Tell us what you think

Staff shortages

The NSW Government and employers knew teacher shortages were beginning to bite long before the pandemic came along, and Omicron has only exacerbated this issue.

Then in mid-January, the NSW Government announced a plan to reinstate recently retired teachers and fast-track graduates – which only raises another set of issues. With a new school year getting under way, we asked members in both schools and early learning centres what was happening on the ground. Here’s what you told us.

What I personally think is ‘Why is there a shortage of teachers?’ And we, all the teachers who have been working as such, know the answer. It is the LOAD we have to bear every day. We are burnt out, tired, exhausted and many are giving up and leaving. Teaching classes with more than 30 students, filling up this big amount of paper work, not marking – that’s separate – many extracurricular meetings, dealing with discipline issues most of the time by yourself, answering hundreds of emails, and realising that half of those emails are adding something extra to your already big workload – THAT’S the reason why teachers are leaving this wonderful career and choosing to work somewhere else, and why young people are not opting to study this wonderful career at university any more. We teachers just want to do what we love doing the most: TO TEACH AND LOOK AFTER OUR STUDENTS. Let us teach, cut out the bureaucracy.

I believe that TQI [Teacher Quality Institute] in the ACT and NESA [NSW Education Standards Authority] requirements in regard to casual teachers have, and are having, a profound impact.

Shortages were already there. In primary schools, if you are away there is a good chance your class will not be covered and will be split. Now with Omicron, all teaching staff, including principals, APs, learning support and specialist teachers are preparing for the possibility of covering classes. Office staff and classroom support assistants have been told they may be temporarily deployed to other schools to help cover shortages. The guilt trip you feel personally and that schools sometimes place on you for being sick is horrid.

Unbelievable. What is this government thinking? As if any retired teachers will want to be thrown back into a covid infested classroom.

We know that 30-50 percent of new graduates quit teaching within the first five years – and that’s when there’s no pandemic, when they ARE supported with extra RFF, when they feel valued and work in safe environments. There’s already a shortage. Does this government not foresee that the amount of new graduates quitting will be higher, and at an increased rate, if this plan goes ahead? Not to mention many new graduates are likely living at home with parents they don’t want to risk transmitting COVID to.

A Liberal Government that once again will happily exploit the good will of teachers – this time retired teachers – at the expense of their health and safety. And they call this a plan.

Our classes will be split across the whole school when teachers are away because we have limited casuals. Our executives do not cover classes when they know they can. I would rather go to school sick so that my students get some sort of structured lessons on the day.

It’s putting huge pressure on final-year uni students to work excessive loads on top of full-time study loads. With early teacher dropout rates of 50 percent this is not going to improve that situation. Putting underqualified student teachers in a stressful situation without support while we are trying to finish our studies will not only affect our studies but set the wrong tone for our career!

It would be better to plan to keep current teachers healthy with acceptable working conditions. How can it be considered acceptable WHS if our employers know that many of us will return to work and become ill?

I have worked in the industry for more than 20 years and never have I seen what we deal with currently at our [early childhood] service. We have had diploma and certificate roles advertised and available for more than seven months, yet there was a time you would advertise and get more than 30 applicants. This has meant we have casuals on and we’re asking for the same casual for consistency. It is a time when we ring three to four agencies a day and all are unable to fill the roles, and this happens on a regular basis. Our team is flexible, we are always moving shifts and supporting each other, but it is very draining. As a teacher in management this is very stressful, constantly having to juggle. Due to this our team is overworked in an underpaid industry. We have tried to deliver special treats to our team to show our gratitude. Educators are rundown and needing time off. Unfortunately, this is the reality of early childhood at the moment, and I don’t know how long we can sustain this.

We had no casuals. Coordinator taking three classes (75) in the yard with some diverse learning [teachers] for crowd control.

One of the main things teachers keep repeating is the unmanageable and stressful level of administrative work that are often punitive and not meaningful for teaching practice. Considering we will continue to live in a pandemic and have been through a very stressful time over the past two years AND the staff shortage situation, something has to give. Addressing the time issue teachers have should be the first.

When teachers retire they typically want to retire! Why would they come back? I don’t believe that this is genuine – it’s a soundbite to make it look like they are doing something.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hire teachers for advertised roles, both temporary and permanent full time. The candidature is just not there, with very few applicants in great, strong-performing metropolitan schools. I’ve experienced this in the Creative and Performing Arts and have also heard this anecdotally in subjects like HSIE.