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School shake-up cops a caning

SMALL schools across the Clarence Valley will undergo a major shake-up from 2016, with some parents and teachers viewing the restructure as a major step backwards.

Harwood Island Public School P&C president Danielle Hollis said the reforms, which are part of the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy, would result in many small schools being downgraded and stripped of their autonomy under a 'Hub and Spoke' model.

"We understand that under this model it is quite possible for our school, Harwood Island Public, to be reclassified," Mrs Hollis said.

"This would mean we would have a leading teacher rather than a principal on site.

"We also understand that this would bring us under the auspices of a larger school."

She said the proposal demonstrated a complete disregard of small schools and rural communities.

"Small schools were an integral part of the community and to imply that rural students do not need a principal on site to oversee the day-to-day management and educational leadership within a school would be a step backward," Mrs Hollis said.

"Knowing that a principal is on site to deal with situations and meet with parents and communities are an extremely important aspect of small schools, especially in locations where there are often no police or medical services."

Mrs Hollis said a state-wide petition is being promoted via Get Up, calling for NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli to reconsider the restructure which was tied to a salary agreement made by the NSW Teachers Federation earlier this month.

NSW Greens MP John Kaye said he supported the petition and would raise the issue in Parliament when it resumed in 2014, seeking to ensure the security for small schools into the future.

He said although the Government appeared to have backed down somewhat from their original 'Hub and Spoke' proposal, he said long-term cuts to small schools were still clearly on the agenda.

"They see them (small schools) as expensive, despite the fact they provide enormous support to the communities they serve," Mr Kaye said.

"Small schools are the intellectual heart of many small communities, the central nervous system and defining characteristic of identity and to take them away would destroy that unique identity."

Meanwhile a spokes-person for the NSW Department of Education said as the agreement had now been reached it was an operational matter rather than a political one.

From 2016 the classification and salary of all new principals will be based on school complexity and will eventually apply to all NSW government schools and principals.

Mr Piccoli said the reforms would allow associate principals to spend more time on face-to-face teaching with less time out of the classroom.

"This seeks to address the concerns of principals and parents in smaller schools who want to spend more time in the classroom and less time on administrative and management activities," Mr Piccoli said.

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