Recent figures show that across Australia, teacher shortages are having a significant impact on the provision of teaching and learning.
In NSW, Australia’s largest education jurisdiction, a staggering 87% of public schools are impacted by a shortage of casual teachers each day, while in Victoria there are more than 2,255 positions advertised on the Education Department’s vacancies website.
To address this the Federal Government has announced a series of nationwide initiatives aimed at attracting more people to the teaching profession and ensuring that existing teachers feel more supported in their role.
On Monday, the government announced that students commencing teaching degrees in 2024 can now register for scholarships worth up to $40,000. This initiative follows the launch of a national campaign to elevate the status of teaching and highlight the positive impact that educators have on the lives of young people.
One organisation that has been acutely aware of the impact that Australia’s teacher shortages are having is Tes, which has been working in partnership with schools across Australia to help them find the right-fit staff for hard-to-fill roles, including leadership positions.
Where the teacher shortage is biting the most
Brett Engeman, Managing Director for Tes Australia said the most sought after roles in schools this year have been high school subject teachers, especially in maths and science.
“Following that, technology, English, English and humanities, and religious education teachers are the second most in need,” Engeman told The Educator.
“As for the regional differences, in Sydney we see a wider selection of role shortages than that of Queensland.”
Engeman pointed out that in Queensland, the majority are ‘core subject roles,’ whereas Sydney gets a mixture of both core and selective subjects, such as music, languages, PE, and arts.
“Victoria on the other hand is much the same as Queensland, with Maths and Science being the most in demand,” he said.
Tom Endean, Chief Marketing Officer at Tes said the COVID pandemic made it harder for schools to recruit and retain teachers, and various triggers linked to this disruption saw a steep incline in schools struggling to find the teachers they need.
“For example, as Australia’s teacher population is often bolstered by teachers from English-speaking countries, that valuable source dried up. However, since schools have been able to open their doors again, the pressure has eased ever so slightly,” Endean told The Educator.
Operating out of Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, Tes has witnessed the increasingly complex challenges that Australian schools have been facing, which has led the company to provide further support for schools in the lead up to the busiest recruitment period of the year.
“This includes free recruitment advertising for schools, alongside giving teachers a voucher when they find their next role through Tes,” Endean said.
“Our programs are about supporting schools to attract the right teachers without incurring cost, all while incentivising teachers to apply for roles.”
More help is on the way
Endean noted that while these are only short-term solutions, the company’s longer-term plan involves investing in its platforms, job boards, and applicant tracking systems to give teachers and schools the best support possible.
“We have numerous developments rolling out over the coming months to give schools a more powerful resource, which makes recruitment easier, intuitive, and more efficient,” he said.
“It takes time, but we are absolutely committed to continuing our work with schools across the country to deliver something built around real school needs, not one size fits all.”
The other part of this, says Endean, is retention, and the development of existing staff.
“We are always looking at how we can roll out new solutions to reduce the workload and administrative burden on teachers and school leaders,” he said.
“We see it time and again, and teachers tell us themselves, that it is often those pressures that can make the difference between a teacher staying or going.”
Endean said while teachers love their job, workload pressures tend to be the main reason early career teachers choose to leave.
“It's often not a job, but a vocation, so some of the teachers that leave the profession early don’t do so without feeling significant pressure,” he said.
“Something constant we always hear is the sheer weight of administration, coupled with inefficiencies, often leads to an excess and pressured workload. Education has evolved massively over the years, and so have expectations on teachers.”
The tools helping teachers get back to teaching
Endean notes that existing systems and tools have struggled to keep up, or schools have struggled to adopt them.
“This is where technology comes into play. Not only do we see systems being adopted across the world that have proven to have positive impacts on student results, but we also see drastic reductions in administrative burden with the right systems in place,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s about efficiency, sometimes it’s about accuracy and removal of duplication, and sometimes it’s about releasing insights and information that nobody could see before.”
According to teacher feedback on the Tes Learning Pathways platform, which launched earlier this year, the main benefits are the ability to create, review, clone, or archive learning plans for every child with accuracy, without having to repeat work, and with it being easy to report.
“There are many tools that can have that same impact with schools. To keep teachers in the classroom, it’s about freeing them up to let them be in the classroom and teach,” Endean said.
“To do that, we need to reduce the time and pressure of doing everything else.”