right) was educated by teachers Terry Moriarty, Don Ho, Amanda Hayes, Barbara Kirszman, Helen Penman, Mandy Wells, Kyri Georgiou, Stella Leonida, Sue Neferis and Jeanene Sulfaro about issues facing students and teachers in schools and TAFE.

Candidates pressed on priority issues

Amber Flohm
Multicultural Officer/Organiser

Fairfield Teachers Association has begun intense lobbying of local candidates for the upcoming state election.

To date, Federation’s priorities (TAFE, salaries, staffing, special education, and teaching and learning conditions) have been discussed with Smithfield MP Andrew Rohan (Liberal); Labor candidate for Prospect Hugh McDermott; and Cabramatta MP Nick Lalich (Labor).

Eighteen teachers from Smithfield, Prairiewood, Yennora, Fairfield and Fairfield Heights public schools; Bossley Park, Prairiewood, St Johns Park, Canley Vale and Bonnyrigg high schools, and Wetherill Park TAFE met Hugh McDermott on November 17.

Labor candidate for Prospect, Hugh McDermott heard from a variety of school and TAFE teachers about the needs of teachers and students in the Fairfield area. Teachers from Canley Vale and Bossley Park high schools spoke of the need to provide quality classrooms with modern facilities and equipment to support 21st century learning; impossible when teaching and learning is occurring in 11 and 15 demountable classrooms respectively.

Wetherill Park TAFE teacher from the Heavy Vehicle section Richard Meyer outlined how courses in his area were having their course delivery hours reduced from 720 to 600 hours, forcing redundancies, forcing overtime and increased hours and ultimately complaints from industry about apprentices lacking skills required to do the jobs.

Special education teachers raised concerns about the need to deliver the full National Education Reform Agreement Disability loading funding to address the needs of their students and to allow them to reach their full potential in school and beyond.

Mr McDermott said he was extremely committed to special education and wanted to ensure that these structures were in place in Labor policy. He committed to working with the association to gain more information in this area. He also spoke about his own educational background and the important role his teachers played in ensuring his engagement in school, thus securing his future path in life. He agreed that the Public Sector Wages Policy was unfair, particularly in relation to the access to the Industrial Relations Commission and committed to amending the Public Sector Wages Policy to reflect a fairer wage and use of the Industrial Relations Commission should he be elected, as well as in the area of workers compensation.

On November 26 representatives from Fairfield Association and the Smithfield electorate met with Andrew Rohan MP.

He received a lengthy briefing by a local TAFE activist on the job and course cuts and associated impacts of contestability of vocational education and training funds on Wetherill Park TAFE.

Mr Rohan well understood what the reduction in course hours were doing to the quality of courses and stated he could see the impact this would have on the quality of delivery and outcomes for the local people attending TAFE. He also conceded that he was unaware of the inability of teachers to run a work value case in the Industrial Relations Commission under the current Public Sector Wages Policy and agreed that this was “unfair”.

Two special education teachers from a Smithfield electorate school outlined the impact of the Department’s lack of resourcing on their students’ ability to access specialist support and placements. They spoke of the need for the full six years of Gonski funding, including the disability loading, to address the resource shortfall.

On November 27 teachers from Cabramatta electorate schools in Fairfield and TAFE met with Nick Lalich MP.

He promised to continue to advocate for the full six years of Gonski funding.

Mr Lalich was well aware of the current situation in TAFE and the impacts that were being felt by young people currently studying in high schools in his area, who may well want to study at Wetherill Park or Miller TAFEs.

He said he could see that contestable funding in TAFE was “wrong” for the people of his electorate and was congratulated by the delegation on the Labor Party’s commitment to cap contestable vocational education and training funding at 30 per cent.

Mr McDermott, Mr Rohan and Mr Lalich all agreed that they, and their parties, would be willing to negotiate a new salaries agreement in 2017 and a staffing agreement in 2016 (ensuring public school students have the right to be taught by qualified teachers, a transfer system to secure a curriculum guarantee to all students in all parts of the state, permanent employment for teachers and guaranteed class sizes).

Fairfield Teachers Association members are due to meet Fairfield MP Guy Zangari on December 8.

A candidates forum is being planned for the beginning of the school year to ensure candidates make public declarations of the commitments they made at meetings with Federation members.

For further information on the candidates forum email Fairfield Organiser Amber Flohm or phone (02) 9217 2100.