The peak body for independent schools in NSW has launched a three-year strategy to tackle the state’s worsening teacher shortage.
The Association of Independent Schools NSW (AISNSW) ‘Growing and Nurturing Educators’ (GANE) initiative will create innovative, evidence-based approaches to recruit, develop and mentor new teachers to get them classroom ready.
The announcement comes as recent data shows Australia’s education sector has faced significant challenges attracting and retaining teaching staff, even prior to COVID-19.
Between 2009-2019, the number of students entering university to study teaching rose by only 4%, compared with 37% for all fields of study while the number who graduated from teaching courses fell by 5% (compared with 40% growth in completions in across all fields of study).
Exacerbating this problem, just 35% of the NSW teacher workforce say they intend to stay in the profession until retirement.
“These trends are a concern, particularly as enrolments in our sector have grown by more than 20,000, or over 10%, in the past five years in NSW,” AISNSW Chief Executive Dr Geoff Newcombe said.
“The strong growth is forecast to continue, so the need for new teachers will only expand.”
Dr Newcombe said that with independent school enrolments growing across the board, it’s important to attract and retain future generations of capable and diverse teachers to the sector.
“Fresh approaches are needed for changing times in addition to the traditional pathways into teaching.”
Dr Newcombe said GANE will address key workforce challenges within the independent sector by focusing on three key areas: attracting high quality and diverse candidates; initial teacher education; and the early years of teaching.
“Led by The AISNSW Evidence Institute, targeted projects will be developed in consultation with representatives from the Independent sector and a range of industry and academic partners,” he said.
“GANE will strive to achieve a range of important outcomes. These include attracting more Independent school leavers and career changers into teaching, attracting more diverse graduates, increasing teacher placements in the Independent school sector and providing more support for teachers in the early stages of their careers.”
What’s driving the teacher shortage?
A recent study by Monash University found that workload pressure, burnout and wellbeing related issues, and the low esteem in which teachers are held in the public discourse, are the top three reasons teachers are leaving the profession.
The respondents in the University’s survey were asked what could be done to support them in their work.
“Examples of teachers’ suggestions included 'decluttering' the curriculum and reducing class sizes specifically so that the administrative burden would be reduced,” Dr Fiona Longmuir, an educational leadership lecturer at Monash University's School of Education, told The Educator.
“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 said 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.