The Federal Government’s draft plan to fix the nation’s teacher crisis has been broadly welcomed by school sectors across Australia.
The draft recommendations of the $328m National Teacher Workforce Action Plan includes $25m to reduce teacher workloads, $56m for scholarships worth up to $40,000 each; $68m to encourage mid-career professionals to shift into teaching; and $10m for a targeted national campaign to raise the status and value the role of teachers.
After announcing the plan at the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) National conference in Sydney on Thursday morning, Federal Education Minister Jason Clare sat down at a round table meeting with principal representatives from the three sectors of schooling sectors that make up APPA to listen to feedback on the draft plan.
In attendance was Pat Murphy, president of the Australian Government Primary Principal Association (AGPPA), which had four representatives at the meeting.
“All the principals in the meeting we're impressed by the way Minister Clare worked with the group and it was evident he has a real passion for advancing education for the students of this country,” Murphy told The Educator.
“AGPPA believe the plan has some good strategies. However, it has to include more concepts to address the crisis immediately.”
Murphy said the plan also lacks short- and long-term targets to measure the effectiveness of the strategy.
“The group also discussed the need to address the underfunding of the primary middle years with the Minister,” he said.
“The Minister was very supportive of wanting to keep working with the associations as the next national school reform agreement is developed.”
The National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), the peak body for Catholic Education in Australia representing 102,000 staff in 1,755 schools, has been involved in the consultation and development of the draft plan to attract, train and retrain teachers.
“This is an important issue and an opportunity to respond to teacher workforce challenges and to recognise the vital role teachers play within our schools, educating and supporting more than 785,000 students in Catholic schools across Australia,” NCEC acting executive director Sally Egan said.
“It is critical that we grow and strengthen the teaching profession to improve student learning outcomes.”
Egan said Catholic education was optimistic the draft action plan will create a greater alignment between the academic program in universities and successful practicum experience that will lead to better quality Initial Teacher Education.
“It is a positive step towards addressing the teacher shortage and ensuring there is a qualified teacher in front of every student every day,” Egan said.
“We are looking forward to ongoing cooperation and participating in workforce action plan pilots in due course.”
The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) CEO, Beth Blackwood, welcomed the draft recommendations.
"The Minister is to be commended for acting swiftly on what is a vitally important national issue at any time, not just when we are facing a teacher shortage, and that is making sure our schools are adequately staffed so that young Australians have the best possible educational opportunities," Blackwood told The Educator.
“There are 28 proposed actions in the draft plan, which all deserve careful consideration, but the release of a draft plan is in itself a tremendous encouragement to teachers and school leaders who are stretched to the limit."
Blackwod said that at first glance, she would advocate for a greater concentration of effort to support pre-service and graduate teachers and to retain early career teachers.
"These are people who have already flagged their interest in a teaching career and invested considerable time, money and effort to enter the profession," she said.
"Building on that foundation seems to offer reasonable certainty of good outcomes for individuals, schools and the profession generally. But we will be taking a thorough look at the draft plan before providing feedback to Minister Clare.”