Unsupported teachers ‘slipping through the cracks’

Unsupported teachers ‘slipping through the cracks’

Early career teachers in Australia in casual or temporary employment are more likely to miss out on receiving professional support, leading to lower work satisfaction and higher likelihood of leaving the profession, a new study shows.

The study, by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), was based on nationally representative data from the Staff in Australia’s Schools survey covering 1,863 early career teachers across Australia in 2007, and 2,477 in 2010.

It is also the first study to investigate on a national level which Australian teachers are effectively “unsupported” and missing out on all forms of support during their first five years in the profession.

Lead author of the study, Dr Nick Kelly from the QUT, said too many beginning teachers are “slipping through the cracks” and missing out on professional support”.

“We have many good teachers leaving the profession before they've established themselves, and ensuring that all teachers receive quality support regardless of their employment status is a good way to start addressing that,” Dr Kelly said.

The study, co-authored with Associate Professor Cheryl Sim and Dr Michael Ireland, considered five kinds of support for beginning teachers: mentoring programs, orientation programs, structured opportunity for reflection, reduction in workload, and follow-up from their place of study.

In 2007, about one in six beginning teachers were unsupported. This portion dropped to one in ten by 2010, suggesting some improvement. The portion of beginning teachers in insecure employment who received no support also dropped, from 23% in 2007 to 16% in 2010.

However, Dr Kelly warns this is no cause for complacency, given a shift towards temporary and casual work for beginning teachers.

“Many, and in some states most, beginning teachers are in casual or temporary employment”, he said.

Dr Kelly said the education system needs to do a better job of targeting these teachers for formal support.

“One way to address early career teacher attrition would be to improve the base-level of support available to all teachers and to place more of a focus on professional well-being,” he said.

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