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Teacher shortages and natural disasters on the agenda for Shadow Education Minister Prue Car

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NSW shadow education minister Prue Car, centre, speaks at a forum held by the Catholic Council of School Parents NSW/ACT on 18 November.Photo: Adam Wesselinoff
NSW shadow education minister Prue Car, centre, speaks at a forum held by the Catholic Council of School Parents NSW/ACT on 18 November.
Photo: Adam Wesselinoff

Teacher shortages and schools wrecked by natural disasters were among the issues raised with NSW shadow education minister Prue Car at a forum held by the Catholic Council of School Parents NSW/ACT on 18 November.

Pauline Walkom, from the Bathurst Catholic Education Office, said the school in Eugowra in her diocese had been devastated by the floods.

“They have absolutely nothing. Not a pen, not a piece of paper, to carry on,” Mrs Walkom said.

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Other attendees from around NSW told similar stories about schools and communities “decimated” by the floods.

School communities in Lismore saw their facilities wrecked as early as February this year, but can’t rebuild because insurance companies are now reluctant to cover flood prone sites, another attendee said.

“Ms Car heard further stories from members whose schools would relish the chance to host health and social services support for students, but lack the facilities.”

“As a matter of urgency, even before you think about the next government, I think there needs to be a request to the government to rebuild the school, even though it’s a Catholic school,” Ms Car said.

“There’s a huge case for that … In times of disaster, what choice does the government of NSW have in my view than to help children back into the education system?”

Ms Car heard further stories from members whose schools would relish the chance to host health and social services support for students, but lack the facilities.

In some schools the principal’s office is vacated for sessions with social workers or visiting doctors, because it is the only suitable private space, attendees said.

Ms Car said low-fee Catholic schools had a “good argument” for more capital funding support for infrastructure, in both regional and metropolitan growth areas.

NSW shadow education minister Prue Car, centre, withouthers at a forum held by the Catholic Council of School Parents NSW/ACT on 18 November.Photo: Adam Wesselinoff
NSW shadow education minister Prue Car, centre, withouthers at a forum held by the Catholic Council of School Parents NSW/ACT on 18 November.
Photo: Adam Wesselinoff

“There’s absolutely no problem from a future Labor government in supporting Catholic schools to grow infrastructure-wise,” she said.

In 2021, the National Catholic Education Commission estimated the Catholic sector had around $4 billion in shovel-ready capital works projects suitable for government investment between 2021-2024.

The shadow education minister also said measures needed to be put in place to improve teacher retention and address the crisis in the teaching workforce.

“The best and brightest” need to be encouraged to teach, and an increase in pay is part of the solution, Ms Car said.

“At both ends now we find ourselves at this unenviable situation where experienced teachers nearing retirement are retiring early because of the challenges faced in school environments,” she said.

“Then we’ve got young teachers who enter classrooms and deal with ever-increasing workloads that aren’t necessarily to do with education, pedagogy or anything – it’s admin.

“It’s no surprise that 60 per cent of young teachers want to get out within the next five years.”

Ms Car, who was educated at Our Lady of the Way Emu Plains and Caroline Chisholm College Glenmore Park, said she wished to be the “minister for all education, not just one sector” if Labor forms government in March 2023.

She said she was committed to working with teachers, experts and parents’ groups to improve the quality of education in NSW if elected, saying education was the most important service provided by government.

“You only get one childhood,” Ms Car said.

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