Benalla P-12 College certain for teacher cuts

By Benalla Ensign

Thirteen teachers are certain to be cut from Benalla P-12 College at the end of the 2019 school year.

The Benalla Ensign has been told all 13 have had meetings with employment agency Hudson Consulting about finding new jobs – or careers – once their contracts expire.

Meetings they were invited to by email according to staff who called The Ensign.

The new has outraged them – and parents who are already aware of the planned cuts.

Teachers have told The Ensign about the emails, the meetings and the news they would not have jobs at the end of the year.

“This has all happened in the past couple of weeks; we believed Mr Merlino when he said no jobs would be lost but obviously we were not told the truth,” one said.

Another said they were told it was because of the campus amalgamation.

“We were told cuts would mean larger class sizes, a loss of subjects, across the school.

“Our understanding … was amalgamating campuses was pitched as being beneficial for students.

“The question was asked if there would be any detrimental effects on the school and the answer was no.”

It also leaves Victorian Education Minister James Merlino in a position where he is selling two stories – and only one of them can be true.

Either staff are being cut, or they are not.

Until approached by The Ensign last week Mr Merlino was 100 per cent behind job security.

On May 15 we reported staff were concerned budget cuts of $1.5 million would result in job losses across the board.

However, Mr Merlino said the budget would simply see the school’s funding model reviewed after the closure of the Barkly St campus and its associated running costs.

“Any claim we are cutting funding from Benalla P-12 College is completely untrue,” Mr Merlino said at the time.

The following week he made even stronger statements.

“I really want to be absolutely clear to every single teaching staff member at Benalla, (to) every parent,” he said in The Ensign on May 22.

“There will be no reductions in teaching staff as a result of the school’s decision to close Barkly St,” he continued.

“I really want to make that clear because I don’t want any teachers being concerned, any parent being concerned. There is no reduction at all.”

Mr Merlino concluded by saying there would also be no reduction in teaching staff next year.

But when questioned by the paper last week about job losses, Mr Merlino failed to answer any question directly, instead choosing to change his position completely from May – when he guaranteed Benalla there would be no cuts.

“Let me be perfectly clear about this, and this is an important point,” he said.

“Teacher numbers aren’t determined by the number of campuses that a school has, so if a campus closes and the students move to one campus, that doesn’t determine teacher numbers.

“What does determine teacher numbers are enrolments. So the principal has made it clear, and I have made it clear, the movement of students back to the campus and away from the campus that is closing does not impact on teacher numbers.”

When asked to confirm 13 teachers have been told they will not have positions by the end of the year Mr Merlino again declined to provide a straight answer.

Instead he said: “The important point for the community, so teacher numbers aren’t determined by whether a campus is closing or not. Teacher numbers are determined by enrolments. If enrolments fall, your teacher allocation is reduced, if you increase, obviously your teacher allocations increase, so that is the determinate, so that’s probably the best answer I can give you."

Asked if his government was concerned about options for Benalla students, already some of the most disadvantaged in the state, he again declined to provide an answer to the question.

State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said she had been shattered by this "brazen" about face by Mr Merlino.

“The Andrews Government is heartlessly taking opportunities and support away from kids who desperately need it,” Ms Ryan said.

“I raised this significant concern the moment I realised the government was planning to tear so much money out of the school.

"When I did raise my concerns James Merlino was so adamant that no teachers would lose their jobs that I genuinely hoped that I was wrong.

“Mr Merlino has not stood by his word and now teachers are losing their jobs.

“We need to band together as a community to fight against the loss of these critical positions.

“Young people should not be the collateral damage of Labor’s savage budget cuts.”