NSW unveils radical plan to tackle school staff shortages

NSW unveils radical plan to tackle school staff shortages

Thousands of executive teachers in NSW have been told to spend more time in the classroom in a move that could add the equivalent of more than 500 full-time teaching roles.

The initiative, announced by the NSW Department of Education, follows a survey in October which found more than 10,000 merged and cancelled classes were occurring in NSW public schools every day.

A subsequent review found almost two thirds of the 2,500 teachers were not teaching timetabled classes at all, while the remainder were teaching fewer hours than the proposed minimum hours needed. More than half of the deputy principals in NSW public schools are not currently teaching timetabled classes.

Under the state government’s plan, 2,500 deputy principals and senior teachers will now teach classes from Term 1, 2024 in a bid to address the teacher shortage and the proliferation of cancelled and merged classes.

Deputy Principal teachers will be expected to teach at least one day a week from the start of next year increasing to 2.5 days a week, while Head Teachers and Assistant Principals will be expected to teach at least 3 days a week, increasing to 4 days a week, as allowed under the existing industrial agreements.

To free up some of the most experienced teachers, the Department will also help schools redeploy work to skilled school staff members in administrative and other support roles. With timetables already being written for next year, principals have been asked to apply the new minimum teaching hours initially where possible.

“Executive teachers have a vital role to play in our schools – their experience, leadership and support for students is unquestioned,” NSW Deputy Premier and Education Minister Prue Car said.

"At a time when we have 10,000 lessons a day without a casual teacher, freeing up our leading teachers to do the work only they can do by taking more classes is vital to improving student outcomes.”

Car said the government has recognised the hard work of NSW teachers through the most significant salary increase in three decades and by implementing strategies to decrease teacher workloads.

“We’re confident that refining executive teaching positions – which were always a mixed role – and relieving them of administrative tasks will lead to better student outcomes through more teaching time across the state.”

NSW Secondary Principals Council president, Craig Petersen, told The Sydney Morning Herald that many deputy principals already had a teaching load of about two and a half days each week.

“The positive aspect is we are getting recognition that deputies and other executive staff are doing an outstanding job at supporting students with complex needs,” Petersen said.

“The challenge will be that the current provisions under the award does not currently recognition the complexity of the roles.”