Primary and high schools, including public and private schools, as well as early childhood centres right around Australia are experiencing a critical shortage of teachers, especially in rural, regional and remote areas. Unless action is taken now, it’s clear that the situation will only get worse. To address this crisis, the Department of Education and Training in Victoria is running a major campaign to recruit more than 4000 new teachers, and the other states and territories are running similar recruitment drives for graduates.
Meanwhile, teachers are telling the media and governments that they feel overworked and underpaid.
And the Education ministers have listened. On Friday 12 August, federal, state and territory ministers met with teachers, school leaders and other education experts at Parliament House Canberra to plan effective ways to rectify these issues.
At this meeting, the federal Education Minister, Jason Clare, together with the other Education ministers paid tribute to the valuable work teachers do and made the commitment to develop a National Teacher Workforce Action Plan.
What does the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan mean for our Education students and graduates
Over the next few years, the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan will bring major positive changes to the working conditions for teachers and improve the status of the teaching profession. It will open up new opportunities and focus on career paths for teachers in ways that haven’t been explored before. This is incredibly important for the Education students at Torrens University and our recent graduates.
Your skills and qualifications when you finish your Education course will be in high demand. The federal government has identified that teachers are particularly needed in the fields of special/inclusive education, reading and literacy. In fact, as a teacher you will find job opportunities in all subject areas, as schools reach out to graduates to address the extraordinary vacancy rates. As well, you’ll enter a profession where the government, on behalf of the Australian people, recognises ‘the value that teachers bring to students, communities and the economy’, as the federal minister outlined in his media release announcing the new Plan.
The impact of the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan
The National Teacher Workforce Action Plan will have an impact by:
- Elevating the profession
For example, by considering how awards and honours might be used to reward and recognise the teaching profession.
- Improving teacher supply
Such as delivering 5000 bursaries and expanding the High Achieving Teachers program by up to 1500 teachers.
- Strengthening initial teacher education
By, for example, ensuring in practical ways that initial teacher education will support teacher supply and quality.
- Maximising the time to teach
In order to improve retention rates and free teachers up to focus on teaching, schools will take action to maximise the time teachers have to plan, collaborate and teach.
- Better understanding future teacher workforce needs
By, for example, using nationally consistent data sets to enable a national understanding of teacher demand.
Designing and implementing this Plan will start straight away and be led from the top. The Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Education will chair a working group of officials and peak education bodies to develop the Plan. Then, in December this year, the group will deliver their report, outlining their priorities for immediate action.
Improving working conditions for teachers at the state and territory level
While the Teacher Workforce Action Plan is a national strategy, states and territories are exploring additional ways to attract Education graduates and retain teachers who are already in the classroom. In New South Wales, for instance, the government is looking at a plan to increase wages for high-achieving teachers in a bid to promote excellence in the classroom, and it’s investigating ways to create stronger career paths for classroom teachers.
The Victorian Government, for its part, is offering financial support for Education students and teachers in the form of scholarships and employment incentives. Each state and territory is planning practical ways to support teachers, including recent graduates and those further along in their careers.
When you graduate from your Education course at Torrens University, you’ll enter the profession at an exciting time, as these national changes in working conditions for teachers are unprecedented and profound. You’ll also find a diverse range of education career opportunities waiting for you to choose from. No matter where you live in Australia, as an Education graduate, your skills will be valued by parents, students and governments, and they will be in great demand in every subject area.