The Guardian • Issue #2032

We demand more for teachers

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2032

Education was one of the industries most effected by the COVID-19 pandemic with teachers experiencing some of the worst workplace conditions with inadequate resources.

But the pandemic only exacerbated an issue that has long been the result of underfunding. Because of this, teachers are overwhelmed as schools are understaffed and teachers under-trained. The federal government anticipates that there will be a shortfall in excess of 4000 high school teachers by 2025, particularly in rural and remote schools, and in subjects such as maths and science.

In 2018, the NSW Coalition Government sought to address the issue of under-trained teachers by announcing that only graduates that obtained a minimum credit grade point average in their teaching degree would be employed in NSW public schools. However, it has now been announced that this standard only applies to permanent positions. According to the NSW Government’s Rapid Teacher Supply Strategy only twenty-two per cent of new teachers are offered permanent positions, with the rest employed in insecure positions.

Even worse than this, the Perrottet government are planning to put unqualified teachers – through its underdeveloped Teach for Australia (tfA) program – into the classroom to help alleviate understaffing issues.

Speaking on the desperate bandaid solutions by the NSW Coalition, NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos stated that:

“TfA’s existing model is not structured in a way that would work in NSW Public Schools. The NSW government and DoE have previously maintained a position that we will not implement the TfA program in NSW. Concerns include teacher quality (with participants only completing 13 weeks of intensive training before entering a classroom), participant/graduate retention, and impact on perceptions of teaching.”

Gavrielatos further suggested that, “If this is not stopped we will have the untenable situation where only a minority of new teachers are required to meet the government’s entry standard and there will be no standard for participants in the Teach for Australia scheme who won’t need a teaching qualification before they start teaching.

“Teaching is harder than ever but Mr Perrottet wants to make it easier than ever to join the profession. That is the wrong approach to tackling growing shortages which are caused by unsustainable workloads and uncompetitive salaries.”

To alleviate the situation, many – including members of the Albanese Government – have suggested prioritising working visas for migrant teachers. However, this is unlikely to remedy the situation. In the first instance, teachers will not come in the numbers needed to secure quality education for children. Secondly, registration procedures and discrimination also play a role in narrowing available candidates, not to mention the likelihood of developing programs to fast-track migrant teachers to Australian education standards or developing protocols for recognising overseas qualifications that match or exceed Australian standards. Additionally, Australia is not the only country facing an education crisis with the UK, US, and Canada all facing similar issues, placing Australia in the middle of a competitive market to recruit talent.

Funding for education must be prioritised. Teaching qualifications (like all qualifications) need to be free, which lessens the burden on student debt, public school teachers need to be paid a living wage, and schools need funding to afford resources to provide quality education.

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