5 June 2022

We don't know how many more teachers are needed in the ACT, but we're about to find out

| Lottie Twyford
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Jeremy Hanson

Opposition spokesperson for education Jeremy Hanson has repeatedly asked the ACT Government to provide more information about the teacher shortage. Photo: Region Media.

After repeated calls from the Canberra Liberals, the ACT Government has agreed to investigate the teacher shortage in the Territory, including the number of full-time teachers required to fill the gaps.

“I think everybody understands there is a problem right here and now,” Opposition spokesperson for education Jeremy Hanson said on Thursday (2 June).

“Schools are being closed; kids can’t go to school. There’s violence because of staff shortages. And what is the plan moving forward? I think it’s a reasonable question.

“What we need to see is the data behind it … that information is just not being provided and I think the government needs to do so to provide certainty.

“It should be quite simple.”

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The Canberra Liberals MLA moved a motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly to investigate:

  • the total number of teachers required in the ACT to meet current needs and projected future needs up to 2028
  • the number of full-time teachers actually in the current system, and
  • how many teachers have left the system and how that affects the net number of teachers in ACT public schools.

Mr Hanson later “genuinely” thanked the government for agreeing to his proposal.

“I’m seldom delighted in this place but I am today,” he said.

“I am pleased, finally, that the government has accepted my call and has undertaken to provide a plan to recruit and retain teachers in the ACT.”

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The need to be able to answer questions like these was raised by the teachers’ union during committee hearings earlier this year.

The union had expressed concerns about a lack of data on workforce projections, despite similar data being available for student enrolment projections.

A government task force comprising representatives of the ACT Education Directorate and the Australian Education Union (AEU) was established last year to investigate the teacher shortage in the ACT.

At the time, the union said many of the issues related to concerns around workload and salaries.

yvette berry

Minister for Education Yvette Berry said more than 490 teachers and school staff had been hired since 2020. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Minister for Education Yvette Berry said the ACT Government had already engaged more than 490 teaching and school staff since ACT Labor had pledged to hire 400 at the last election.

But despite being repeatedly pressed on the details, Ms Berry wasn’t able to confirm what the net increase in teachers and school staff had been.

“We’re working with our school staff and their unions to understand what those issues are and why teachers are leaving, as well as how we can encourage more teachers to join the system,” she said yesterday.

Multiple ACT public schools have been forced to employ temporary remote learning throughout this year as COVID-19 exacerbates the already existing teacher shortage.

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The highly publicised issues with violence at Calwell High School were also partly attributed to an underlying teacher shortage.

It’s understood only one Catholic systemic school has had to adopt at-home learning due to COVID-induced staff shortages and no independent schools have.

When asked why this was so, Ms Berry has previously been unable to provide answers, instead saying that was a question for those schools.

The government will provide its plan by the first sitting week of next year.

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Clever Interrobang6:50 am 08 Jun 22

Plenty of people go into teaching, not enough stick it out.

ie., a large number of student teachers never finish their degree (including myself), and a lot of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years.

Focus on supporting new teachers to stay in the role.

That old chestnut argument about “workload and salaries” is a bit of a Furphy. Once your income reaches a level where you can house and feed yourself, workloads, stress levels and feeling valued become the primary reasons that most people leave their jobs. It doesn’t matter what profession you are in, people want to feel valued.

I very much doubt that many of our teachers have left their roles and moved into other “burnout” jobs, just to earn more money.

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