As Term 1 approaches, schools in regional NSW are struggling to find staff to fill crucial roles, an issue that threatens to become more pronounced as reports show a decline of up to 40% in initial teacher education (ITE) course applications.
In November, the NSW Government announced a new pathway, developed jointly between the NSW Government and Teach for Australia, to attract mid-career and high achieving professionals into teaching.
Under the plan, subject areas and schools with teacher shortages will be targeted – particularly science, maths and TAS (Technology and Applied Sciences), and rural and remote schools.
Craig Peterson, president of the NSW Secondary Principals Council, said that while the Department is working hard to fill gaps in teacher recruitment, it relies on there being sufficient teachers qualified in those subjects, and teachers prepared to relocate to fill those vacancies
“Anywhere that’s geographically distanced from the major metropolitan areas – even in Bathurst we’re having trouble. And certainly, as you go further west, and north and south, it gets difficult,” Peterson told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“We need to be really working on improving the status of the profession and that includes professional salaries so teaching is more attractive”.
This is a view shared by the nation’s peak teachers’ union.
“Numerous international studies from the 1970s to the current decade have consistently shown that higher teacher salaries relative to those of other comparable professionals increase the likelihood of highly performing secondary students becoming teachers, and reduce long term rates of attrition,” the Australian Education Union (AEU) said in its submission to a federal inquiry into the status of teaching.
Tyson Wood, Company Manager at Smart Teachers Australia and Tes Australia said schools in metropolitan locations have seen the highest volume of retraction in job advertisement during COVID-19, with a lower impact in schools in regional and rural locations.
“In fact, many regional and rural schools were business as usual and recruitment continued,” Wood told The Educator.
As COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease across Australia, Wood said the question is turning to what teaching and learning – and teacher recruitment – will look like in the post lockdown environment.
“The new normal is still being defined. We do know schools are recognising a greater need for teachers with IT literacy,” he said.
“We can assume this skill will remain relevant as we continue classroom learning, to adapt to any number of disruptions that are faced in a school year, that ‘on demand’ remote learning can aid”.