THE coal-face experiences of public school teachers James Meares, Luke Cheetham, Chris Novak and Sean Leyland were at the forefront of the Orange district's NSW Teachers Federation rally at Towac Park on Wednesday.
Along with input from Orange Teachers Association's NSW council representative and fellow teacher Erin Green and union organiser Stephen Kelly, the four shared their stories with around 200 teachers who swapped the classroom for the race track's grandstand for the 24-hour strike action.
Uiltilsing the #Morethanthanks, the central theme to the addresses was the increased demands the dwindling numbers within the profession were forcing on teachers and the toll it was taking on them.
James Meares spoke on the value of public school, and what the students need, not just the teachers.
"Public education removes barriers to people rising according to their merits, not based on other things like wealth or social status. I will oppose anything I think that undermines or threatens the ability of the public education system to fulfil those values," Mr Meares said.
Mr Meares, who teachers at Orange East, said he was proud his school was non-operational on Wednesday, and he acknowledged fellow staff members and parents who also attended the rally.
Luke Cheetham, principal of Mullion Creek spoke on the crippling effect the lack of available staff was having on his workload, with the juggling of administrative duties and an extra teaching load taking a toll on his personal and work life.
Cowra's Sean Leyland said the dismal response to the eight vacancies at his school, which have failed to attract one application, emphasised the staffing crisis.
Former head teacher Sandra Logan resigned last year as a fulltime teacher after 35 years.
"It's unmanageable conditions, long hours, probably I reckon 60 to 70 hours a week easily, poor working conditions in schools, the actual condition of the schools, most schools are really dilapidated,"
Ms Logan, and fellow teacher Liz Lynch, who also has 35 years experience, said the behaviour of students was also an issue.
"The level of assaults on staff, we can't even get staff. We've done merit select, we're heaps of staff down, we've had so many extras where we've had 15 classes on the floor," Ms Lynch said saying that led to difficulty attracting and retaining teachers.
"The burning out factor. You're just constantly stepping up and the more you give, the happier the department is too take."
"The number one job the department has is to staff its schools and it can't do that," Ms Logan said. "Kids can't get a teacher in front of them."
Special Ed teacher Chris Novak put the the statistics from Canobolas High Rural Technology High School at the forefront, illustrating the staffing short-comings teachers' are demanding be addressed by Government in its public schools.
"We are the ones that want this to work but in our current situation, it doesn't work and and I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel at the moment. A lot of teachers have told me the same thing and that scares me, everyday," Mr Novak said.
He said in 2021 there were a total of 849 merged classes at the school. But by the end of term one this year that number had been surpassed at 1180.
"That's 1180 hours children went without a teacher," he said.
"And they say there's no crisis."
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