NSW Government is misleading parliament and parents over teacher shortages

Appearing before the NSW parliamentary Inquiry into teacher shortages in New South Wales” the NSW Teachers Federation will put the spotlight on the NSW Government’s denial and attempted concealment of the severity of the teacher shortage crisis and its impact on students and teachers alike.

In a blatant attempt to downplay the disruption to student learning caused by the teacher shortage principals have been pressured to change data to ensure they meet Orwellian definitions provided by the Department, which aim to reduce the total numbers for both merged classes and instances of minimal supervision caused by teacher shortages, said NSW Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos.

Incredibly, last week the Government refused to provide, albeit manipulated, up-to-date figures on the disruption to classes caused by the teacher shortage, claiming it did not have the data when it was collected from schools in response to 93 Questions on Notice in parliament.

Apart from misleading parliament, more importantly, they are misleading parents, said Mr Gavrielatos.

The latest publicly available data exposes a grim situation across the state. At Canobolas Rural Technology High School in Orange records show from the start of the year to June there were more than 1,500 merged or uncovered classes.

From the start of 2021 through to June this year, students at Dubbo’s Delroy College Campus have been provided with only minimal supervision or placed in merged classes more than 2,000 times. At Merriwa Central School there has been almost 4,000 instances.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

Further, the government continues in its attempt to divert attention from the underlying causes of the shortages, suggesting the disruption in our schools is due to COVID and winter illnesses.

COVID and the flu are just making a bad situation worse. The teacher shortage has been 10 years in the making. It is the result of deliberate failed government policies, and it is getting worse. This is evidenced by parliamentary documents that have revealed there were 1,657 full-time teacher vacancies on 10 June; a total that is 67 per cent higher than the same time last year.

The depth of this potential crisis is borne out by the numbers. In a recent opinion piece by the Minister, she conceded that an additional 3,800 teachers will be required by 2027. The picture at the end of the decade is even more frightening noting that an additional 15,000-plus teachers will be needed across NSW by the end of the decade.

While the teacher shortage impacting our schools today is unprecedented, of even greater concern is what will our schools look like in three, five and 10 years’ time should the government not take the urgent action required to turn the crisis around?

No amount of tinkering or slick advertising can deal with the structural issue of uncompetitive pay and unsustainable workloads, which have brought us to this point.

We need a reset. We need a reset if we are to attract and retain the teachers we need.