AN independent inquiry commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation that has started proceedings in Sydney will investigate the changing nature and value of teachers' work.
Former Western Australia Premier Geoff Gallop is chairing the Valuing the Teaching Profession inquiry, the first of its kind in more than 15 years.
Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos, who gave evidence on Monday, said unprecedented changes had fundamentally altered the work and responsibilities of teachers and principals.
The federation will be making the case for improvements in salaries and working conditions.
"Teaching is a far more challenging and demanding profession now," Mr Gavrielatos said.
"Students come from more diverse backgrounds and have more complex needs. Teachers have been required to develop far greater levels of knowledge and expertise to identify and meet those needs."
He said teachers had to deal with constant changes in the curriculum and schools had more responsibility for social and emotional development of children, as well as their safety and physical and mental health.
He said "previously unimaginable changes in technology" had altered the curriculum and the way teachers taught and students learned.
"Regressive government policies that have devolved additional responsibility to schools were accompanied by the withdrawal of expert support for schools," he said.
"In its place came a huge increase in the management, administration, data collection and compliance obligations."
Federation regional organiser Jack Galvin Waight said the inquiry was seen as "crucial for the status of the profession by teachers in the Hunter".
"Our members in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and across the Hunter have made it clear that teacher workload is too high and salaries have simply not kept up with the changes in expertise and responsibility teachers and principals take with them inside the school gate every day," he said.
"The needs of the students we educate are more complex than ever before.
"The expectations of the parent community are higher than ever before.
"No profession has been subjected to the constant political interventions that we have experienced as teachers and principals."
Mr Galvin Waight said Hunter teachers were particularly concerned about changes in technology and curriculum, cumbersome paper work requirements and the growing number and complexity of students with complex needs.
"For example, there are now six times more students with disability in mainstream classrooms than there were in 2002," he said.
"The pandemic has highlighted the remarkable dedication by teachers to their students and their profession.
"Our government, and society now needs to show similar commitment to the profession.
"This inquiry will look at how we can do this. How best we can support our teachers and principals, and how much is required to restore a competitive salary that reflects their value and expertise."
The inquiry will hear from various experts over the next two weeks.