Australia unveils action plan to address teacher shortage

Sector reports high levels of stress and burnout due to 'poor pay, unsustainably high workloads'

Australia unveils action plan to address teacher shortage

The Australian government has started work to implement its National Teacher Workforce Action Plan to resolve the shortage of education professionals in the country.

"It is designed to increase the number of people choosing to become teachers and ensure that existing teachers remain in the profession," the action plan said.

The plan has five key priority areas, including:

  • Improving teacher supply - to increase the number of people choosing teaching as a career
  • Strengthening initial teacher education - to ensure initial education supports teacher supply and delivers classroom-ready graduates
  • Keeping the teachers we have - to improve retention by increasing support for teachers
  • Elevating the profession - to recognise the value teachers bring to students, the community, and the economy
  • Better understanding future teacher workforce needs - to improve the information available for teacher workforce planning

Education ministers across Australia agreed on the plan on December 12, according to a government media release.

The Australian government will invest $328 million to implement the targets of the plan, while states and territories will inject an additional $5 million.

"Work to implement the plan has already commenced. Education ministers will regularly monitor implementation of the Action Plan," the government said.

The release of the action plan followed a public consultation from November 3 to December 1, which saw a total of 661 submissions.

In addition to the action plan, the government also vowed to speed up visa processing time education workers.

'Critical' teacher shortage

The implementation of the action plan came as Australia's teacher shortage hits "critical" levels.

In Victoria, some Melbourne public schools are offering up to $10,000 cash bonuses to attract more candidates, as they aim to fill over 1,100 vacant teaching positions, ABC News reported.

"There has been a looming teacher shortage in Australia for some time – sadly the situation is now at a critical stage. ASPA acknowledges that there is no quick fix to this situation – the five areas above will address the shortage over the long term," Andrew Pierpoint, president of the Australian Secondary Principals' Association, told The Educator.

This situation is a result of "10 years of neglect of public education by the previous federal government," according to Meredith Peace, deputy federal president of the Australian Education Union (AEU).

"AEU members have been reporting high levels of stress and burnout arising from low levels of professional recognition and respect, poor pay and conditions, unsustainably high workloads and inequitable funding for many, many years," Peace said.

The union said it welcomes the government's move to "pilot new approaches to reduce teacher workload."

"All governments must now make strong investments in measures to attract new teachers to the profession, encourage teachers who are no longer working in schools to return and retain teachers currently in the classroom," Peace said in a previous statement. "We must also see a pathway to full funding for public schools from the Commonwealth and state and territory governments."

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