Cessnock Correctional Centre education staff held a one-hour stop-work meeting on Monday to protest the NSW Government’s proposed reforms to inmate education and training.
The NSW Government is set to outsource inmate education and training to specialist training organisations by early 2017.
Under the changes, the 9.5 full-time equivalent teaching positions at Cessnock jail will be replaced by four clerical positions.
The jail currently has nine fully-qualified teachers with more than 100 years’ specialised correctional education experience between them.
They offer more than 30 courses in education and vocational training, including literacy, numeracy, White Card, small business management, visual arts, Aboriginal studies and many more.
NSW Teachers Federation representative Michael Falcioni said he is concerned that the private organisations will use trainers with lower qualifications and less experience.
“Teaching in a correctional centre is unlike any other educational setting and the valuable experience these teachers have acquired means that they are able to engage a very challenging cohort of learners,” he said.
“To suggest that these lower-skilled trainers will produce better results than the highly qualified and experienced teachers is nonsensical.
“We urge the Baird government to reconsider this proposal and keep the quality, experienced teachers in the correctional centres.”
Cessnock Correctional Centre staff met with shadow corrections minister Guy Zangari and Cessnock MP Clayton Barr on August 16 to discuss their concerns about the new model.
Mr Barr was in Sydney and unable to attend Monday’s stop-work meeting but said he supported the staff’s concerns.
Corrections minister David Elliott announced the reform proposal in May after a review found the current system is “not sufficiently focused on job skills”.
Mr Elliott said the reform will more than double the number of inmates completing literacy and numeracy courses and increase vocational education and training activities by 20 per cent.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.