Teacher council evicted from offices
The state's peak professional teachers' organisation is in a tug-of-war with the NSW government which is forcing it out of its inner-city headquarters, raising concerns about its ability to help teachers adapt to the new national curriculum next year.
The Professional Teachers' Council, which represents teachers from specialist teacher groups, has been evicted from its office at Leichhardt Public School.
NSW Director General Michele Bruniges has written to the organisation, which provides curriculum expertise and professional development for teachers, ordering them to vacate the building.
Ms Bruniges said the council was offered alternative premises in Ryde and Mt Druitt but had rejected them.
Kim Tsolakis, executive officer of the Professional Teachers' Council, said both sites were inadequate for the organisation's needs.
"Our current premises are stand alone, with stand-alone facilities," he said.
"We have been waiting for more than 18 months for the department to offer appropriate office space and meeting room facilities."
Mr Tsolakis said the premises offered by the Department of Education and Communities would compromise security. He said phone lines and the computer server would be dependent on and accessible by the department.
"The Professional Teachers' Council NSW is a cross-sectoral organisation and cannot be placed in a workplace environment that compromises the integrity of the independence of the organisation," he said.
"We remain committed to co-operate but must preserve our right to agree and for the licensor to offer suitable premises. We indicated as long ago as May 2011 that one of the identified vacant buildings in the Callan Park precinct would be suitable alternative premises, and continue to do so.
"Any perceived resistance to move is the direct result of the unavailability of suitable alternative premises."
Mr Tsolakis said the council had until midnight Friday to vacate the Leichhardt building.
However, a Department of Education spokesman said the council had been given sufficient notice of its need to leave the Leichhardt building and said the Ryde premises could accommodate all the council's needs, including the provision of meeting rooms.
He said the council's reluctance to move had more to do with leaving an inner-city location.
A parent of a child at the school said the use of the building was vital as the school was struggling to cope with increased pupil numbers.
Greens NSW MP John Kaye said the O'Farrell government had ignored the importance of the professional teachers' associations at a time of fundamental change to the school curriculum.
"Making their peak body homeless will undermine their capacity to develop and deliver the professional development programs that are essential to maintaining and improving quality teaching and educational outcomes," he said.
"Making the Professional Teachers' Council homeless means its member associations will struggle to provide quality professional development.
"Students will lose out if Education Minister Adrian Piccoli denies the peak body a central location to develop and deliver opportunities for teachers to undertake professional development adapted to the new curriculum.
"A home for the Professional Teachers' Council is not just essential to help teachers adapt to the new syllabus. Early career teachers will struggle to meet mandatory professional development requirements if the professional associations cannot deliver courses."
Lai Yin Chiew, director of the Department of Education's Facilities Management and Advisory Service, said in a letter to the council that its "unwillingness or inability" to vacate the Leichhardt Public School site had "created major difficulties for the operation of the school".
"Every reasonable effort has been made by the department to assist the council in identifying a suitable alternative site and to provide ample time for relocation."
Paul McMaster, the parent of a child at Leichhardt Primary School, said the school has seen "an explosion in numbers over recent times".
"Last year the situation had got so bad that the before- and after-school care service had to utilise the library just to accommodate overflowing demand," he said.
"All the while, the Professional Teachers' Council was occupying a significant stand-alone building in the school that was desperately needed for the school, much of which was not actually or actively being used by the PTC.
"I, along with many other anxious parents, attended many meetings towards the end of last year to get an update on protracted negotiations with the PTC to move elsewhere.
"Without them moving, there would be no more room to accommodate any after-school care for new parents at the school, as well as severely compromise the ability of the school to increase the classroom facilities to cope with numbers.
"The PTC were stubbornly and unreasonably resisting any move out of the building. They were not the slightest bit interested in the fact that Leichhardt School was bursting at the seams and needed the building back to accommodate students."