New South Wales (NSW) will need to recruit thousands of new teachers in the next 10 years to meet the demand from record-high student enrolment numbers.
A new report (pdf) by economist Adam Rorris commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation Union projects that public schools need to hire at least 11,000 additional teachers by 2031 to meet the surging number of kindergarten to year 12 enrolments.
However, the education department has found that the state already has existing teacher shortages, particularly in STEM fields and rural locations.
“This is projected to worsen due to a combination of student population increases, an ageing workforce, and fewer people going into teaching,” NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford said in an audit report from 2019 (pdf).
“Shortfalls are likely to be more acute in rural and remote areas and areas of low socioeconomic status,” she said.
The shortages mean NSW has the lowest teacher-student ratios in the country. If it rises to the national average, the required number of additional teachers in the next decade rises to 14,000.
“NSW is facing a classroom crisis. The independent Gallop Inquiry was clear that the NSW Government won’t fix the shortages or recruit the additional teachers required without a significant increase in salaries,” NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said.
The workloads of teachers have risen, while their salaries have fallen every year compared to other professions.
“If we don’t pay teachers what they are worth, we won’t get the teachers we need,” Gavrielatos said.
Lake Wallis Teachers Association president Stuart Ireland said schools in NSW were facing a severe staff shortages, which would only get worse if no action on salary and workload is taken.
“Principals across the state are working, on average 62 hours a week while teachers are working on average 55 hours a week, attempting to meet all the complex needs of students while dealing with the compliance and administration burden that the NSW Department of Education has saddled us with,” Ireland told Manning River Times.
The difficulties with staff retention rates were also highlighted, as NSW Education Standards Authority research (pdf) found that graduate teachers are leaving the profession in rising numbers.
The number of newly accredited teachers has remained consistent, at around 7 500 per year. However, between 2009 and 2013, 10.7 percent of graduate teachers left the profession, which grew to over 12 percent by 2015.
There are also concerns around the shortage of specialist teachers for the increased number of students with disabilities, which is expected to increase by 50 percent within the next decade.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell told the Sydney Morning Herald that a cultural shift towards the teaching profession was needed for the sector to see a growth in high-quality teachers.
“I think everyone from schools, current teachers, universities, and the union have a role to play in this regard,” she said.
Mitchell also said she has asked the department for a long-term workforce strategy and expects to see a draft soon.
Gavrielatos said with the greater amount of work expected from teachers; there needs to be an increase in their salaries by 10 to 15 percent over the next two years.
“Investing in the profession will pay off for kids across NSW—now and in the future,” he said.