Education cuts: They know not what they do


PHOTO ABOVE: Letter writer Penny Whiley addressing the education rally in Alice Springs this week. BELOW RIGHT:  Ms Whiley with a prop used at a protest rally in September.
Sir – It is certainly a commendable idea for the NT Government to tell Territorian families that it will put human resources where they matter most; in the early years of schooling.
This not only seems reasonable but for many Territorians it assures them that their children will be receiving the best in terms of highly qualified teachers and smaller classes at Primary school.
What then, are parents and carers with teenagers supposed to make of it all? Centralian Senior College stands to lose at least five teachers by the end of this year by the Government displacement programme.
The Public Senior Schools in Darwin are also being told to displace a number of staff and there is a ludicrous m

erry-go-round throughout the Territory with teachers being shown the door while ex-teachers who have been working in advisory office positions are being told to look for classroom work again. The fact is, many displaced teachers will not be replaced.
The result could well be minimal, particularly if another teacher within the same school is ‘trained up’ to teach a specialised subject area as the Government suggests. The public needs to be aware that in areas such as compulsory Maths and English, class sizes will be greater due to fewer teachers with the possibility of non-specialists teaching such subjects in Senior Schools.
Who believes this to be common sense, particularly as we are on the brink of an Australia wide common curriculum?
Putting more human resources into early schooling does not unfortunately guarantee automatic numeracy and literacy. Nor does it guarantee better student engagement later on in Middle and Senior Schooling as Minister Chandler has recently suggested.
Unless children attend school regularly throughout Primary and Secondary years they will never ‘engage,’ nor will they achieve the national benchmarks in numeracy and literacy.
At the other end of this scale there are highly motivated groups of students, whose parents are working hard in partnership with the Middle School and the Senior College so that a wide choice of academic subjects can continue to be offered to students. Such students have access to highly skilled teachers who know their subjects well and have often had many years of experience around the world.
The NT Government is now suggesting that teachers within the same school could pick up the reins and drive the cart just as well, possibly cheaper if they are less experienced in terms of years in the classroom.
Are we looking towards a future where highly academic subjects such as Psychology, Philosophy, Legal Studies, Physics or Chemistry will only be offered in schools ‘down south’ or in private schools because our NT publicly educated students are apparently not destined for anything greater and we have got rid of the teachers who are skilled in these areas?
Will teachers around Australia avoid applying for positions in NT public schools, knowing that the expense of relocating here will not justify the somewhat ‘temporary’ nature of the job, particularly if they have a family to consider?
Classes will need to be between 18 and 27 or the class may not run. If the class is above 27 the teacher has the right to reject extra students. The question we should ask is what will happen to the extras?
Let’s not make this a political debate. This is an ethical debate and one which needs to take into account what we expect of our young people and what we should offer them in terms of an education that will not set them up as being members of a future ‘stupid country’.
So … the operation was a success but the patient died. Is this what we want from our public education system? It is too easy to take a slash and burn approach to save dollars then put it all back where it should have been to start with.
The patient is the student body in our government schools who will not have access to a truly comprehensive senior education. Philosophers call this the Utilitarian approach; the sacrifice of some of the people for what they consider to be the greater good. It may not be ethical but it may solve an immediate problem. At what cost?
Are your kids about to be sacrificed? War-mongers call it collateral damage. Either way, if you have a child who needs educating in the next four to five years, you need to ask what will be offered in your local Middle and Senior School and whether your child will be a victim of collateral damage.
It appears that more than 20% of the teaching staff at Centralian Senior College will be displaced. If they got rid of 20% of the doctors, nurses, ‘ambos’, police and fire fighters, there would be a public meltdown!
This radical surgery of our school system needs to be explained to parents so that they may start asking questions, voice their opinions and think about the education of their children; it is our democratic right to be told what is happening, whatever our culture and political persuasion.
Socrates died questioning those who were in so-called authority, telling us never to assume they know what they are doing. Will you also present me with the cup of hemlock and demand that I drink it or renounce my views? I will not go quietly. Neither will the people of the NT.
Penny Whiley

Teacher Philosophy / English
Centralian Senior College AEU Sub branch delegate.
Citizen of Alice Springs.


  1. Penny you are totally correct. Very brave standing up for what is in the best interests of education in the NT. One has to balance up what an el cheapo education system means for children. Give the best education. We must brace ourselves to our duty and cardfightback on education.


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