‘Breaking point’: Teacher anger over staff shortages reaches steps of parliament

‘Breaking point’: Teacher anger over staff shortages reaches steps of parliament

Hundreds of Victorian teachers, principals, and education support staff are protesting on the steps of Parliament today amid reports that advertised vacancies in the state’s public schools have reached unprecedented levels.

According to the Australian Education Union’s Victorian branch, daily advertised jobs reached 2,600 last week, prompting public school staff to renew demands for immediate action from Premier Andrews after first raising the issue directly with him over 12 months ago.

Reports have shown that workforce shortages in Victoria, driven by overwhelming workloads and plummeting morale, have reached now reached breaking point.

AEU primary school member, Michael Pace accused the state government of leaving public schools “high and dry” by “refusing to acknowledge the gravity of the situation”, which he said requires immediate action.

Simon Cole, one of the AEU’s secondary school members said while teachers are dedicated to educating their students and supporting them in their learning, the worsening staff shortages are “stretching staff beyond their capacity”.

“It’s students’ learning that suffers. Our students deserve better.”

Meredith Peace, president of the Australian Education Union Victorian Branch said despite the union’s early warnings to the state government, they have failed to take the significant steps needed and make the required investment to address the lack of teachers across public schools.

“It is the students who bear the brunt of this crisis, as too many classrooms across the state remain without qualified permanent teachers, impacting on student learning,” Peace said in a statement today.

“Class sizes are increasing, and staff are shouldering unsustainable workloads in a daily effort to fill the gaps in our classrooms, to ensure our students receive the best education possible despite the circumstances.”

Peace said the union had “repeatedly asked for bold and urgent action from Premier Andrews and offered a comprehensive list of solutions” to stem the shortage in the AEU’s Ten Year Plan.

The union’s solutions include retention payments for existing staff, comprehensive targeted support for harder to staff schools, paid placements for pre-service teachers so they complete their teacher training, and expanded scholarships and studentships to attract the next generation of teachers.

The Victorian Government spokesperson said a raft of initiatives developed with the support of the union have seen the number of teachers in Victoria grow, not shrink.

"As part of the new National Teacher Workforce Action Plan which was developed with the support of the AEU, the Victorian Government is supporting the attraction and retention of teachers through a range of initiative, including a new streamlined teacher recruitment process," the spokesperson told The Educator.

“The number of teachers in Victoria has grown at twice the national average and that’s no accident."

The spokesperson said the government is delivering a range of initiatives that have grown the state's teaching workforce by 5,000 extra teachers between 2020 and 2022. 

"The overwhelming majority of government schools are fully staffed, and school programs are continuing as normal," the spokesperson said.

“Advertised vacancy numbers fluctuate depending on the time of year. Schools are already looking ahead to 2024, with many of advertised positions seeking to fill expected vacancies next year and not an accurate reflection of current vacancies.”