By Correna Haythorpe, Federal President, Australian Education Union
World Teachers’ Day is an important opportunity to celebrate the dedication and commitment of our teachers and to reflect on the critical role they play in our society.
But we also need to recognise that teachers need a lot more than kind words from our political leaders right now.
Three years ago, just under half of all public school principals reported teacher shortages at their school. This year, 90% of principals said they didn’t have enough teachers.
Alarming new figures from NSW show there are almost 10,000 classes a day, on average, with no dedicated teacher. Large numbers of these students are either left with minimal supervision or forced into combined classes than can have 60 students or more.
Slowing the exodus of teachers and recruiting the next generation are critical challenges. Only around 1 in 4 teachers are now planning to stay until retirement and the number completing teaching degrees decreased by 17% between 2017 and 2020.
While governments are scrambling to find headline-grabbing solutions such as increasing scholarships, reducing university fees or feel-good recruitment campaigns, they aren’t doing enough to address the real causes of this crisis.
New research released today shows teachers are working far longer hours for far less money than those in other professions.
On average, 48% of fulltime teachers worked 45 hours or more a week in 2021 compared to 31% of those working fulltime in other professions with a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification. At the same time, public school teachers earn less than those in comparable professions and the gap widens with age.
It isn’t just that teachers work longer hours for less money either. There has been a significant jump in the intensity and complexity of the work teachers do. That is directly connected to the increase in the learning, behaviour and social needs of students.
On top of that, teachers are saddled with ever-increasing administration and data collection responsibilities. Just 13% of public school teachers last year agreed their workload was manageable.
All this come down to a lack of investment in teachers and public schools. Only 1.3% of public schools are funded to the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS). That is the minimum amount governments agreed a decade they need to meet the needs of all students.
Fully funding public schools is critical if we are to reduce workloads and give teachers the time and specialist support they need to address complex student needs and lift results.
There is a real opportunity now to do this.
In the next 12 months the Albanese Government will negotiate new funding agreements with every state and territory government. Those agreements, which set out the Commonwealth and State and territory funding commitments over five years, must ensure every public school is resourced to the SRS by 2028.
That historic commitment to full funding would mean far more to teachers and their students than all the praise delivered by politicians on this or any other World Teachers Day.