How your school can retain its best teachers

How your school can retain its best teachers

By the end of this year, the demand for secondary teachers is projected to exceed the supply of new graduate teachers by around 4,100.

Exacerbating this issue, initial teacher education completions have declined by 15% between 2011-2020, prompting governments to launch the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan in December 2022.

However, there are fears this may be too little too late, with the latest figures suggesting that, by 2028, the teacher shortfall will exceed 5,000 teachers in Victoria alone.

Indeed, the effects are already being felt in classrooms across the state, with a significant number of principals alarmed by the lack of applicants to fill teacher and support staff vacancies in schools.

According to a statewide survey by the Australian Education Union, staffing vacancies are particularly bad in learning areas such as Generalist Primary, English, Maths and PE, with the vacancies reaching “unprecedented” levels.

Making teaching a dream job

At Haileybury, a leading co-educational private school in Melbourne, fostering a supportive work environment that is ingrained into the school’s culture has been key to both attracting and retaining quality staff.

“Acknowledging that every teacher’s talent and time is valued and respected is an essential leadership trait, as is maintaining a culture of high expectations,” Anna Sever, Deputy Principal (Teaching & Learning) at Haileybury told The Educator.

“We seek collaborative approaches to curriculum design and assessment, and endorse effective classroom management including student behaviour policies and processes.”

The school provides opportunities for personal development such as Mentor Programs whereby new teachers are linked to experienced staff supporting them through the early stages of onboarding, and throughout their growth and development. 

Sever says there is already much work underway to reduce barriers to getting into teaching, including a review of ITE programs.

“If we want high quality people in teaching, we have to make it an attractive proposition and this means thinking differently about what it looks like to transition into a career in education,” she said.

“Like anyone, teachers have different needs throughout their career. We must be attuned to these needs, and offer flexibility by providing different options at various stages of their life to ensure that they are supported to be the best that they can be. Our students are the beneficiaries of this.”

Valuing and rewarding teacher expertise

Sever says an ongoing challenge for schools is retaining experienced teachers who have so much to share with students and their colleagues.

“Culture, mentorship, community engagement, professional learning, freedom to innovate... all these things keep educators feeling connected and motivated,” she said.

“Opportunities for growth and working among a community of educators who deeply respect and reward their expertise can keep the best staff in classrooms.”

Sever said creating opportunities for highly experienced educators to contribute to evolutions and changes to school initiatives is also a positive step.

“Schools have to create a culture where people love what they do and to achieve this, people need to feel loved and supported and to believe they are in a place that wills the good of everyone.” 

During the first years of a teacher’s career, engagement and strong relationships between teacher, parents and the broader school community all matter, says Sever.

“Allocating mentors to new staff and providing targeted professional development for new teachers are all important support mechanisms, as is demonstrating appreciation for the role they play in young peoples’ lives,” she said.

“Early career teachers also need clear expectations around approaches to teaching and those need to be balanced with opportunities to experiment, learn and hone their craft. Administrative burdens can weigh heavily on teachers but these can be mitigated with highly efficient structures, processes and digital systems.”

‘High expectations are met with great supports’

On Saturday, 3 August, Haileybury will run its popular Teacher Open Day. When asked what she believes are Haileybury’s strongest selling points for prospective staff, Sever highlighted the school’s working culture and environment.

“High expectations are met with great supports to help teachers reach their potential – Haileybury ensures teachers become the best teachers they can be and people aspiring to be highly impactful educators thrive within Haileybury’s community,” she said.

“There is a large cohort of highly qualified, passionate teachers committed to student success, with many opportunities to gain support through mentoring and development.”

Haileybury, which has been described as Australia’s largest Independent school, has five campuses in Victoria; City, Berwick, Brighton, Keysborough and Pangea, Haileybury’s online school.

“In addition, we have Haileybury Rendall School (HRS) in Darwin and Haileybury Senior School Tianjin [HSST] in China,” Sever noted. “With multiple campuses, school sections and departments, staff can enjoy opportunities for growth and career progression without leaving the School.”

Sever pointed out that a teacher could start their career in Brighton, be seconded to Haileybury Rendall School, Darwin or Haileybury Senior School Tianjin, China and then return to work at the City campus in Melbourne if that fits their career goals and personal needs.

“In addition, a variety of clear career advancement pathways, leadership roles and specialised positions ensure teachers are motivated to grow professionally,” she said.

“Haileybury has also developed an internal ‘Growth and Reflection Cycle’; a continuous development program which strategically aligns staff goals to the broader Magenta Principles of the School. Haileybury is a place where everyone belongs.”

Haileybury Teacher Open Day is on Saturday, 3 August 2024 from 11.00 am to 1.00 pm. The event will be held at Haileybury’s Keysborough campus: Senior School, 855 Springvale Road, Keysborough.