Despite promises to boost the number of teachers in Dubbo's struggling schools, staff at one local high school report there are still days they are down more than a dozen teachers.
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Speaking to the Daily Liberal on Tuesday, NSW Teachers Federation organiser Kelly Bowman said Dubbo College Delroy Campus was still regularly merging classes and holding periods of minimal supervision after being unable to get a teacher in the classroom.
"They are still massively short. There are thirteen teachers short at Delroy today," she said.
"They have no access to relief [...] because there are no casuals available so executive staff who are there to support the day-to-day running of the school are being put into classrooms in an attempt to cover shortages."
"People's grandchildren and their children are coming home and telling them 'we didn't have a teacher today', 'we still haven't got a teacher', 'we sat in the playground for three out of five periods today'."
Labor's candidate for Dubbo Josh Black - himself a local high school teacher - said he had also been contacted by four teachers at the school on Monday to report they were over a dozen teachers down.
"This crisis in teacher numbers has been a decade in the making and is caused by excessive workload causing burnout, along with the teacher pay cap," he said.
"That is leading to students missing out on vital learning, which is then flowing through to worsening results on literacy and numeracy tests"
Last year, Dubbo College Delroy campus was named one of the hardest schools to staff in the state with 12 vacant positions in June.
According to Delroy's internal records, there were no teachers for more than 1,400 periods in Term 1 of 2022. In Term 2, there were more than 1,200 periods that could not be staffed.
In instances where teachers could not be found, classes were merged or minimally-supervised study sessions outside of classrooms were held. In one instance, more than 200 students studied on the back oval with only two teachers to supervise.
Ms Bowman said the school's staffing struggle was reflected in recent NAPLAN results which revealed students were "well below" the national benchmarks in many areas and the school's attendance level of just 17 percent in Semester 1 of last year.
"The results are a reflection of what's happening. And unless governments are directing funding to these public schools where the most disadvantaged students are, it's not going to get any better," she said.
"We're in a crisis now, this is probably going to be the biggest crisis we've had in education for 50 years. And if something doesn't happen to change that now this will get worse."
It's not just Dubbo schools which are struggling to attract and retain staff - on January 30 of this year, the Department of Education said there were 2,168 teacher vacancies in NSW.
In November last year, there were 3,300 vacant permanent positions in public schools - an increase of 219 on the year prior.
Meanwhile, a recent NSW government public service survey reveals two thirds of teachers are burnt out and 60 per cent are looking to leave the profession in the next five years.
Responding to reports of the shortage, education minister Sarah Micthell assured the Education department's priority recruitment team was "already delivering results" in hard-to-staff schools. However, as of September 19 2022, there were still 7 permanent vacancies at Delroy.
Mr Black slammed the ongoing shortage as a "failure" of the education minister and local member and called on Premier Dominic Perrottet to step in on the matter.
"The Liberal-National Minister described thousands of school children missing out on classes as a 'myth' and a 'lie' - the parents of this electorate know full well that cancelled and merged classes are a reality that affects them every day," he said.
"This has been an ongoing crisis for years now, and the Premier needs to intervene immediately."
He said, if elected, he would work with the Labor party to deliver its planned education reforms including creating 10,000 more permanent teaching roles by shifting temporary positions into ongoing jobs and cutting teacher admin hours by five hours per week to reduce burn-out.
Mr Black is also calling on the government to release the figures on how many merged and cancelled classes have occurred in Dubbo electorate schools already in 2023.
"It doesn't matter if the public school is in Dubbo, Wellington, Narromine, Gulgong or Mudgee, they are all suffering from a massive shortage of teachers, which ultimately hurts student learning," he said.
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