While the historic events of the weekend unfold and the parties are no doubt in extreme negotiations, Canberra schools are in crisis.

The labour government’s “education revolution”, while commendable in terms of affording a sizeable investment in education, has failed to address the No.1 issue that will make the greatest difference to the outcomes they seek.

Canberra schools are in crisis right now, and it would be a good bet to say that schools in other states and territories around the nation are probably suffering commensurate concerns.

The problem? Staff shortages. Why? The demands on teachers have meant an exodus from the profession. Not only this, but there has been no effective succession plan for the replacement and recruitment of teachers, in anticipation of a large proportion of the profession retiring in the next 10-15 years.

Both parties in politics have a “deficit” model, when dealing with teachers in schools. It is assumed that teachers are not performing well enough, even though there are a high proportion of dedicated staff in most schools. Staff, who are working harder and longer, for minimal recognition and less than sufficient financial remuneration.

Like the election, never has there been a lower morale in the teaching profession as there is today.

The young ones are staying for five years or less, and now there are moves to bring in mature-aged people from other professions to inject a potentially effective solution. The problem is that the “fast track” six-week training proposed to get these new teachers into the classroom, is laughable. In terms of trying to create the elite teachers the government is asking for, in order to fuel this “education revolution”, it’s a farce. Would they put “fast track” doctors into service, or lawyers, or accountants in the same way?

It’s a Band-Aid solution that will simply fester and spread the infected wound further into the operational limbs of our handicapped system, we are currently trying laughably, to move forward.

Last week, there was an urgent email sent by a deputy in a local high school, apologising to staff who have to cover absences by taking on extra classes and duties, above their already burgeoning loads.

“It’s a state of emergency today, with lack of relief staff available and many staff out sick or on an excursion. The staffing team apologises for rostered relief slips today, given that so many of you did extra work yesterday with home groups. However, spending several hours on the phone last night trying to get additional bodies — all to no avail, there’s not much we can do.”

This turns teaching into a desperate “babysitting” model, geared for survival. We are treading water, not moving forward.

Meanwhile, another high school declared it was officially in crisis at a Saturday union council meeting, as the principal and deputy have had to take on extra class cover, and the head of student services had to run  SS and pastoral care, because they cannot attract relief teachers.

Not only is the crisis in relief teaching, however, but also one could safely bet that absenteeism and stress leave would be at an all-time high.

One teacher said: “We are working above load, doing extra relief lessons and helping with curriculum content for classes being taken by relief teachers, because there are no contract staff. We are exhausted.”

Throw into the mix, a discussion had with some primary school teachers last week, who contend that up to 50% of their teaching week is taken up by non-teaching demands. Secondary teachers complain about the time it takes on administrative activities, which also takes away large chunks of teaching time.

Finally, a departmental staffer, who attended a national professional development activity recently, which required her to go to Sydney, could not stay with others attending the course, in a nearby four-star hotel in the city centre. Why? She was forced to stay in a three-star hotel and catch taxis, (which incidentally raised the cost to the four-star equivalent of the nearby hotel, the rest of the delegates used), simply because the department refused to allow their teachers to stay in anything above three-star accommodation. A blanket rule, apparently.

This is how we treat our teachers. As second-class citizens!

If we manage to get a new government in place, a government that will finally listen to the people, lend an ear to the teachers. Teachers, who really want to be equal partners in this education revolution, not just servants of ineptitude; teachers, who don’t need reprimanding and reductionist policies, that reinforce their already low social standing and respect in the community.

Get rid of the “deficit” model and reinstate a celebratory, respectful appreciation of the vital job that has to date, only received “lip service”, and put the money where the lips have sunk ships for far too long.

Then, can we move forward.

The alternative: ships in the night of education, propping up a revolution, which is fast sinking into a sea of oblivion.