NSW public school teachers and principals call for action to address teacher shortages

Teachers and principals will launch a campaign today to address growing teacher shortages across NSW as new research shows the extent of the workforce crisis in the state’s schools.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said: “We are in a crisis situation with worsening teacher shortages at a time when schools are preparing to reopen and we need every child to be fully supported in the classroom.”

“Teachers need more than thanks from the Berejiklian Government if we are to stop children missing out.”

A new poll of 4,190 NSWTF members in public schools conducted between Aug 25 and Sept 4 shows:

  • 95% of teachers and principals say shortages of teachers are a significant issue.
  • 93% say their school has difficulty recruiting casual teachers.
  • 51% say there are vacant permanent or temporary positions at their school.
  • 60% of those in secondary and combined primary/secondary schools say they have been required at some point to teach outside their area of subject expertise. A further 22% are currently teaching outside their area of expertise.

58% say they are reconsidering their position as a teacher due to the workload.

Mr Gavrielatos said an independent inquiry into the work of teachers, headed by former WA Premier, Geoff Gallop, had warned in February that uncompetitive wages and unsustainable workloads were leading to the teacher shortages.

“We cannot fix the shortages problem until we fix the wages and workload problem,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“As we have seen so clearly demonstrated in the past 18 months, teachers in public schools are committed professionals determined to do whatever they can to ensure every child gets a high quality education. But there aren’t enough of them right now.”

The industrial award that determines the salaries and conditions of teachers expires in December. In line with the recommendations of the Gallop inquiry, teachers and principals are seeking a salary increase of between 5 to 7.5 per cent a year to recognise the increase in their skills and expertise and begin to reverse the decline in teachers’ wages compared to other professions.

An increase in preparation time of two hours a week is also sought to allow teachers more time for lesson planning and collaboration with their colleagues. The Gallop inquiry found the preparation time afforded teachers has not changed since the 1950s for secondary teachers and the 1980s for primary teachers. It’s only two hours a week for primary teachers.

The campaign will include extensive statewide television, digital and print advertising, starting today.

The impact of teacher shortages is clear in new Government figures that show classes are being combined and students only given minimal supervision on hundreds of occasions in city and country schools due to a lack of teachers.

“If you are not concerned about teacher shortages, you are not concerned about children missing out,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“Teachers need a competitive salary and they need a reduction in the crippling workloads that they struggle with every week. Without a salary reset and a reduction in their workload more teachers will leave the profession and we won’t be able to attract the new ones we need.”

“Without action, we know teacher shortages are only going to get worse.

“At the same time as university enrolments in teaching courses are plummeting, public school enrolments are starting to soar and research shows between 11,000 and 14,000 (20-25%) more teachers are going to be needed in the next decade.

“NSW Government figures show that 30 per cent of schools have vacant permanent teaching positions which total over 1100. The number of vacant positions has doubled since 2012.”

The NSW Government has repeatedly acknowledged the lack of teachers with Education Minister Sarah Mitchell saying:I recognise there are issues with teacher shortages across the state.”

In its recent submission to a national inquiry into initial teacher education, the NSW Government warned the shortages were most acute in rural and regional areas and in secondary schools and enrolments in teacher education courses had slumped by almost 30 per cent from 2014 to 2019.

“Declining enrolments in ITE [Initial Teacher Education] and an increasing number of students not completing ITE courses are significantly impacting teacher supply. As with many other jurisdictions, NSW is facing growing teacher supply challenges in specialisations like STEM and Inclusive Education, in rural and regional areas, and in secondary education,” the submission states.