The very best teachers, principals and early childhood educators live and work in the Inner West. For so many parents and carers, including me, COVID-19 has been a stark reminder of just how difficult and challenging their job is; teaching our kids takes patience, care and, of course, expertise. But it goes much further than that. Not only do teachers work round the clock to support our kids; they often do so in the midst of constant policy changes, curriculum reform, increasing demands for compliance and reporting, and the evolving complexities of supporting kids in a rapidly changing world. This is demanding and complex work, but the fact is teachers' salaries have failed to rise in comparison to other professions and the work is made all the more difficult by the challenges in recruiting and retaining teachers. It is clear we need to do so much more to support our teachers and the first step, I believe, is to sit down with them and ask them what they need from us to better support their critically important work.
I was really pleased to meet with a group of local teachers in my office recently to discuss the Gallop inquiry and how they felt we could do better to support them in their work. They were a mix of new and veteran teachers from both primary and high schools. Despite the differences in their work, their experiences were remarkably similar. They reported often feeling overwhelmed by the workload and frustrated that the time spent on compliance, reporting and administration was diverting them from focusing on the job they were trained for and signed up to do—educating our kids. They are all committed and passionate teachers who dearly love their jobs. They want to see more and more committed teachers join the profession and, of course, they are frustrated by the number of good teachers they see leave to pursue other careers.
I am so grateful to them for sharing their experiences with me and for explaining the sensible changes that we can make to better support them to do the job that they love. The NSW Teachers Federation commissioned an independent inquiry into how the work of teachers and principals has changed since 2004, when teachers were last awarded a salary increase following a work value case in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. The federation notes that work value cases such as these are no longer permissible under the New South Wales Government's wages policy. The Gallop inquiry was headed by Dr Geoff Gallop, the former Premier of Western Australia, Dr Tricia Kavanagh, a former justice of the Industrial Court of New South Wales, and Patrick Lee, a former chief executive of the NSW Institute of Teachers. Over a thousand submissions helped shape the inquiry's recommendations. They called for a salary increase of between 10 and 15 per cent to better reflect the responsibilities and demands on teachers, and an additional two hours a week for primary schoolteachers and a reduction of two hours in face‑to‑face teaching for secondary schoolteachers to allow them more time to prepare, assess and monitor things.
They also recommended increasing permanent teacher numbers and returning centrally employed specialist staff to assist teachers; establishing a statewide, standards-based promotions system to better shape the careers of teachers; urgently increasing the number of teachers and counsellors in our schools to address mental health challenges; and slowing down the implementation of the new curriculum to give teachers more time and professional development support to adapt. These recommendations were echoed by the teachers who came to my office. They are also echoed by parents and carers. Just this week I received an email from parents at Wilkins Public School in my electorate in response to the Gallop inquiry. They said:
As you know, an independent inquiry has found that the workload of teachers has increased, teachers' work has changed & intensified, teachers are dedicated & committed, relative salaries have declined, teacher shortages are predicted, and teachers need more time for prep & collaboration. It's been recommended to increase teacher prep time, increase salaries, increase staffing levels and increase the number of school counsellors. The P&C at Wilkins Public School is in full support of these recommendations and welcomes any opportunity to assist in supporting their implementation.
This email is indicative of the views of so many parents and carers across the inner west. They love their teachers. They love the work that they do for their kids and they want to see them better supported. They support the recommendations of the Gallop review. Like so many parents, we are in awe of our teachers—their professionalism, their expertise and the care that they provide for our kids. It is fundamental for their future but also for our wellbeing and our sense of belonging in the world right now. During COVID-19, when our kids' worlds have been turned upside down, their teachers have been a source of certainty and support. We are all feeling a level of anxiety and concern right now and these teachers are the rock of our kids' lives and of our lives. Teachers are turning to us right now and asking for nothing more than certainty and support in return.