Australia/August 16, 2022/Paul Karp and Adeshola Ore/Source: https://www.theguardian.com/
Proposed plan will tackle workload, pay structures and attracting and retaining teachers, but does not address increased school funding
Education ministers have agreed to a national plan to consider better pathways into teaching, new pay structures and a decreased workload as means to combat the teacher shortage.
After a meeting in Canberra on Friday, state and territory ministers said the new federal education minister, Jason Clare, offered a “breath of fresh air”, but the commonwealth remained tight-lipped about increasing schools funding.
Despite opposition from the teachers’ union, Clare also gave his endorsement to a proposal from New South Wales to pay skilled teachers more to stay in the classroom.
Earlier this week, ministers were warned by an education department issues paper that modelling suggested demand for secondary school teachers would outstrip graduates by more than 4,000 in coming years.
The paper blamed the shortfall on the Covid-19 pandemic, workload, the status of the profession, declining enrolments in teacher training, and “limited career opportunities” beyond moving into more senior bureaucratic roles.
Clare told reporters after the meeting that education department secretaries would draw up a national plan to encourage new teachers and retain existing ones, to be considered at the December ministerial meeting.
He said professionals in their 30s with two kids and a mortgage “can’t take two years out without pay” to switch professions and train as a teacher, so introducing a “paid internship” model for in-classroom placements would be critical.
Asked whether the national plan would consider funding, Clare said the terms of reference would not be finalised on Friday. He also noted jurisdictions had “limited budgets”.
“You don’t just fix this with salaries, it’s more than that,” he told reporters. “Of course we want to pay teachers more, [but] it’s also about workload, conditions and wellbeing too.”
The NSW education minister, Sarah Mitchell, quipped: “I won’t say no to more money.”
The NSW government pre-empted the meeting with its own set of reforms, to effectively offer performance pay for teachers with a new category of master teachers.
Mitchell said thechange was “intended to reward excellence” by “making sure that our best teachers don’t feel that they have to leave the classroom in order to get a higher salary or to get a career progression”.
Clare said these were good ideas because a teacher’s salary “starts pretty competitive, goes up in grades, then tops out”.
“Teachers often have to make that hard decision: ‘Do I leave the classroom to become an assistant principal, or do I leave the profession altogether and go and do something else?’”
Labor has continued to come under pressure from the teachers’ union to boost funding to public schools, after complaints that its policy for a “pathway” to full funding did not set out a timeline. State-federal funding agreements expire at the end of 2023 and negotiations will begin in November 2022.
Correna Haythorpe, federal president of the Australian Education Union, applauded the national plan butrejected performance-based pay. “It pits teachers against teachers and it has not worked overseas. There’s plenty of evidence to show that it fails,” she told Guardian Australia.