A MURWILLUMBAH teacher's aide has highlighted risks associated with the Local Schools Local Decisions policy being introduced by the government.
Teachers across the Tweed joined NSW strike action, striking for 24 hours on Wednesday.
More than 100 teachers gathered at Twin Towns Services Club today to discuss the policy which will give principals more power over school budgets.
The teacher's aide said there were both positives and negatives.
"Principals do have a more intimate knowledge of their staff and students than the department," she said.
"But, for example, if a principal is a sports fanatic he or she might make budget decisions based on that at the cost of the music program."
She said "things can go wrong" when responsibility is placed in the hands of people who do not have expertise in necessary areas.
Vice president of the NSW Teachers Federation Tim Mulroy said a Putting Students First Charter had been launched by the federation in response to the government's intentions.
Mr Mulroy, who is also a special education teacher at Murwillumbah High School, blamed the state treasury not education department for the perceived threat.
"They plan on using Naplan results to decide on mental health funding for schools," he said, which attracted murmurs from the Twin Towns gathering.
"Rather than the individual school's needs, which is nothing more than an accounting device to deliver savings required by treasury."
He said Education Minister Adrian Piccoli had refused to sign the federation's charter.
"We want the government to focus on student needs, rather than abstract concepts such as principal autonomy."
One teacher asked how retirement would affect a trend within the workforce toward casualisation.
Mr Mulroy said the Local Decisions policy would "inevitably" lead to more casualisation.
"The fear for principals, the element of this I would find the most daunting, would be the profession becoming more casual."
Another teacher asked how much the industrial action would focus on salary improvement.
Mr Mulroy said a salary-cap of 2.5% had been imposed by the government.
"Our ability to fight a salary campaign is inhibited by industrial law.
"I would encourage all teachers to write to their local members: Mr Page in Ballina, Mr Provest in Tweed and Mr George in Lismore."
Mr Piccoli stressed that funding to public education was not being reduced.
"Under Local Schools, Local Decisions schools and their communities will have more say over the best staffing mix to meet student needs within an enhanced school budget," he said.
"The class size policy remains and is included in the current staffing agreement.
"We have repeatedly told the Executive of the Federation and I am on the record publicly that the class size policy remains the same."
What they want
WORD for word, the charter the NSW Teachers Federation wishes Mr Piccoli and Premier Barry O'Farrell to sign:
The NSW Government guarantees that for the life of our first term in government, when making any changes to the NSW education system, we will always put students first. In particular we guarantee:
- Class sizes will not be increased;
- Funds for public education will not be reduced in real terms;
- There will be no overall decrease in the level of permanent teaching positions;
- The current harmonious award system will be maintained;
- There will be no decrease in the level of specialist teaching positions in our schools;
- School executive structures will continue to be determined by curriculum need and the number of students at each school;
- Key decisions at the school level will be made co-operatively by principals, teachers and parents.