The conference, held on July 1-3, gave NSW Teachers’ Federation members a chance to raise their concerns about Connected Communities, and determine what steps would be taken to address these concerns.
The connected communities strategy aims to improve indigenous students’ academic performance by changes to staffing, the curriculum and the school campuses.
Two Moree schools; Moree Secondary College (both campuses) and Moree East Public School, will undergo the changes.
NSW Teachers’ Federation relieving New England and North West organiser, Ian Watson, said the main issue raised by teachers in the 15 Connected Communities schools was the State Government’s lack of consultation with teachers and the communities involved.
He said the Teachers’ Federation and other bodies such as the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group had attended a few meetings as part of a “steering committee” for the reforms, but had assumed there would be much more consultation before the strategy was announced or put in place.
“The announcement of (Connected Communities) just blindsided us, other groups involved and the schools,” Mr Watson said.
“The (State) Government has basically come in over the top of the steering committee and announced all these changes.
“The Department of Education and the Ministry are pedalling lies that we have agreed to this... to say that we agreed to all these changes is a flat out lie.”
The Federation said the rollout of Connected Communities had been rushed, and that the 15 schools were simply told they would be part of the strategy without consultation.
“I’ve had members from the schools tell me that it has made them feel like they have failed,” he said. It is completely insensitive to the needs of the community. We support improving indigenous education but this is not the way to do it. We want this to work and the way things are going (Connected Communities) will not succeed.”
Concerns were also raised over the changes to staffing, which could see current principals replaced when the “executive principals” are appointed.
“We were raising these staffing issues in the steering committee meetings. We were working towards making sure our teacher’s industrial rights were adhered to – now they’ve announced the roll out without addressing any of those issues,” Mr Watson said.
During the Teachers’ Federation Conference, it was decided the Federation would request the rollout of Connected Communities be stopped, and the ministers and Department of Education come “back to the table” to negotiate how the reforms would occur.
“At this stage there is no indication from the Department of Education that they are willing to roll back the process and continue negotiations. They are just going ahead bull at a gate.”
If the government does not agree to negotiate the Teachers’ Federation will consider putting in place a moratorium to stop the rollout.
“We still believe that this strategy has some merit and can work – but any educational change needs genuine community consultation.”