The NSW Government has responded to warnings the state could run out of teachers within five years by issuing a glossy brochure that recycles failed initiatives and ignores its own Department’s advice that uncompetitive wages are turning smart young people off teaching.
NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said he was shocked that the government had not responded more seriously and comprehensively to the crisis caused by acute teacher shortages, rising enrolments, a 30% fall in Initial Teacher Education commencements, and a rapidly ageing workforce.
“We have been waiting 10 years for a comprehensive workforce plan that shows in each subject area how the shortages will be fixed, how many teachers we need and how the government will end the unacceptable situation where 1,000 permanent positions are vacant and 15% of teachers are teaching outside their area of expertise” Mr Gavrielatos said.
“This brochure in no way reflects the seriousness of the situation we face in NSW or proposes anything that will give teachers and parents the slightest confidence that this government is up to the challenge of securing the future for children in NSW schools.”
“Not only is the government trying to cover up the scale of the teacher shortages, it has no evidence-based plan to tackle them or deliver the additional 11,000 teachers NSW will require, at a minimum, over the next decade.
“The warnings about how serious this situation is, could not be clearer.
The Education Department reported last year: ‘We cannot improve student outcomes without having a sufficient supply of high quality teachers available where and when they are needed. If we don’t address supply gaps now, we will run out of teachers in the next 5 years.’
“Only three months ago the Department warned the Minister: “NSW is facing a large and growing shortage of teachers – such as STEM, inclusive education, in rural and regional areas, secondary and where there has been significant population growth.
“The department also warned in an August 2020 briefing: ‘On average, teacher pay has been falling relative to pay in other professions since the late 1980s and this makes it a less attractive profession for high achieving students.’
“The NSW Government is ignoring the advice of its own Department about the critical situation we are in and instead of investing in teachers it wants to continue with the 2.5% wages cap that has contributed to the measurable decline in the attractiveness of the profession.
“We must make teaching the dream job for young people again to arrest the dramatic slide in graduate numbers and this does nothing to help achieve that.
“The so-called solutions proposed such as recruiting 500 STEM teachers from around the world during a worldwide shortage of STEM teachers and recruiting 50-100 career changers a year by reducing the qualifications they need to teach, are ill-considered and will deliver nothing like the number of teachers we need.
“The Department’s briefings show the government lacks evidence teachers will come to Australia. A briefing in August 2020 warned: ‘The extent to which international teachers would be convinced to migrate by the opportunity to get a sponsorship visa would need to be tested via international research.
“The Department’s briefings show the government has been spectacularly unsuccessful in getting Maths graduates to switch to teaching via a scholarship program (4 industry professionals studying in 2020) and the former Commonwealth Government’s initiative to fast track STEM career changers into teaching recruited 14 people and cost $16 million.
“The Government is bringing in Teach for Australia to develop the career change program when TFA’s own fast track program has been an expensive failure with more than half the participants leaving the profession within three years.
“On the big idea of helping teachers’ aides switch to teaching the department warned: “It is not clear whether there is demand from teaching assistants or School Learning Support Officers (SLSOs) to up-skill and become fully qualified teachers.
“We have to do what is necessary to lift the attractiveness of teaching rather than reducing the qualifications people require to become a teacher at a time when the job has never been more challenging.
“Investing in teachers through higher salaries has been shown in national and international research to improve the attraction and retention of teachers and draw into the profession people with higher levels of academic attainment.
“What is required right now is an urgent increase in teachers’ salaries and their preparation time. That will have a real impact on the attractiveness of the profession and the education children receive.”