Will the next generation of Catholic education staff member last? Ian Hughes is concerned that they won’t, under the current workload and wages that exist in the Catholic education sector. Ian Hughes is a full time audiovisual technician for Lourdes Hill College in Queensland, and is one of thousands of teachers who took a day of protest against work conditions in Catholic schools last week.
We know that there has been concern about enrollment in Catholic schools causing cutbacks which add to the workload for the remaining teachers. And while there is data to say that trend may be turning back in favor of higher enrollment, which would loosen some tension in the budgets of Catholic institutions, the low wages and extra workload in some Catholic schools is taking a toll on teachers and other faculty.
Hughes represented hundreds of Catholic teachers and support staff at meetings between the Queensland Catholic Education Commission and the state’s union for teachers for a year. But the problem isn’t specific to Australia or Queensland, this debate may be relevant and reach worldwide. They are scared about what the future will look like for religious education faculty worldwide. The workload is large, and with pay increases fewer and further between, the fear is that this work environment discourages young educators from seeking a lifetime career before they are even five years into their teaching pursuits. “If we stop now and don’t do what I’m doing, it will be worse for teachers in the future. Most support officers are not full-time, and work in school term times at 40 weeks a year,” Mr Hughes said. “They are on a lower-tier pay scale, with reduced holiday pay. Why are they penalised for not having a full-time job?” He said teachers and support staff were working weekends, stayed back late in schools, and during lunches “abandoning staff rooms”. “Time expectancy hasn’t changed but teachers are doing their jobs outside of time,” he said.
While this day off in protest happened In Australia, and Queensland, this is a concern for many local institutions as well. For those who are called to teaching, and to educating children and young adults in a holy, reverent way of living, we have to also nurture our faculty, and care for them as we do the children. While there is no debate that the faculty is providing a great service and are valued, Catholic educators and service staff all over the country are also feeling the pinch. Careful thought must be given to how much we are reducing wages/preventing increase, and when cutbacks are adding more workload onto those who already have a difficult job to do.
Those who care for and teach children in Catholic education are just as precious as the children and young adults they shape. Let’s make sure that we are doing everything in our power to develop and care for them, as well.