The ACT is facing a critical shortage of teachers. The ACT population is growing and less people are choosing teaching as a career, due to non-competitive pay and difficult workloads.
Every day schools are unable to find enough relief teachers to cover staff absences, leading to a daily average shortage of 162 positions. This means that every day, thousands of students in the ACT go without a dedicated teacher, or are moved into oversized classes and expected to work independently under minimal supervision. Quality education can’t happen in these settings.
The AEU’s ask is simple: we need a teacher in every classroom, every day.
A joint AEU-EDU taskforce has made major findings that show the impact of teacher shortages on ACT public schools. In Term 2 of 2022, every week there were 339 classes split (where students were moved to different classes), 210 classes combined (where one teacher supervised more than one class), and 272 classes moved to an online format for older students.
This means that every day, school leaders try to secure relief teachers and then face difficult decisions on how to meet the needs of their students when they cannot find the staff to cover absences.
This has an enormous impact on teacher workload, school morale, and student learning. According to a survey conducted by the AEU ACT Branch in 2021:
The teacher shortage was a problem before the start of the pandemic and will continue to be a problem afterwards.
The ACT Teacher Shortage Taskforce Report indicated that there were on average 60 teacher positions that could not be filled by relief teachers every day in 2019, indicating that a significant shortfall in staffing pre-dates the pandemic.
Nationally, Department of Education modelling indicates that demand for secondary teachers will exceed supply by around 4,100 between 2021 and 2025.
According to projections from the Rorris report, Impact of Enrolment Growth on Demand for Teachers, NSW public schools will require between 11,100 and 13,700 additional teachers above 2020 FTE teacher numbers by 2031.
This is a long-term shortage that needs long-term solutions.
After the AEU ACT Branch released the results of its teacher shortage survey the ACT Government agreed to establish the Teacher Shortage Taskforce with a view to working with the AEU to find solutions. This collaborative approach is unique to the ACT.
The Taskforce handed down its final report in August 2022 and made 20 recommendations that aim to get teachers back into the classroom in the short term, alleviate workload pressure, look after beginning teachers better, and develop smart and sustainable teacher recruitment plans for the ACT.
This is only the beginning: we know that the most important thing we can do to raise the status of teaching as a profession and get more people into teaching is to pay teachers more. As we head into bargaining our next Enterprise Agreement, we look forward to the ACT Government coming to the table for our schools, teachers, and students.
We need to show teachers that they are valued and demonstrate to prospective teachers that education is a worthwhile career. This means we must: