Teachers to quit funding trial

TEACHERS at five schools taking part in the state government's program to devolve power to principals have voted to withdraw from the trial.

TEACHERS at five schools taking part in the state government's program to devolve power to principals have voted to withdraw from the trial.

They say Local Schools, Local Decisions will reduce permanent positions, increase casualisation of the teaching workforce and reduce promotional opportunities.

Staff at schools including Hurstville Boys, Peakhurst Girls and Kyogle High School on the north coast have revolted against devolution. Kyogle has already asked to withdraw as a consequence.

Principals at the four schools that make up Georges River College are under pressure from staff who have voted overwhelmingly during the past fortnight to leave the trial.

Georges River College took part in a two-year, state government-based devolution trial and is in the federal government's Empowering Local Schools pilot program in which extra funding was provided.

The NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, has refused to guarantee that school budgets would not be cut in future.

The Sun-Herald last week revealed a groundswell of concern among principals that the program, which puts them in control of 70 per cent of the school budget, is a smokescreen for cost-cutting.

In New York, schools have lost 13.7 per cent in funding since its system was devolved in 2007, while Victoria spends less per child on education since handing budgets over to principals.

A teacher at Georges River College's Oatley campus, Murray Blundell, said: "Anywhere in the world they have introduced systems like this it has been the first step to reducing government expenditure on education."

He said teachers feared the 20,000 NSW teachers due for retirement by 2015 would be replaced by casuals. About 70 per cent of TAFE teachers are already casual.

A spokesman for Mr Piccoli rejected the suggestion, saying the teachers' union was running a scare campaign.

"A state-wide staffing system will be retained. Teachers will continue to have tenure when they are appointed to a permanent position," he said. "Should a vacancy occur in a school, then the school will determine the mix of permanent and temporary staff within their resources to meet local needs."

The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maurie Mulheron, said schools such as Kyogle and Georges River College were "by no means isolated".

"There are discussions going on among teachers right across NSW," he said. "They are saying this is not on. They see it's about reducing permanent positions, staff numbers and opportunities for promotion."

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