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Teacher Shortage 2023, Post

Teacher Shortage 2023

A problem has been brewing for many years. Increased student numbers; heavier teacher workloads; more administrative tasks and form-filling! The Education Departments around Australia heard but did nothing. There were lots of stats available to them about teachers’ sick leave, burnout, stress levels and resignations. Governments are good at stats but there were some they chose to ignore.

The one thing that could have been addressed most easily was the increase in administrative workload.

Education Departments could have stopped increasing admin tasks and then scaled them back. Some of the collected data feeds into statistics that assist government and others. Very important, but much of the information they have collected for many years went into the bin. Either they couldn’t use the data for reasons such as a shortage of funds or believed that the more data the better – ‘we have if we need it’.

Some extra workload comes from the idea that every class has a group of 25 or so individuals. Writing up Individual Learning Programs for a number of students in each class is demanding. The bureaucracy and the public have forgotten that teachers teach classes not bundles of individuals. In the 1950s, with huge immigration following World War 2, there were up to 60 children in a primary school classroom. Children did learn and behaviours were different. More students fell through the cracks but they could get a job at the local factory at 14. Now, the cost is paid by the teachers not the students. Neither scenario is acceptable.

Solutions put forward include fast-tracking migrant visa applications and shortening the Diploma in Education or its equivalents. Other possibilities involve paying student teachers for their practical placements and lifting teacher salaries beyond the present ceiling – once a teacher reaches the top of the pay scale after several years, increases stop. With inflation, this means senior teachers are actually going backwards.

Schools will combine classes; reduce subject offerings in secondary school; increase the extra classes taken by teachers and pay more of the school budget in wages (eg $10,000 incentives); possibly cut excursions – and principals and vice-principals will take some classes too.

What brought things to a head was the Covid19 pandemic and the aftermath. Crises usually force issues in society and the teacher shortage is one of them. It would have been more sensible to have listened to the profession fifteen years ago.