Canberra's education fraternity proposes answers to national teacher shortage

ACT casual teacher Ramy Nakhil has spoken about his experience and observations regarding the shortage in casual teachers. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
ACT casual teacher Ramy Nakhil has spoken about his experience and observations regarding the shortage in casual teachers. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Putting teachers' voices at the forefront of policy decisions, boosting pay and improving the quality of education degrees are among numerous proposals by teachers and unions to addressing the nation's shortage in casual teachers.

The proposals come as Minister for Education Alan Tudge recently launched a review of initial teacher education in its bid to lift Australian school standards.

The review will address two key questions: how to attract and select high-quality candidates into the teaching profession and how to prepare them to become effective teachers.

"Since 2006, the number of students choosing to study education has declined by a third and many teachers are still graduating from their courses insufficiently prepared to teach in a classroom," the department said in a statement.

ACT casual teacher Ramy Nakhil said changing conditions of the profession, including dealing with greater staff-student ratios and being tasked with additional responsibilities, had a detrimental impact on attracting and retaining casual teachers.

"Something across all the schools is the amount of administration that we put means we don't feel like teachers anymore," Mr Nakhil said.

"The other factor is teachers' professional development - it's a great thing to do but in all honesty, a lot of teachers don't have the time with all the admin and other workloads."

Mr Nakhil said solutions may also included making the roles of teachers' aides more attractive to help with non-teaching components and for governments to listen more to those at the front line.

A March Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA) survey of staff in 40 schools in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn found 82 per cent of schools could not fill a casual vacancy on one or more days in the survey period.

Twenty-three per cent of primary schools and 33 per cent of secondary schools reported temporary or permanent teacher vacancies.

"There are obvious and serious implications for learning outcomes while these shortages continue - large classes and constant teacher churn do not serve students well," the survey said.

IEUA officer and former teacher Patrick Devery said more incentives were needed for education degrees and once graduates were working, especially for roles in regional areas.

"What we're seeing is pre-service teachers are coming into schools and they're seeing that experienced teachers are absolutely under the pump, so they are asking themselves if they really want to put their hands into that furnace," he said.

"So it's a very demanding job that needs to be paid better.

"One solution is to put the teaching profession's voice back at the centre of the conversation. Teachers have been marginalised and actively excluded from nearly every major decision-making body across the country.

"They've got to be long-term solutions."

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Mr Devery said findings from a recent NSW report that found the state would need at least 11,000 new teachers by 2031 to deal with record enrolment growth may also apply to the ACT.

The University of Canberra's Education education dean executive Barney Dalgarno said the shortage had become a "universal problem" across both public and private sectors.

"When there's an over-supply, often you'll find that graduate teachers work as casual teachers for a few years before they apply for a full-time position, but that's just not happening at the moment," he said.

"Students who graduate from university are being snapped up straight away, so we just don't see any of those teachers becoming casual relief teachers."

Professor Dalgarno said his discussions with various ACT schools found the changing nature of the role had reduced its attractiveness.

The Australian Education Union has been contacted for comment.

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This story Education fraternity proposes answers to national teacher shortage first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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