Our schools are in crisis

NSW teachers strike

School working conditions are students’ learning conditions. Educators – both teachers and education support staff – are at a breaking point. The system is hurtling towards leaving a generation of working class children in a significantly worse position than their parents. Educators must take control of fixing this problem from the bottom up.

Putting aside the grotesque industry of private education, even our public education system reflects the worst aspects of class society. Wealthy, inner-city schools have the resources, facilities, and professional support to attract and maintain experienced education staff. At the same time, working class suburbs are left under-funded, under-supported and are forced to spend more of their meagre budget trying to incentivise teachers to take ever-increasingly demanding roles.

The last state-wide agreement prioritised ‘workload’ reductions over pay. However, the Government failed to hire the necessary staff – leaving hard-to-staff schools operating with a staff capacity as low as 60% in some cases. The perverse outcome of prioritising workload reductions over pay has resulted in fully staffed (because traditionally easier-to-staff) government schools being able to implement a key improvement in conditions with relative ease. However, this has come at the expense of hard-to-staff schools and their educators, who have been left drowning in excessive and unsafe workloads.

The path forward is clear. A radical change to education working conditions is required. This cannot be achieved by another government inquiry – it must come from those of us at the coal face. Educators are experienced professionals. We know how to educate the next generation but we need additional support and a major reduction in unnecessary meetings and Department driven paper-pushing activities.

To achieve the power required to truly transform our working conditions and thus the learning conditions of students at our schools, we need a strong union.

While the Australian Education Union (AEU) Victoria Branch has been bleeding members, the foundations of a fighting union with 40,000+ members is still there. We must rebuild rank-and-file militancy within the AEU. This must be driven from below – starting at the sub-branches at each-and-every school. Increased density, increased militancy, and increased organisation will form the basis of a fighting working class movement of educations.

For a revolutionary working class movement to succeed we need a broad base of the working class engaged in their unions. If you’re an educator and want to build a fighting union contact us.

DARE TO STRUGGLE

DARE TO WIN

Cover Photo: NSW public school teachers during a strike in December, 2021, over staff shortages and salaries. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas.