By KIERAN FINNANE
(Updated, see below.)
Member for Namatjira Alison Anderson says her office is being inundated with enquiries about what is happening to the staffing of bush schools.
After constituents in Ntaria (Hermannsburg) told her that they would be losing two contract teaching positions, two Aboriginal support workers, and that two teachers would not be replaced when they left, she made enquiries with Minister for Education Peter Chandler’s office. She said she was assured that the school would only be losing 1.3 teachers.
“But that is not what they are telling me on the ground,” says Ms Anderson. “I’m not satisfied with the contradictory messages I’m getting from the ground and the Minister’s office. We’re a government about transparency and honesty. Why can’t Hermannsburg know what’s going on?
“Hermannsburg is just starting to get its numbers back up. There are nine senior kids coming back to school. That may not sound like much but it’s important.
“Aboriginal support workers are incredibly important. They sit with the kids in the playground, they listen to them talking, they’re able to tell the teachers what is going on for those kids.”
And the support workers’ jobs are important in remote communities, says Ms Anderson. “It is a job for the whole household. You look at those workers, all their kids go to school. If they lose their jobs, they’ll be forced to go back on Centrelink. If they don’t get up in the morning to go to work, then their kids won’t be getting up either.”
Ms Anderson says she was at a funeral in Wallace Rockhole yesterday. Otherwise she would have been at the teachers’ rally in Alice Springs, part of widespread industrial action, with reportedly 2000 teachers on strike across the Territory.
Left: The Nyirrpi petition has been signed by 48 residents of the tiny community.
“People are worried. I’ve got a petition on my desk from Nyirrpi. They are not in my electorate but we are here to represent all people across the Territory. I’ll be happy to take that petition to the next parliament and table it.
“Education is the key to anybody’s future. We want to make sure we’ve got the highest standard in the Territory.
“Penalising the most disadvantaged isn’t the way to go.”
Shadow Minister for Education Natasha Fyles has made the following release in response to Ms Anderson’s statements:
“The CLP is lurching from crisis to crisis and their attack on our kids’ education is the latest disaster.
“Namatjira MLA Alison Anderson has come out today and slammed her colleagues over the confusion and misinformation the cuts are causing in schools.
“It seems the CLP isn’t even being honest with their own, with Ms Anderson saying the messages she gets from the Education Minister’s office contradict what schools in her electorate are telling her.
“And her schools are saying they are losing local jobs and it’s the kids and families who will suffer.”
Ms Fyles called on other CLP MLAs to stand up for their schools and expose the truth about the cuts to education.
“The Member for Blain is a former principal – I’m sure he knows this Government has the wrong priorities when it cuts education.
“Terry Mills must be asking the questions about the impact on schools in Palmerston.
“And what about Stuart MLA Bess Price? She’s had plenty to say about education in the past but it seems she won’t even support Nyirripi School in her own electorate who have asked Alison Anderson to present their petition.
“I understand the CLP has called a crisis Cabinet meeting this afternoon over the education cuts.
“I call on the CLP MLAs to be open, honest and accountable to their schools and find out exactly how many teachers and support positions are being pulled out of their schools and let families in their electorates know what impact this is going to have on their kids’ education.”
Education Minister Peter Chandler provided the following comment:
“Alison Anderson is a very hard working Member of Parliament and what she has been hearing from her concerned constituents is evidence of the Union and Labor’s relentless campaign to spread fear and misinformation just to scare teachers and parents.
“I have spoken with Alison today and assured her that all positions at the Ntaria School will be there next year, in fact they received an increase in their allocation.
“I’m asking Labor and the Unions to respect teachers and be truthful when debating government policy, spreading lies does not help anyone.”
However, the Alice Springs News Online has sighted what appears to be a departmental document, showing the Teaching Staff Allocation Model for 2014.
It takes the figures for all Territory schools back to 2010. It shows that in that year Ntaria had 10.45 teachers allocated. In the following year this dropped to 9.44, a difference of -1.01%.
In 2012 there was a slight gain on 2011, of 0.35%. In 2013, this was reversed. Ntaria was down to 8.53 teachers, a loss of -1.26%.
The document foreshadows a further slight loss next year when Ntaria will have 8.40 teachers, down by 0.13%.
By KIERAN FINNANE