New partnership tackles teacher shortage across Australia

New partnership tackles teacher shortage across Australia

From this week, NSW teaching students will work in Catholic schools as part of a national roll out to address worsening teacher shortages across Australia.

Under a new joint partnership between the Australian Catholic University (ACU) and the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), teaching students will be employed as paraprofessionals in NSW Catholic schools to address the growing shortage of teachers and provide paid, in-the-classroom experience.

The announcement follows a major strike in December in which thousands of NSW teachers walked off the job in protest over worsening pay and workloads conditions.

The partnership plans to not only address the short-term challenges posed by COVID-19, but involve a long-term strategy to place highly trained, workplace-ready graduates into Australian Catholic schools and early childhood education centres.

Teacher education students, who have already undertaken substantial in-school professional experience, will be directly involved in supporting teachers in the classroom and those working remotely. This will support the continued delivery of high-quality learning and teaching in our schools.

The paraprofessionals will be employed up to four days per week with in-school mentoring and support from ACU. This flexibility ensures they have time to complete their university studies and to meet the requirements of their final professional experience so they can graduate and join the workforce.

“As the largest provider of teachers in the country we have a responsibility to the teaching profession, in times of uncertainty and challenge, to assist in any way we can,” Australian Catholic University (ACU) Vice-Chancellor and President Zlatko Skrbis said.

“Our preservice teachers engage in rigorous teacher education programs and have already spent a significant amount of time in schools where they are mentored by high-quality teachers.”

Skrbis said the University sees the partnership as an opportunity to “add breadth and depth” to teacher’' experience whilst helping the profession meet current workforce needs and prepare adequately for upcoming demand.”

National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) executive director, Jacinta Collins, said the Commission is developing a long-term strategy to build teacher capacity and address the teaching workforce needs of Catholic schools, particularly in rural, regional and remote areas.

“This is an exciting partnership that enables teaching students to find employment and extend their experience in Catholic schools where they are most needed,” Collins said.

“Supported by mentors, school and tertiary professional learning, this initiative will provide the opportunity of paid teaching experience.”

Kevin Jones, principal at St Clare’s Catholic College in Hassall Grove, said his school is acutely aware that the experience undergraduate teachers gain in schools is invaluable.

“We believe the role of paraprofessionals in Catholic schools will benefit these young aspiring teachers, the experienced teachers they work with, our students and the community as a whole,” Jones said.

“Their work will be a tremendous support to hard working professionals both in the learning spaces and in terms of preparation, resourcing and organisation. We are very excited about the possibilities.”