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Teachers and Principals Say Urgent Action Needed to Address Staff Shortage



View the AEU ACT Branch’s report on its staff survey here

ACT public school staff have told their union that the teacher shortage in the ACT is worsening considerably and that the negative impacts caused by the shortage are serious and must be urgently addressed.

The Australian Education Union’s (AEU) ACT Branch, which represents teachers and support staff in ACT Public Schools, surveyed its public school members on their perception of staff shortages, workload, work safety and teaching as a profession. More than 1,800 educators completed the survey, including the majority of school principals and over one thousand classroom teachers.

The findings, presented in a report prepared by the union, reveal a stark picture of an education system in urgent need of more staff, more resources and new approaches to address the complexity of the work of educators.

  • More than half of the principals surveyed are unable to fill ongoing or temporary positions at their school.
  • 97% of school staff said that students are disadvantaged and their learning outcomes compromised by split or modified classes.
  • Almost all teachers report working unpaid overtime every week. More than 40% of teachers report working and average of two days of unpaid overtime every week.
  • 70% of principals rate their workload as very or extremely difficult. More than one third of principals regularly work between 10-15 hours over time per week and a further third report working more than 20 additional hours per week.
  • More than half of the classroom teachers surveyed would not recommend teaching as a career to family members or friends.
  • 85% of respondents said they did not think that the Education Directorate was sufficiently resourced to meet the demands put upon schools.

“We had been hearing from members every day about staff shortages in their schools. This survey shows that the ACT is not immune to the teacher workforce shortage that has been affecting other parts of the country,” AEU Senior Industrial Officer Patrick Judge said.

“The ACT must take urgent action to address the teacher shortage and ensure that ACT Public Schools are properly resourced.”

“When teachers are not replaced, students are split to other classes and miss out on the support of a properly trained teacher,” said Mr Judge.

“Our members say they are overwhelmed by the workload required to cover for staff absences without support.”

Mr Judge said that the factors driving the teacher shortage needed to be addressed to ensure that our teachers’ capacity to consistently deliver high quality education is not undermined and that teaching remains an attractive profession.

“Teachers and other school staff find that the work they do to meet students’ needs is incredibly rewarding, but there is nothing worse than knowing that you can’t meet a student’s needs because your school doesn’t have the resources.”

“Our members’ survey responses told us that they love teaching but, regrettably, many were considering leaving the profession because the workload has become unmanageable.”

Teacher Shortage Taskforce to urgently address shortage

The Union has called for the establishment of a Teacher Shortage Taskforce to identify immediate actions and long-term strategies to address the teacher shortage. Those calls have now been agreed to by the ACT Education Directorate, with the first meeting of the Taskforce to occur within the next week on Thursday 2 September.

The Taskforce will investigate the causes and impacts of the teacher shortage, including impacts on student learning, teacher workload, work safety and the recruitment and retention of teachers in ACT public schools.

“We believe that this situation is best resolved by the union and the employer working together to ensure that we attract the best and brightest to teaching,” said Mr Judge.

“This joint taskforce will ensure that the steps we take to address the teacher shortage have the support of both the employer and the teaching profession.”

The Union noted that work is already underway in neighbouring states to identify and address teacher workforce concerns.

“We know from the findings of the Gallop and Rorris reports in New South Wales that there are serious teacher shortages across the border,” said Mr Judge, noting that the Gallop Inquiry had found that uncompetitive salaries for teachers and unsustainable workloads are leading to teacher shortages in NSW.

“Teachers and Principals are taking on increasingly complex work, including welfare work that takes significant time and emotional energy. At the same time, teacher salaries have fallen every year compared to other professions.”

“You can’t fix the shortages without fixing the wages and workload problem. If we don’t pay teachers what they are worth, we won’t get the teachers we need.” 

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