Extra staff to support teachers in the office and classrooms and a free universal kindergarten year accepting children before they turn six are education reforms minister Sarah Mitchell is planning to introduce to ease the pressures on the school system.
While visiting Dubbo North Public School as it celebrates Education Week with Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders, Ms Mitchell said the reforms were meant "to simplify" the state's school system and "address the issues" she hears on the ground.
"We need to make sure that we've got amazing teachers working in our schools...In reality, we have consistently low vacancies that sit around two to three percent but there's always movement," Ms Mitchell said.
The recurring staff shortages across the state, many in the regions, were exacerbated by the pandemic when many teachers and office staff have gone on sick leaves, even sourcing casual staff to fill the rosters had been difficult.
"These are issues we are working to address particularly for me as a minister from the regions, we're making sure we've got good regional incentives and good initiatives to help grow our teachers in the bush," Ms Mitchell said.
It is part of the state government's "teacher supply strategy" recently funded in the budget to the tune of $125 million to support schools in the cities and regions.
An initial of 200 support staff are being recruited to assist teachers with preparing learning resources, reports, and data entry, including answering phone calls, are being recruited targeting parents who are re-entering the workforce, and professionals who need a change, as well as retirees seeking to utilise their skills and earn extra money.
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The additional staff is expected to ease the pressure on the workforce which already employs over 90,000 across the state.
At Dubbo North, principal Toby Morgan said they would "greatly appreciate" any extra help as student numbers grow, currently 285 with 26 staff on the roll.
"We all jump in to support each other and do bits and pieces but obviously more support staff is much appreciated.
"The increase of our administrative tasks obviously comes with the job, as well as accountabilities, but everyone goes above and beyond their duties and fills the gaps wherever it's needed," Mr Morgan said.
Being Education week, and while Ms Mitchell and Mr Saunders were busily chatting and hearing many stories from students, Mr Morgan said they were delighted that the pandemic which closed down the school for a period of time is now heading in the right direction.
"We have been quite lucky not many teachers caught COVID and touch wood," Mr Morgan, dressed as a tiger to amuse his students for the day, said.
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