In a strong show of unity, over 300 teachers from Wagga and the wider region converged on the Wagga Showgrounds this morning over teacher shortages and workload management reforms.
Gathering in the Kyeamba-Smith Hall at the Wagga Showground, the NSW Teachers Federation members were a sea of red shirts, flags and placards.
Wagga primary teacher Micheala Collins said student welfare was her main concern for attending yesterday's strike action.
"The kids in our schools have needs that just cannot be met," Ms Collins said.
"We have very limited school counselling services and kids with increasing mental health issues," she said.
"I have had instances where multiple students in my class are self-harming and they are only eight, nine and ten years of age.
"What can I do? I'm not a mental health professional or psychologist.
"How are we supposed to support these students, knowing that our two hours a week simply doesn't cut it?"
Ms Collins is early in her career and moved to Wagga a few years ago to take up a position as a targeted graduate.
"Even as a beginning teacher with all the enthusiasm and passion for the job, there are definite gaps in our experience and real concerns that make you wonder where we are headed," she said.
"The sustainability of our profession is a real concern."
Wagga head teacher Joel Lowrie said it was about more than politics.
"The worry I have is often the message we have gets lost in playing politics, but I don't think it's about that," Mr Lowrie said.
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"As a manager of staff, I see some who are strung out and barely hanging on to the profession they love because it's just too hard," he said.
He said it's been going on for some time and things are getting worse.
"I've just come back from extended leave and when I walked back into my school and I saw people doing their jobs it was an absolute madhouse.
"Each new government policy that's introduced just adds another layer to bureaucracy that's difficult enough as it is.
"The worry from my point of view is I've got a staff room full of young teachers who I support, but they are not staying in the profession, and [with they way things are going] my kids won't have teachers."
Wagga Teachers Association president Michelle McKelvie was impressed at how many attended the rally.
"We had a great turnout and the teachers were very supportive. It just showed the strength of the union and that teachers in Wagga and the surrounding district have had enough of the teacher shortage and want the government to take action," Ms McKelvie said.
She said a key issue was the excessive workloads teachers currently experience.
"They are having to cover other classes and do lots of administration work. This is all taking away from the reason they go into the profession in the first place, to educate our future generations."
Responding to the strike action, a Department of Education spokesperson said they repeatedly called on the Teachers Federation to put students first and call off the industrial action.
They also flagged that the government has indicated its intention to consider wages as part of the budget process which concludes in June.
"The Minister and Secretary will also seek to defer the Industrial Relations Commission arbitration on the salaries component of the Award to enable us to factor in any outcomes of the budget process. The Department will do its best to minimise disruption to teaching and learning."
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