'Expert teachers' offered nearly $150,000 to stay in the classroom

’Expert teachers’ will be offered six-figure salaries to stay in the classroom under proposals revealed in a new options paper by the NSW Government today.

The Rewarding Excellence in Teaching program, expected to start in 2023, proposes the creation of new teaching roles across schools with salaries ranging from $117,000 to $147,000, depending on the proportion of mentoring and collaboration time the teacher undertakes.

“This approach is about recognising and rewarding the great teachers we have in our public schools, with the aim of keeping them in the classroom where they do their magic,” NSW Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, said.

“Initial feedback shows that around three out of four teachers in NSW would be interested in putting themselves forward for such a role. This supports our approach and I’m looking forward to hearing more from the profession on our proposed plans.”

Over the next four weeks more than 100 roundtables will be held with teachers and other school staff, from Murwillumbah in the north to Broken Hill in the west and Cooma in the state’s south, to hear their feedback on the Options Paper. Staff will also be able to share feedback via online through a survey.

Internationally renowned education expert, Professor John Hattie, who developed the program, said it is important that the government’s policy is “built from the profession up, rather than from the top down.”

“We want to hear from teachers across this entire state to ensure we get the policy right and to find the best way to get great teachers to remain in the classroom,” Professor Hattie said.

“We already know from feedback to date that schools see this reform as worthwhile, but it’s important in this next step to hear exactly how they want to see it work.”

‘The problem is workloads, not pay’

While most teachers would certainly not baulk at a pay rise, research suggests remuneration doesn’t sit particularly high on the list of why teachers stay in, or leave, the profession.

A recent nationwide survey of 2,444 primary and secondary teachers by Monash University found that the three main areas cited as being the reason that teachers were looking to change jobs were workload pressure, burnout and wellbeing related issues.

Among teachers who intended to leave the profession, a significant 62% referred to workload pressures and their impact on health, wellbeing and other aspects of respondents’ non-working lives.

The respondents in the University’s survey were asked what could be done to support them in their work and they, not surprisingly, suggested that actions to reduce their workload were needed.

Dr Fiona Longmuir, an educational leadership lecturer at Monash University's School of Education, led the study. She says examples of their suggestions included 'decluttering' the curriculum and reducing class sizes specifically so that the administrative burden would be reduced.

“Teachers also suggested that schools need more support to address social issues so that this emotionally intense work is not left solely to teachers,” Dr Longmuir told The Educator.

“They also hoped that the media and policy makers would more regularly reflect the complexity of teaching work so that respect, trust and appreciation for Australian teachers might be enhanced.”

In August, the major issues facing the teaching profession were brought to Federal Education Minister Jason Clare at a Ministerial Roundtable meeting in Canberra. It was agreed that a ‘National Workforce Strategy’ be developed by December to create uniform standards for mentoring for new teachers; establish an apprentice degree model to fast track new teachers into schools; and create more skilled visas for teachers to plug workforce shortages.

Dr Greg Whitby, who retires as the executive director of Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta at the end of the 2022 school year, has racked up more than 40 years of service that has included the leadership of 80 Catholic schools across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

He says there’s a need to think really differently to find a way through the nation’s teacher crisis.

“Schools and school systems have been giving it everything we’ve got to try to use the resources that we have as best we can. This is not just an argument for ensuring that all schools are appropriately resourced,” Whitby told The Educator.

“Government can support us to do things differently. This should include considering how technology can help us here and build on the recognition of teachers’ role in the community that was seen so strongly through the COVID crisis. How can Government help us to free teachers up to focus on the things that matter most?”