Has job security been an overlooked factor as student populations surge and the teaching workforce declines?
An article published yesterday investigated the issue of the rising student population that is accompanying this decline in the teaching workforce.
ACER data has shown that the majority of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, causing fears of a nationwide teacher shortage.
But is enough attention being given to the issues that teachers care most about?
Kevin Bates, president of the Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) told The Educator that while teachers faced professional battles on many fronts, job security and workloads were proving to be “the biggest issues”.
“Short term contracts are on the rise and the target of a strong union campaign in Queensland. Early career teachers are often used as short term employees and they suffer from the lack of certainty and professional support as they develop,” he said.
“Temporary employment is a key issue in rural and remote Queensland where the cost of relocating personal effects and families to take up work is prohibitive.”
Bates added that while teaching was a demanding job, the first five years of an educator’s career were often the most challenging and that the lack of crucial administrative, government and societal support was forcing teachers – who might otherwise stay – to leave the profession.
“Teaching is a very demanding job and no more so than in those first five years in the classroom. All teachers face increasing demands and work pressures and new entrants to the profession are more vulnerable,” Bates said.
“Teachers consistently raise issues of a lack of support in their early years and the QTU has campaigned to gain additional resources for release time for additional planning, preparation and mentoring for new teachers.”
Bates added that the enhancement of school funding through partial delivery of Gonski had been well used to provide some support for new teachers and “much more” could be done with the full six years of Gonski funding.
According to ACER data, the number of school students is set to increase 26% nationally by 2022, requiring either more teachers or larger class sizes to cope with the surging enrolments.
As for the most effective way Australia might be able to balance the student-teacher ratio, Bates said the capacity exists to transform the teaching profession by raising the status of the profession.
In order for this to happen, Bates said improvements must be made in salary, working conditions, in-class support and the treatment of teachers by parents, community and politicians. Bates also pointed to the “teacher-bashing” in the media which he said must stop.
“Teaching is a rewarding profession but at this time it appears that for many people the rewards are overwhelmed by the negatives,” he said.