Teachers fight to keep prison jobs for education delivery

OPINION: Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall is in the lobbying sights for the NSW Teachers Federation
OPINION: Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall is in the lobbying sights for the NSW Teachers Federation

Educators in correctional centres across the North West will continue the fight to keep their jobs as a sweeping reform in the state’s prison education system draws closer.

A petition, in opposition to the changes which will see 138 education officers sacked and replaced with third party providers, has garnered more than 13,000 signatures.

That petition will be tabled in state parliament’s lower house for debate.

The NSW Teachers Federation says six jobs will be lost from the Tamworth and Glen Innes area and is calling for an inquiry in the upper house into how the decision was made.

As the petition continues to circulate, Teachers Federation figurehead Robert Long says those affected by the cuts will continue to lobby Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall.

However local politicians say they are yet to receive representations from concerned staff. 

“We are going to continue calling on Adam Marshall to make sure we don’t have any job losses in Glen Innes,” Mr Long said. ‘Teachers in jails reduce recidivism, the current plan that Minister (for Corrective Services David) Elliot has, has no clear proof that it will reduce this.

“Working as an educator in jails is a much more complex job than most people will understand.

“There is a whole series of different skills and relationships to encourage someone people who, for whatever reason, have had a very negative education experience before and have ended up working in crime.”

Mr Marshall said he was yet to be approached by the Federation or teachers but understood only one position from Glen Innes was to go.

“There seems to be a long running problem with the actual hours teachers are available to teach and the times that prison inmates want to be taught.

“In effect, I’m led to believe that the teaching availability doesn’t match the demand by the inmates.

“Only 62 percent of the available teaching hours are being utilised now – and inmate education is about the inmates and servicing their needs best, rather than about teachers.”

Mr Marshall said the NSW Government is reforming the way prison education is delivered – based on some successful models in other states – and it is aimed at doubling the numbers of inmates completing literacy and numeracy courses.

“Under the reforms at Glen Innes, the net loss will be one position but we expect the one affected staff member will be able to seek placements in other departmental roles or with the new external provider,” he said.