LEETON shire teachers staged a protest late last week when NSW Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell came to town.
Some teachers from Leeton Public School, Leeton High School and, later in the day, Yanco Agricultural High School were authorised to leave their classrooms when the minister was on site.
Outside Leeton Public School they held a protest as the minister walked into the grounds, wearing their "more than thanks" t-shirts and holding their signs and flags.
Teachers at Yanco Ag chanted "more than thanks" as the minister arrived.
The protest followed on from strike action earlier on in May as teachers call for more support from the government, more boots on the ground and improved conditions.
Leeton High's NSW Teachers Federation representative Luke Di Salvia said staff were taking a stand on behalf of their students.
"Every kid at every school, every day, has the right and expectation to receive a high-quality education," he said.
"The current staffing crisis is preventing this from happening and this minister (Ms Mitchell) and the Perrottet government are doing nothing that works adequately to solve these enduring issues.
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"Rural incentives and cash payments, while effective in some instances, are doing very little to address the root cause. Multiple uncovered classes and collapsed classes are far too regular and almost a daily occurrence.
"Teachers regularly sacrifice valuable preparation time and take extra classes for the so-called 'greater good', leaving them less time to do everything else that is demanded of them."
Ms Mitchell did not address the protesting staff members during his visit to Leeton.
However, when speaking with The Irrigator she said she respected the right of teachers to be part of the union and their passion.
"I think it is important to mention we are working through those issues, we're in the Industrial Relations Commission ... we've got a budget coming up soon and the premier and I have both said we want to look at what we can do to support all of our frontline staff, including teachers," Ms Mitchell said.
"Interestingly here in Leeton, in terms of permanent vacancies, there's none at the moment at the (Leeon) public school, there's a couple at the high school.
"So, we have to be realistic too in terms of what's happening with our communities. What I don't want is any parent in Leeton to think 'oh, I can't send my child to the local public school because they won't get the best education'. They absolutely will. There's some amazing things happening at our public schools.
"Also, if we are trying to attract other people into the teaching profession, we have to talk about the positives as well."
Ms Mitchell acknowledged there was a shortage of casual staff both in Leeton and across the state.
"Perhaps the government should address the excessive workload, uncompetitive salaries and inadequate release time that makes teaching a less than attractive career option for high school graduates," Mr Di Salvia said.
"Perhaps the government should give existing teachers 'more than thanks'.
"And, perhaps, since ultimately it's all about the kids and their education, the government might actually consider that teachers' working conditions are, in actuality, our students' learning conditions."
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