Over worries about staff shortages, some 30 teachers at Queanbeyan High School went on strike for two hours this morning.
Due to a persistent teacher shortage, the school announced last Monday that students in grades seven through ten would only be permitted to attend on-campus classrooms three days per week.
That decision was overturned the next day when the NSW Department of Education intervened and ordered the school to resume full-time face-to-face instruction.
Teachers were upset with the decision, according to Mitch Andrews of the New South Wales Teachers Federation, and three-quarters of them walked out in protest at 9:00 a.m., leaving a skeletal staff to monitor children.
“We’re at the point now [where] we’ve had over 100 hours of our senior students, so six weeks, where they haven’t been in a class, they’ve been in the library.
“It’s their last two years of school, they need to be in front of their teacher every day and we can’t offer that at the moment, it’s physically impossible.”
Murat Dizdar, the NSW Department of Education’s deputy secretary of school performance, told the ABC this morning that the department was dedicated to providing teachers with the assistance they required and that the department was working with the school to fill vacancies.
“We acknowledge that they need our support. There’s a number of vacancies there, a number of COVID impacts,” he said.
“Our school workforce unit met with the principal and is working to fill some of those vacancies.
“We’ve been working with the school principal to have some of our qualified teachers who work in corporate office available for the school to support the continuity of teaching and learning.”
Before the walkout this morning, Mr Dizdar indicated that all pupils and staff will be on site today and that he hoped the department and the Teachers Federation could “work productively.”
“There’s no mixed messages here, there’s the continuity of teaching and learning in full-time operations inside the school gates,” he said
Mr Andrews, on the other hand, said that union representatives who contacted the Education Department had “not received any correspondence at all” sparking today’s protest..
“If we have suitable staff numbers that allow us to teach our classes and supervise the students, we would love to be at school, that’s what we want to do,” he said.
“But at this point in time, we physically can’t do that.”
He said that the two extra instructors sent from the corporate headquarters to the school last Thursday and Friday were insufficient to alleviate the situation.
“On Friday we had 11 senior classes still in the library, we had 18 merged classes, we had eight classes in the [quadrangle] on minimal supervision,” he said.
“So what they’ve sent is a very nice gesture, but it doesn’t help the situation at all. It’s not a long-term strategy, it’s a band-aid.”
Mr Andrews would not rule out more strikes if mixed-mode learning was not reinstated or empty teaching positions were not filled quickly.
Teachers will write another letter to the NSW Education Minister today in the hopes of receiving a response, he added.
“The teachers are past the point of breaking, they’re exhausted, they’re trying their best to make sure their students are working in a safe environment and the minister and their department are not working with us to make that happen,” he said.