Ararat College teachers protest

ARARAT - Ararat College staff took strike action on Friday, protesting outside the college grounds during the first ever visit by Minister for Education, Martin Dixon.

Nine teachers and one education support officer used placards to convey their concerns about the college's state of disrepair.

Mr Dixon chose not to engage protestors out the front of the school, opting to enter via a separate entrance.

Teacher Steve Mullin said it was part of the protestors' union action to leave the school grounds upon a visit from the minister.

The teachers went on strike from 10am to 11am, with some staff members attending on their days off to show support.

Mr Mullin said the protest was not over staff wages, but to draw Mr Dixon's attention to sub-standard teaching and learning conditions.

"We are having problems with sewage, we are having problems keeping rooms at reasonable temperatures - If these were offices, we wouldn't work in them," he said.

"If you were to go and look at the new science and language room... fantastic, brilliant. But then you go and walk into the L-wing and we've got asbestos signs all along the walls. We don't have loose asbestos, but you wouldn't want to crack the wall, and if there is a crack in the wall, you do not touch it.

"People say, 'You can teach in any kind of facility', but the students walk in and they think, 'What is the attitude of the Education Department to me?' and they look around the room and go, 'They don't care'. Because the room looks like they don't care. Some do - Some are great, some are not.

They just need to be consistent."

Ararat College has a new state-of-the-art science and language centre courtesy of the Federal Government's Building the Education Revolution program and has also received federal funding for a commercial cooking trade training centre, however the school is in need of funding to bring buildings up to scratch.

"The politicians will say, 'But we give you X amount of dollars'. But if you add up all the things you have to do, it's two or three times that," Mr Mullin said.

"We don't have a choice about what we spend the money on. Every dollar that we can spare gets sunk into OH&S and maintenance.

"By the time we tick off the things we have to fix because legally it has to be done, then there's no money left for anything else."

Prior to the state election, Ararat College was informed it was to be part of the Future Schools Program, an initiative which would see the majority of the school either rebuilt or refurbished to enable a learning environment for 21st century students.

"The school has been slated for major renovations and rebuilding for a number of years. Unfortunately that always seems to be coming to a head just before an election, and after an election it's always 'ma ana', it'll come," Mr Mullin said.

"The line we use is, 'In the last two years I've got a kid through year 12 VCE. In the last two years, what has Baillieu done?'. And we have no answer. We do not know when, or if ever, these things will ever be fixed. We just don't get an answer."

Mr Mullin said the redevelopment of the Hopkins Correctional Centre added to the Ararat College's concerns.

"If the prison expands, we'll have to give places to an influx of students, whether we have the room for them or not," he said.

Mr Mullin said he was disappointed Mr Dixon chose to bypass the small group of staff.

"We weren't intending to give him a hard time. We're really impressed he's come out and this is the first time ever we've ever done anything like this - To be honest, we're embarrassed as hell to be standing out the front here," he said.

"This isn't part of the role. We shouldn't need to be doing this."

Mr Dixon indicated interacting with the protesters was never on the cards.

"They've made their point," he said.

"I'm certainly taking to their unions and they're always talking to me. I understand their concerns and we're working through them."

Ararat College principal, Geoff Sawyer said he understood why staff members chose to protest.

"I respect their decision and that they let me know beforehand, so there was no disruption to classes or the kids," he said.

Ararat College, along with other schools in the region, will participate in a state-wide teachers and education support members' strike tomorrow.

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