Understanding and addressing a rapidly growing lack of teachers is a top IEU priority, writes NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Mark Northam.
The IEU has surveyed NSW/ACT country and regional Catholic dioceses to confirm what members know: casual and staffing shortages are consuming time, complicating day-to-day daily organisation in schools and interrupting teaching and learning.
The union is currently surveying Metropolitans diocese for feedback.
The solutions are complex and varied.
These teacher shortages, however, did not come out of the blue. The problem of teacher supply is well known.
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) has been working since 2016 on a linked, longitudinal data set bringing together initial teacher education, the teaching workforce and individual teacher experiences.
AITSL released a report entitled ‘Teaching futures: A national teacher workforce strategy for Australia’. Predictably, this report shows that strong growth in teacher numbers is required. The conundrum is the decline in the number of teaching graduates.
IEU members can readily explain why the number of graduates in the supply chain is lagging.
Complex and demanding workloads
Over an eight-year period, the IEU conducted a case before the full bench of the Fair Work Commission. The case centred on remuneration levels for those teachers (largely in early childhood centres) who were being paid under the Modern Award.
At the top of the scale, the Modern Award provides for an annual salary of about $72,000. The Fair Work Commission’s decision – not yet implemented – was to increase the top step rate to about $80,000, with additional allowances on top.
Of particular interest was the Fair Work Commission’s unequivocal acceptance that the role and nature of a teacher’s work has changed dramatically over the past two decades.
The Full Bench found that change in the work value of teachers since 1996 occurred in four main areas:
- Additional training requirements for entry into the profession.
- Increased professional accountability associated with registration requirements, standardised testing and greatly increased expectations concerning reporting and being accessible to parents and families.
- Greater complexity of work resulting from a shift to outcomes-based education and differentiated teaching, with associated requirements for greater documentation and analysis of individual educational progress.
- Teaching and caring for a more diverse student population including, in particular, additional needs children.
The Full Bench’s detailed findings in relation to the four main areas of work value change include that:
The effect of introducing standardised testing in schools has been to make publicly transparent the outcomes at individual schools and thereby expose the teachers of the tested students to a degree of scrutiny and pressure to improve performance that did not exist before 1996.