Muswellbrook and Maitland demand More Than Thanks 

Teachers in Muswellbrook and Maitland have turned out to voice their concerns at the NSW Government’s inaction over worsening teacher shortages.

Members rallied in Muswellbrook this morning [3 November], outside the office of Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell, as Federation’s regional road trip for the More Than Thanks campaign rolls on.

The campaign also saw members from Maitland attending a rally at the King Edward Park yesterday afternoon.

Federation Senior Vice President Amber Flohm addressed these rallies, to thank members for their support and to deliver a warning to the NSW Government that without action, the shortages of full-time and casual teachers will grow due to rising enrolments and unsustainable workloads.

Government figures released to Parliament, but withheld from the public, show 80 per cent of schools in the Upper Hunter had vacant permanent teaching positions in October.

“So, the question before us today is: What is this Government going to do?” Ms Flohm told members. “This inaction that they’ve known about is contributing to the shortage of teachers and that salary cap is contributing to that shortage.

“The member for the Upper Hunter has to make clear whether he supports the Government’s broad stroke 2.5 per cent salary cap, which is contributing to shortages, or whether he supports a greater investment in country teachers.”

In her Acknowledgement of Country, Ms Flohm said: “Of course you know that our Aboriginal students will be the very first to be affected by the teacher shortages that everyone is facing across the state.

“This is a workforce that is so crippled by workload that they are seeking to leave the profession. We have a problem where we cannot attract the professionals to our classrooms, and we cannot retain the teachers, and those at the most experienced end of their career are due to retire in significant numbers.

“This Government has provided nothing but inaction and it will be held responsible for every time a class is not covered by a qualified teacher. Country kids are missing out most and they will bear the brunt of those teaching shortages.”

Ms Flohm 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.

One of the confidential Department of Education briefings states: “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.”

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 by her Department: “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.