Taskforce will address ACT teacher shortage as workload, pay are blamed

Genevieve Jacobs 31 August 2021 26
Yvette Berry

Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Education, Yvette Berry MLA. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

An ACT Government taskforce will be established to combat what the Australian Education Union says is a nationwide teacher shortage that is also seriously affecting the ACT.

Education Minister Yvette Berry announced the taskforce yesterday (30 August) in response to an AEU survey that found significant issues for many teachers in the ACT, prompting growing shortages as they walk away from the profession.

Ms Berry said the taskforce would include representatives from the Education Directorate and AEU and will meet for the first time next week. The taskforce will work with universities, the Teacher Quality Institute and relevant experts.

Patrick Judge from the AEU said the reasons for teacher shortages were complex but related to concerns around workload and salaries.

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“We know that there are identified concerns about whether salaries are competitive and workloads are sustainable”, Mr Judge said, referring to the Gallop Enquiry, an expert panel chaired by Dr Geoff Gallop, former WA Premier and Education Minister, that looked at workload changes for teachers and principals since 2004.

He added that teachers are taking on increasingly complex welfare issues well beyond their educational responsibilities.

“Teachers are trying to find housing, feeding hungry students and providing mental health crisis support,” he said.

“This takes a lot of time and emotional energy. Teachers are overworked and exhausted by the time they get to the end of the week”.

Increasing amounts of unpaid overtime were creating significant pressure in jobs that were otherwise rewarding. Mr Judge said that teachers often consider moving out of the profession when this begins impacting family life.

The pressure was particularly strong in early career teachers. During the first three years, one-third consider leaving their jobs.

Mr Judge agreed that many teachers are well remunerated. However, he said that pay rises of between 7 per cent and 15 per cent could be required to maintain competitiveness with other occupations, especially in jurisdictions like the ACT where degree-qualified professionals can find well paid public service jobs, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of staff shortages.

In 2015, the ACT’s AEU members endorsed a four year enterprise bargaining agreement that gave classroom teachers more than $100,000 each year, at the time the third highest salaries in the country behind only Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The current agreement, which expires in 2022, granted a pay rise effective on August 8, 2019 and was described by the Government at the time as offering “the highest wages in Australia” for teachers.

But, Mr Judge said the ACT Government needs a taskforce to urgently come up with quality of life improvements for teachers and concrete actions beyond pay rates.

This would demonstrate that workload issues are being addressed before looking at longer-term issues around the teacher education pipeline and salaries.

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Multidisciplinary teams in schools to provide support from social workers, occupational therapists, and other qualified staff could remove some of the additional non-teaching workload. Better workforce management and ensuring teachers with the right skills are in the right places would also help.

“Understanding the whole school context and all the professionals who contribute to public schools will be an important consideration in the work of the Taskforce,” Ms Berry said.

“I acknowledge the important contribution of all school staff including allied health professionals, psychologists, learning support assistants, administrative staff, as well as our cleaning and maintenance teams,” she said.

Measures already introduced include a dedicated staffing hotline and more centralised management of the relief teacher pool. Work is also underway on a national and international recruitment campaign to attract teachers to ACT public schools.

“Thank you to all teachers and school staff. The work you do every day makes a significant difference for your students, their families, and their communities.

“The ACT Government is committed to ensuring that ACT public schools are great places to learn and great places to work, and I am looking forward to this opportunity to work with the AEU to learn from the experiences of teachers,” Ms Berry said.

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26 Responses to Taskforce will address ACT teacher shortage as workload, pay are blamed
Bekah Glaz Bekah Glaz 8:22 pm 03 Sep 21

I couldn't get a job in ACT, when I moved here several years ago. Got a higher paying job, with less hours. Miss teaching a lot - but between interstate registration issues, lack of ability to maintain professional development hours, poor pay...

Mary Anne Mary Anne 10:17 am 03 Sep 21

Kids aren’t even at school!

Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 9:16 am 01 Sep 21

Yvette Berry I started a teaching degree but when I found out that education curriculum is there to make kids into economic contributing adults. That was all. No room for creativity or individuality. I couldn’t stay knowing that.

And you wonder why your education system is screwed, the motivation is all wrong - no matter how many ridiculous task forces 🤦🏽‍♀️ you start lol, if nothing changes, nothing changes!!

The gov you chose to be a part of is so arrogant - it’s sad your associated with them - what would Wayne say ?

Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 9:08 am 01 Sep 21

Another taskforce - lol 😝

Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Elizabeth Ann Thurbon 8:18 pm 31 Aug 21

Increasing the workload of teachers does the opposite of what we want our teachers to do - teach. If we paid our teachers an hourly rate they would be wealthy members of our society. There is also another problem that goes unrecognised - parents who expect teachers to take on what used to be a parental responsibility. This taskforce needs to look at reducing teachers ‘other’ workload so that they have time for teaching. This taskforce needs to look at the number of hours teachers put in each week and identify the actual hourly rate of teachers. This taskforce needs to also look at the distinction between what is the responsibility of a teacher and what is the responsibility of a parent and bring parents into this conversation. Speak in confidence to individual teachers to find out the real truth.

    Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 9:10 am 01 Sep 21

    Elizabeth Ann Thurbon spot on - it’s not teachers responsibility to raise kids - teachers are there to teach

    Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Elizabeth Ann Thurbon 9:29 am 01 Sep 21

    Nell Feneck I wish any review of teaching would also review how much parents have ‘handed over’ to teachers.

Anissa Jones Anissa Jones 8:06 pm 31 Aug 21

I’m sorry but the only people who need to be a part of this are actual teachers. The task force is just another “committee” that will take away from the real people - the teachers.

Anyone who knows about pain points in data gathering would know that you need to speak to the people INDIVIDUALLY to get an accurate understanding of why there is a teacher shortage.

Ask teachers. Honestly ask them WITHOUT fear of being done for Code of Conduct when they tell the truth.

    Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 10:47 pm 31 Aug 21

    The Union representatives are teachers. The AEUACT conducted a survey of members that looked into workload, etc. They are our teacher reps.

    Anissa Jones Anissa Jones 2:26 am 01 Sep 21

    Again, people won’t be honest with CoC over their head. Teachers need to be involved. We are the ones that are affected.

Amanda Caldwell Amanda Caldwell 7:40 pm 31 Aug 21

Maybe vaccinate them?

Steph Brimson Steph Brimson 6:41 pm 31 Aug 21

Melissah how do we feel?

    Melissah Cook Melissah Cook 6:47 pm 31 Aug 21

    Steph Brimson it’s no ones fault. I hope they can get teachers to come here. We’re the best paid in the country.

Timmy Holness Timmy Holness 6:22 pm 31 Aug 21

Save some

Money and read this book

    Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Elizabeth Ann Thurbon 8:22 pm 31 Aug 21

    Timmy Holness this book should be a must read. It tells very honestly the tale of why very dedicated teachers burn out and leave teaching.

Jose Vega Jose Vega 6:02 pm 31 Aug 21

Make the temporary contract teachers permanent before they leave frustrated for other permanent jobs with less work hours

Ashlee W. Larkin Ashlee W. Larkin 5:49 pm 31 Aug 21

Workload and work/life satisfaction are the keys here. So much admin and outside hours extras.

Also, maybe don’t spend years telling uni students that there are no jobs in teaching……………..?

Rich Fallon Rich Fallon 5:18 pm 31 Aug 21

Pennie Shuttleworth Lesley Jean have a look

David Moffat David Moffat 4:54 pm 31 Aug 21

TQI, mandatory 20 hrs of professional development, lack of respect for the profession in the media, politics and the community at large, stupid entrance exams, politicians blaming education standards on teachers when it’s the system (run by politicians!) that is broken. Good rate of pay helps, but I don’t know of anyone who goes into teaching for the salary, they go into teaching to make a difference.

Jennifer Lobb Jennifer Lobb 3:42 pm 31 Aug 21

Hope the include more teachers than non teachers. Do they really need TQI reps? They don’t do anything for teachers except take their money.

    Ganesh Suppiah Ganesh Suppiah 4:12 pm 31 Aug 21

    Jennifer Lobb non teachers as in support staff?

    Jennifer Lobb Jennifer Lobb 2:19 pm 01 Sep 21

    Ganesh Suppiah as in directorate and principals etc. teachers not doing actual face to face teaching. Definitely LSA’s etc need to be included

Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 3:34 pm 31 Aug 21

"Education Union says increasing workload and pay are both factors in job burnout"

Pay increases are just the worst...

Katherine Bell Katherine Bell 3:16 pm 31 Aug 21

Long overdue.

Carol Ofori Carol Ofori 1:26 pm 31 Aug 21

Need to do this for Nurses also.

Carole Ford Carole Ford 1:23 pm 31 Aug 21

Let's hope that they get the real truth so that teachers can expect a reasonable level of work/life balance. What is expected of teachers has become overwhelming and impossible to achieve without undue stress and feelings of guilt.

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