HUNDREDS of teachers across the south-west will demand higher wages today in unprecedented stop-work action at both public and Catholic schools.
Separate strikes by the Australian Education Union (AEU) and the Independent Education Union (IEU) will disrupt schools and affect thousands of students.
Warrnambool College will virtually shut down, with classes for all 1022 students cancelled.
Principal Mary Pendergast said 65 teachers and 12 support staff (the majority of which are part-time) were taking part in the strike.
“We can’t offer a curriculum program at any year level,” Ms Pendergast said.
Year 12 students have been invited to use library resources at the school under supervision of the six remaining teachers.
Ms Pendergast said the state strike was the biggest that she had experienced in her six years as a principal, particularly with staff in the Catholic school sector also expressing dissatisfaction.
“It’s a show of strength.”
Brauer College principal Jane Boyle said year seven and year 12 students would be at school today, with year eight, nine and 10 absent.
She said year 11 students completing a year 12 subject would also attend.
“At this stage I have 32 of the teaching staff and three education support staff taking industrial action,” she said.
“Both groups are taking industrial action, which is unusual.
“In terms of learning, those students not here will be affected. Our priority has been our VCE students.
“It’s fair to say it would be good if the government could return to the negotiation table.”
Timboon P-12 School principal Rosalie Moorfield said 27 staff and two educational support staff were involved in the strike which would affect 400 of the school’s 500 students.
“The school is open. We will be running some VCE classes and two primary classes,” Ms Moorfield said.
Emmanuel College principal Philip Morison said about 14 teachers and four school officers would stop work for protest action regarding proposed changes to performance pay.
“Emmanuel College will operate as per normal,” he said.
“All students should come to school as they would any other day.”
Mercy Regional College principal Darren Egberts said the school’s campuses at Noorat and Camperdown would also operate as normal.
Dr Egberts said a small number of teachers had indicated they would take part in the action but all classes would still run.
About 15,000 state school teachers, principals and — for the first time — support staff, will walk off the job in the biggest education strike in Victoria’s history.
They will rally at Rod Laver Arena, calling for reduced contract employment, lower class sizes, higher pay and a solution to workload issues.
AEU state president Mary Bluett said the strike would send a message to the state government that it must invest more in public education.
“The Baillieu government continues to spend less per student on education than any other state or territory government and over the last 12 months has been responsible for over $2 billion in cuts and broken promises,” Ms Bluett said.
“Almost one in five teachers (18 per cent) are currently on short-term contracts. A recent AEU survey showed this figure increases to 53 per cent for beginning teachers in regional areas.
“Education support staff remain the lowest paid in Victorian schools and receive little or no recognition of their skills, experience and the crucial role they play.”
Catholic school staff will rally outside member for South West Coast Denis Napthine’s office this morning as part of the IEU statewide protest.
The Education De-partment yesterday encouraged parents to send their children to school as usual.