Speaking out about staff shortages

In early April, the IEU released a statement to the media on how staff shortages are pushing teachers and support staff to breaking point. The same staff scarcity is happening in early childhood centres.

Appearing on 10 News, NSW/ACT Branch Acting Secretary Carol Matthews said: “Our organisers have been in schools all over the state and territory, and they’re saying members everywhere are distressed, burnt out and exhausted.”

There are no quick fixes to this long-term problem, but there is a solution. “We need to get many more teachers into the system and keep those who are already there,” Matthews said.

“It’s a matter of fair pay and manageable workloads, but employers have proved unwilling to move on this so far. This shortage did not come out of nowhere, governments and employers knew about it before the pandemic. A radical rethink is needed.”

On Facebook we handed you the microphone and asked you tell us about your Term 1. We asked what was happening in your workplace with staff shortages, workload intensification, absences and extras. You told us it was the toughest term yet.

Being exposed to COVID on a daily basis, constantly in close contact situations, but yet because we are critical workers we just had to go on like nothing was happening. Support staff having to take on core staff roles which is exhausting and dangerous when we have children who have one-to-one care needs. Staff shortage and stress but yet expectations from above have not changed; 12-week term for our preschool and eight non-contact days now over this break, during which we have to do training and catch up on paperwork. Pretty sad situation overall.

Just when we thought things couldn’t get harder, staff and student absences due to COVID made teaching more challenging than the previous two years combined. Add to that school closures due to flooding on top of already unmanageable workloads, we found ourselves with a physically and mentally exhausted group of teachers and support staff. You can imagine the frustration felt when emails were received from employers that stated how grateful they are for our efforts and how much they respect us BUT they won’t budge on improvements to pay and conditions. We are ready for the fight next term. Bring … it … on.

I'm an early childhood teacher and this term has been no better than any last year and possibly even worse. If you get sick there is almost no one to cover. We work on about 22 staff per day, and have at best two casuals to cover RDOs, holidays, sick leave and carers leave. One is leaving soon but no one answers our recruitment ads. People leave and can’t be replaced. We are forced to shift children around between classes to try to make ratios work. It’s stressful for staff and way off best practice for children, but that’s how we’re staying open. I have come to the end of my tether. I am mentally, physically and emotionally drained. Where are the staff coming from who will be expected to replace this crop of burnt-out teachers/diplomas/Cert 3s? I fear for the entire sector. It’s a crisis alright, but no one seems to care. Will the government see the issues and change the ratios to suit the meagre staff available? Will they allow services to employ untrained staff? I just cannot imagine. Please help enact change in the sector or watch it shrink to nothing. The more people who leave, the more pressure on those who stay, and the more likely they are to leave too. It’s just so broken.

It was the hardest term I’ve ever had. I work in admin part-time. Our full-timer left and I stepped up to the role as a job share (three days) but they’ve struggled to fill the other position. Essentially I’ve been running the admin alone for weeks. Our principal has stepped in where possible. I’m so glad for the break but I won’t last the year if this continues. Such a shame as I love my job and my school.

Hard to believe it was only Term 1!

Ran out of casuals quickly. Literally no one to call now to replace staff on leave next term.

Apparently, education is doing just fine. Staffing shortages are not a real issue. If that was Term 1, what will Term 2 bring? Protected action to improve the future of education. Improvements we make now are for a better future.

It’s been a term like no other. Exhaustion on every front. I’ve worked in school administration for 22 years but this term got me. Too much is expected of support staff with zero understanding, lack of support, zero acknowledgement and massive expectations when we are short staffed too. I handed in my resignation a month ago and the sad truth is that I’m SO relieved to not to have to go back next term.

I’ve got nothing left.

An 11-week term is ridiculous under the best of circumstances but this one has been especially tough with no time to regroup, planning on the hoof for half a class due to student absences or a collapsed class due to staff absences. In the UK they have a half-term holiday – 3-5 day break in the middle of a term. Wow! I’d have killed for that this term!

I love the kids but the ever-increasing workload and expectations on teachers make the job impossible.

It was hard! Hardest yet and unfortunately there seemed to be a lack of empathy for teachers from the community around us. We have a tough job and COVID made it tougher as we battled internal worries about our own health being affected and our families’ health leading on from that. Workloads were not lessened and, in fact, made larger. The students are what make it all worthwhile, but the demands placed on teachers above and beyond teaching make our vocation hugely stressful. It is understandable why the teacher shortage is growing and teachers are walking away.

Was all of that only Term ONE?!

COVID, staff shortages and two devastating floods. I’d say it was one of the worst terms for teachers in the Northern Rivers.

So busy that I legit have 10 days’ worth of marking to do. So my “holiday” will just be me catching up on everything I couldn’t do this term.

Busy, COVID filled, large numbers of staff and student sickness, many extras, casuals like gold.

Term 1 was symbolic of education now: “Let’s all pretend we’re all OK and achieving everything we need to.”

Longest 26 weeks of my life.

This was the most exhausting term after 22 years of teaching! Came back from having COVID and was given an extra because of staff shortages, so I taught every period that day. I still wasn’t feeling 100 percent. I survived but was so exhausted.

Term 1 was like something I never want to experience again!!!

Everyone is ignoring the entire HERD of elephants in the room: COVID staff shortages; teacher exhaustion; combined classes; specialist teachers diverted. Our government ought to hang its head in shame.

I had just five kids in my Year 12 class this week. Five! Year 12! The rest were sick. We had 65 students out of 200 in Year 10 the week before. The rest were sick or isolating. We had classes not covered because casuals couldn’t be found, and classes collapsed so some semblance of curriculum could be taught. This term has been mentally, physically and intellectually draining.

Beyond exhausting.

The last day of Term 1 was filled with the same excitement I have going off to the work Christmas party. It’s been a sh*tshow!

I wished everyone Happy Christmas on Zoom assembly this week! It feels like we completed a year in one term. The uncertainty leaves us all emotionally drained. I feel like we’ve been moving sandbags to different locations every day to plug holes. Our teaching staff are phenomenal and very weary. We all have each other’s back and we need the two weeks to recover from the emotional and mental load. We are lucky to have as many casual teachers as we have. Some are in their 70s and 80s. We love learning and teaching and the young people in our care are our number one priority. Take care and rest up for Term 2.

Massive absences, lots of stress about being sick, felt totally thrown under the bus by government.