Where is the investment in our children’s early years?

MANY Ballarat parents were forced to take leave from work or find alternative childcare yesterday, when the statewide teachers’ strike was staged.

While some were fortunate to have family or friends to look after their children, others had to call on sympathetic bosses to give them a day off.

Finding childcare at short notice is frustrating for working parents, but surely improved conditions for the people who teach these children is an important cause to fight for?

Yesterday’s 24-hour strike was the third full-day stop-work called by the Australian Education Union in two years of negotiations for improved pay and work conditions.

Thousands of teachers, including representatives from the Ballarat region, packed Hisense Arena in Melbourne yesterday morning demanding higher pay as part of their industrial dispute with the state government. 

Yesterday’s strike action involved as many as 30,000 teachers and school staff. It resulted in about 170 Victorian schools closing, but the government put the number of schools that did not have students at 300.

Education Minister Martin Dixon had called on the union to call off the strike, saying it was disappointing and disruptive to families and businesses.

The union is seeking a 4.2 per cent annual pay rise over three years, while the government public sector wages policy is an annual pay rise of 2.5 per cent with any further increases to be offset by productivity gains.

In Ballarat, some schools have cancelled camps and fetes and cut back on report comments to ensure teachers’ work is fully recognised.

These hard-working teachers are the ones who work side by side with parents to play an important part in guiding our children through the early years. These are the people who help to shape our future doctors, nurses, lawyers, receptionists, supermarket workers and, yes, our future teachers.

However, with new and increasing demands in recent years, our teachers have had to adapt their job description to include being more than educators to our kids. They have to become part-time health professionals, counsellors, mediators and much more.

Many prospective young teachers are moving interstate for better working conditions and a pay equal to their increased load.

There must be an appropriate investment in the best teachers and support staff in Victoria to ensure that our kids have the best start in their education life.

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