7 June 2023

No teacher job losses pledged as Murrumbidgee Regional High divorce begins

| Oliver Jacques
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Prue Car outside MRHS

Prue Car says no teacher will lose their job when the two schools are demerged. Photo: Supplied.

NSW Deputy Premier and Education Minister Prue Car has said no teacher will lose their job when Murrumbidgee Regional High School (MRHS) undertakes the process of being demerged to become two schools again.

The previous Liberal National NSW government controversially combined the town’s only two secondary schools – Griffith High and Wade High – into one so-called “super school” on two sites four kilometres apart in 2018. After five years of problems and complaints from parents, teachers and students, the Labor opposition promised to demerge the schools before the 2023 election.

Minister Car visited Griffith on 6 June to meet with teachers and reaffirm the Minns Labor Government’s commitment to demerge the school and revert it to two standalone high schools with their own principals and dedicated staff.

READ ALSO Demerger of Murrumbidgee Regional High School – five key priorities

“I have heard loud and clear that Griffith wants two quality standalone public high schools rather than a merged one,” she said.

“We have a unique opportunity here to address the community’s concerns and find the right solution. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes made by the previous government.”

In a meeting at the Griffith site alongside State MP for Murray Helen Dalton, the Deputy Premier told teachers that nobody would lose their job in the demerger process, as all staff were needed during the current chronic statewide teacher shortage.

Woman stands with sign at teacher protest

Teachers at MRHS engaged in frequent protests over the past few years to improve pay and conditions and to call on the previous NSW government to address staff shortages. Photo: Supplied.

Other aspects of the demerger – such as whether each school will have separate uniforms and separate sporting teams again – are yet to be determined.

The Minister plans to return to Griffith to have wider consultations with parents and students, saying she wants the demerger to be done “as quickly as possible” and with “minimal inconvenience to the students, staff and wider community”. There is, however, no specific timeframe for the separation, with Ms Car indicating she wants to seek local feedback first.

The demerger was not the only item on her agenda during Tuesday’s visit. Ms Car said she had also asked the Department of Education to review specific rules that currently “penalise teachers” who live and teach in Griffith, and therefore receive “lower entitlements than those who live in Griffith but work in nearby towns”.

The NSW Teachers Federation, the union that represents teaching staff, has long questioned why educators in Griffith received lower pay and inferior entitlements than their counterparts in neighbouring Leeton and Darlington Point. They have argued that MRHS needed to be classified as a “four-point transfer school”, in line with nearby towns – which would improve pay and prioritise teachers for placements in other schools.

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The union has also pushed for the Griffith and Wade sites to have separate NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) numbers. NSW Teachers Federation organiser Brett Bertalli said having one NESA number across both sites was a “nightmare”.

“Two teachers [on each site] have to collaborate to cover everything identically – there was no wriggle room for personal and professional differences between the two sites … the teachers have to travel between sites and talk to each other – it’s all extra time that teachers don’t have,” he said.

Ms Car told teachers she would try to address this issue by term four.

She also said planned upgrades to both Murrumbidgee Regional High School campuses were also progressing with a development application due to be submitted for approval within a month.

The second stage of the school upgrades will see multipurpose halls built at the Griffith and Wade sites, as well as refurbishments of the school library at the Griffith site.

Pending approvals, construction on the Griffith site will start by the end of 2023, while work will commence on the Wade site in early 2024.

The Department of Education said it was working on the concept designs of the upgrades, and as part of these, would be reviewing the final location of the Wade hall in response to school community feedback.

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