Teachers and support staff across all Queanbeyan-Palerang schools will be given a chance to unwind following a “horrid” Term One, thanks to a fundraiser that wrapped up on Friday, 8 April.
About 100 different donors have contributed a total of around $10,000, which will be given to 17 schools across the district to pay for dinner and drinks for an educator.
It’s all due to a fundraiser spearheaded by NSW P&C Federation Southern Tablelands Councillor Kenrick Winchester, who wanted to let every educator know the community “loves them”.
“We can’t fix the issues they’ve been facing in terms of staff shortages and conditions, but I thought this would be a small, easy way that we as a community can show we appreciate them,” he said.
The original idea was to fund end-of-term celebrations for the region’s high schools, but Mr Winchester quickly saw a need to include every school in the district.
“I went ‘all schools have had a rough Term One’, so I decided just to throw it out there,” he said.
“I’ve also included the Sutton and Gundaroo schools to the list, as while they’re just outside the local council area, they’re close enough to be local.”
The money will be distributed according to the number of staff members at each institution, and will be used by their social clubs as they see fit.
“The plan is for the schools to spend the money locally, so then that can give businesses in the region a boost as well,” Mr Winchester said.
Response to the project has been positive, with local teachers touched by the community’s generosity and willingness to show their support.
Queanbeyan Teachers Association President Patrick Doswell described the initiative as “incredibly heart-warming”.
“It’s hard not to talk about teachers at the moment without talking about the crisis we have in terms of shortages,” he said.
“We’ve always felt parents and the community has had our backs, but things like this encourage us to stay on this path and see this through.”
There has been strike action across Queanbeyan’s schools this year, with union members wanting to draw attention to chronic understaffing and campaigning for better pay.
“We’re really pushing to have the status of teachers raised through our ‘More Than Thanks‘ campaign,” Mr Doswell said.
“We need to make teaching a competitive career again so we can keep giving kids quality education.
“This is by no means a new issue, but it’s definitely getting worse.”
The stress of the pandemic is adding to the issues already wearing down local teachers.
“I’ve had many tell me it really feels like it’s the end of Term Four, not Term One,” Mr Doswell said.
“I don’t think any teachers think we’re out of the pandemic yet, especially with flu season just around the corner.”