Hills teachers on strike today

Teachers from the Hills' public schools will strike for 24 hours in a stop work meeting today to protest the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy being introduced by the NSW government.

The strike, is expected to affect most of the state's 2200 public schools, is part of the increasingly acrimonious dispute over reforms designed to increase the local authority and responsibility of principals.

The NSW Teachers Federation says the Local Schools, Local Decisions reforms will see permanent teachers replaced by temporary and casual staff.

It argues the policy is a wolf in sheep's clothing, designed to cut expenditure on education and shift blame from the government.

Mr Piccoli expressed his great disappointment at the union's decision to go ahead with the 24-hour strike in defiance of an order by the commission.

"I ask that all teachers across NSW abide by the IRC's order to show up to schools to teach this Wednesday," he said.

"The union has deliberately misled its members and parents and, if the strike proceeds on Wednesday, it will be in direct defiance of the IRC.

"If the union truly has students' best interests at heart they will not strike on Wednesday and they will cease peddling misinformation and undermining public education."

The reforms, which are already being implemented across NSW, are intended to push decision-making back to schools, with Mr Piccoli promising principals will be able to choose at least 50 per cent of new staff and control 70 per cent of their budget.

The federation's principle objections revolve around staffing. There will be no mandated requirements for executive level appointments in schools, with principals able to spend their staffing budget as they see fit.

This freedom will extend to appointing casual teachers. In an autonomy trial, which ran in 47 NSW schools, 171 temporary appointments (out of a total of 289) were made by principals, a fact seized upon by the union to support its claims.

Other concerns include the potential breakdown of the existing statewide transfer system.

''We will put a recommendation to members to commit to fighting this campaign for as long as it takes, in every school community and in every electorate,'' the federation's president, Maurie Mulheron, said.

Both the NSW opposition education spokeswoman, Carmel Tebbutt and the P&C Federation called on both sides to negotiate a resolution to the dispute.

Ms Tebbutt said: ''The government really does need to sort this issue out with teachers … They could start by putting a representative of the federation on the main steering committee dealing with these reforms.''

The P&C spokeswoman Rachael Sowden called on the union to negotiate rather than strike.

''We are asking that the teachers and the NSW government enter into a meaningful and harmonious conversation around the current issues and concerns raised by the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy,'' she said.

''Parents seek for both the Teachers Federation and the government to … appreciate the real need for children to be left out of the arguments.''

The Industrial Relations Commission yesterday issued orders for Teachers Federation members to refrain from taking industrial action.

Mr Piccoli encouraged individual teachers to still come into work.

The teachers federation website said he did not sign the Putting Students First Charter issued by the union, which aimed to ensure that the new mechanism would not reduce investment in NSW schools.

A statement on the Teachers Federation website says the organisation has asked the Minister and Premier to guarantee that class sizes will not be increased, overall spending on public education will not be reduced and there will be no overall decrease in the level of permanent classroom teachers, executive and specialist teaching positions.

The union has also called for guarantees that school executive structures will continue to be determined by curriculum need and the number of students at each school, and key decisions at the school level will be made cooperatively by principals, teachers and parents.

The website said the education minister and premier’s refusal to provide these guarantees means that the teaching profession must now take action in defence of the quality of our students’ public education.

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