Teachers rally in Tamworth to demand More Than Thanks

Teachers representing local schools rallied in Tamworth today [2 November] to protest the Government’s inaction over worsening teacher shortages there, as part of Federation’s regional road trip for the More Than Thanks campaign.

New Government figures released to Parliament show more than half the schools in the New England and North West region had vacant permanent teaching positions in October, for a total of 116, including new curriculum positions.

Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos addressed members at Angora Park to thank them for their support and discuss this critical phase of the More Than Thanks campaign.

“If the NSW Government doesn’t act now, the teacher shortages will only get worse and it’s country kids who will pay the price,” Mr Gavrielatos said, urging members to support the More Than Thanks Campaign.

“National Party MP Kevin Andrews needs to make clear whether he supports the Government’s one-size fits all salary cap, which is contributing to shortages, or whether he supports a greater investment in country teachers.”

Mr Gavrielatos warned that without action, the shortages of full-time and casual teachers will grow due to rising enrolments, a 30 per cent decline in people studying teaching, a rapidly ageing workforce and unsustainable workloads.

“Documents released to Parliament show that the NSW Government has covered up the extent of the shortages and the clear connection with uncompetitive salaries and unsustainable workloads,” he said.

One of the confidential Department of Education briefings say: “The demands and expectations on teachers are increasing while the current rewards, pathways and learning opportunities are not providing enough incentive. 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.”

Mr Gavrielatos said teachers have been asked to do more but every year their pay has fallen in comparison to other professions. “The shortages are proof that if we don’t pay teachers what they are worth, we don’t get the teachers we need,” he said.

The Department of Education documents warn the shortages are so bad NSW could run out of teachers within five years. Four months ago, Education Minister Sarah Mitchell was warned: “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.”

They show that a higher proportion of vacant positions are in country areas, that teachers in country areas are far more likely to be teaching outside their subject area of expertise and vacant positions were taking, on average, up to four months to fill.

Mr Gavrielatos said country children were bearing the brunt of the shortages and that the supply strategy the Government was relying on was just a brochure with initiatives that had either failed before or were not supported by evidence they would succeed.

“Every parent in country NSW wants to be reassured that in every classroom there will be a teacher with the time and resources to meet their child’s needs. Yet the Government’s inaction has seen the shortages grow and it is only going to get worse without real action,” he said.

“As the Department of Education says: ‘We cannot improve student outcomes without having a sufficient supply of high-quality teachers available where and when they are needed.’

“The NSW Government is ignoring the advice of its own Department about the critical situation we are in. Instead of investing in teachers it wants to do nothing on workloads and maintain the wages cap that has contributed to the measurable decline in the attractiveness of the profession.”