State government offer fails to impress striking SA public school teachers

Teachers across 171 South Australian (SA) schools will strike today after their union rejected an offer from the state government.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Teachers across 172 South Australian (SA) schools will strike for better pay and working conditions on Thursday 9 November after the Australian Education Union’s SA branch rejected an offer from the state government.

For many SA families, though, stress around school closures and questions about how the teachers’ strike will impact Year 12 students sitting South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) exams remain.

Professor Christopher Boyle is the Associate Head (Research) in the School of Education at the University of Adelaide. The former high school teacher and educational psychologist has more than 25 years of experience in education and psychology.

 

Facing exams? Concentrating on what you can control is key

To help stressed students get through today’s exams taking place during the strike action, his top tip is to “focus on what you can control, rather than events outside of your control”.

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“Although some families may be experiencing anxiety about the strike’s impact, there will be various levels of mitigation that will be in place by schools and SACE to ensure that any action by teachers does not unfairly disadvantage the Year 12 students,” he told EducationDaily. “It can be a really difficult time because of the general pressures of the exam period and families should concentrate on events that you can control, rather than an event such as a teacher strike, which you can have no control over.”

Exactly how SA schools manage the management of Year 12 exams will, Professor Boyle says, depend on each school.

“I would think that schools will have a plan in place to ensure that they are able to support the Year 12 students as much as possible. The schools are very aware of the tension around this period of a student’s life. Teachers do not take industrial action lightly and action during this period will weigh heavily on most, if not all, teachers. I am sure teachers will be ensuring that students are as best prepared as possible, whilst maintaining their rights to take industrial action,” he says.

Teachers seek better conditions for demanding role

Describing strike action by any group of employees as “the ultimate form of action against an employer”, Professor Boyle says it usually only occurs after several preceding steps have already been taken – often over a long period of time – and says strike action is “a historically and contemporarily recognised approach to achieving a set goal”.

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“Teaching is a difficult job. Very few would argue against this. The attrition level in the teaching profession is far higher than in other professions. There is usually a reason for this in any profession,” he told EducationDaily. “Teachers are constantly flagging increased and unsustainable workloads. A decade ago, people used to make disparaging comments about teachers having too many holidays. However, I rarely hear this anymore. I take this as an indication that the job of a teacher is widely recognised by members of the public (including parents) as being incredibly difficult and that recompense for this should be at a level that recognises the demands of the profession.”

Supporting the role of teachers matters

Flinders University’s Dr Loretta Bowshall-Freeman has more than two decades of cross-curriculum teaching experience across primary and secondary schools and specialises in professional experience placement.

She says families worried about the impact of today’s strike action will no doubt be reassured that “exam processes will be followed, as previously planned” and says that, although strike action is not the only possible strategy, it does “raise the profile of the issues and concerns”.

To make the sustainable change needed to support teachers fighting for better pay and working conditions, Dr Bowshall-Freeman told EducationDaily “the teaching profession, Government, and media need to positively work together to create a cultural shift, to give teachers the respect and economic value they deserve”.

“Over decades, the teaching profession has often been criticised and recommended partial solutions have been implemented; however, these actions have not resolved underlying issues,” she says. “In enduring collective partnership, let’s positively acknowledge teachers and the dedicated wonderful work that they do in educating students.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live