NSW teachers are taking the state government to the Industrial Relations Commission, accusing it of “downgrading” school counsellors’ qualifications.
The New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) president, Maurie Mulheron, told the ABC the union had been ignored, despite raising its concerns with the state government.
“The Federation has attempted to negotiate with the department for some time and we have not got anywhere,” Mulheron said.
“They have moved unilaterally without any negotiated settlement, so we're taking the department to the Industrial Relations Commission saying they are in breach of the award.”
He said the Industrial Relations Commission had now been notified of a dispute.
Previously school counsellors in NSW have required dual qualifications in teaching and psychology.
However, the NSW Education Department has now advertised for “school psychologists” without requiring teaching qualifications.
NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, said the change followed through on a commitment made during last year’s election to recruit more than 230 new counsellors in the state’s schools.
“It shouldn't be a requirement that a psychologist also has a teaching degree and is required currently to have taught for a year,” Piccoli said.
“That just simply means it's impossible to recruit schools counsellors and psychologists into our schools. There is a desperate need for more counsellors and there are great people out there who don't have teaching degrees — psychiatrists, psychologists.
“We want them working in education.”
However, Mulheron said that in order to do the job effectively, both qualifications were needed.
“These people work with principals and deputies and fellow teachers. They work on the child's literacy, numeracy and learning needs, as well as their emotional wellbeing,” he said.
“I was a principal for 10 years and the school counsellor was invaluable in that role, working alongside teachers as a fellow teacher.”