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Answering the Teacher Shortage

On Friday 12th August it was an exciting day for Australian educators. The Education Ministers were converging in Canberra to discuss and plan for the future shortage of teachers in Australia as highlighted by the Monash University report published 6 August 2022.

I use the word “exciting” with some trepidation. This will be the first of many meetings to address a problem that has been worsening over the past 20 years. So, the answers won’t be coming any time soon.

Even in the short space of time from the Monash University “Perceptions of Teachers and Teaching in Australia” in 2019 to the reviewed longitudinal data of 8000 teachers and 1000 public, the decline is continuing.

The authors of the publication state that the NSW figures are similar to Australia wide trends.

  1. Notably fewer NSW teachers are finding their workloads manageable with only 8.5% agreeing that workload is manageable in 2022, down from 21.9% in 2019. Further the intensity of concern about workload has increased.

  2. In 2019, 30% of NSW teachers strongly disagreed that their workload was manageable but in 2022, 50.5% strongly disagreed that their workload was manageable.

  3. NSW teachers are less satisfied with their work with 62.9% reporting satisfaction in 2019 declining to 35.5% reporting satisfaction in 2022

  4. The proportion of NSW teachers who would recommend teaching as a career has fallen from 44% in 2019 to 24.5% in 2022.

All of the statistics are of concern, but the last one carries the most weight and highlights the reality of where educators’ heads are at.

The conversation would look like this.

Potential teacher. “Hey Bob, you are a teacher, I was thinking of enrolling to be one. What advice have you got?”

Teacher. “Find another career.”

It doesn’t matter how you change the incentives for teachers, be it higher pay scales, cheaper teacher training fees or performance bonuses, the focus is to create conditions where educators are doing what they love, with people they like and making a difference to student progress.

Educators want to teach and when this happens the answer will change and then colleges will be full.

The answer to teacher shortage is not about pay, although it certainly helps, it is about

Workload – reduced and relevant.

Health and Wellbeing – balanced and sustainable.

Status and Appreciation – respected and supported.

Waiting for government and education departments to implement long winded policies about the future of the most important workers to community survival is met with folly.

School leaders can do something today.

Each school can focus on creating a culture where educators can thrive and address the reasons for them wanting to leave.

However, it takes leadership. Empowered leadership that contains courage, curiosity and clarity.

And what is the measurement of the culture at your school?

What would be your educator's answer to the question, “Should I be a teacher?”

Be the change you want to see.

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