For the love of teaching, it’s a testing time

The teaching profession has again been making headlines amid strikes in NSW, new research showing three quarters of Victorian teachers are considering a career change post lockdown, and shortages hitting classrooms across the country.

In NSW, Premier Dominic Perrottet including reducing admin loads for teachers, introducing performance pay and revamping school hours. Meanwhile, public school and Catholic school teachers plan on June 30 as anger escalates across the profession over staff shortages, their pay and mounting workload.

In Victoria, a new agreement is designed to bring long sought-after improvements to salary and working conditions, as the state government searches for 4000 new teachers. In both states, plans for a new, free year of five-day preschool (from 2025 in Victoria, and 2030 in NSW) were welcomed, although will assumedly also add to the demand for more teachers

is working hard to highlight the benefits of the profession, including the improved pay and professional development opportunities for Victorian teachers.

The campaigners don’t need to convince Maddi Vantarakis. A relative newcomer to teaching, Vantarakis left her role in communications in 2018 to complete a Master of Teaching.

I can safely say though it was the single best decision I ever made. I’ve honestly never been happier, says Vantarakis, who is now a primary school teacher

Like many teachers, Vantarakis was deeply driven to enter the sector.

Teaching is the love of my professional life…being able to work with kids, their parents and the wider school community every day genuinely brings me so much joy, she says.

Still, the road to her new career hasn’t been smooth.

This is my third year of teaching. I began in 2020, right back when Covid started, and last term was the first full term I had ever taught – as in [it was the first] not impacted by remote learning, delayed starts or early holidays in any way, Vantarakis says. Crazy, right?

Teacher shortages have been coming for a while, but recently those working in the profession have started to become increasingly concerned. from school workforce research organisation PeopleBench surveyed 469 school leaders, teachers and business advisors last year. It found workforce shortages had moved from respondents’ fifth-most pressing concern to second place. Industry leaders predict that by 2024 it will move to the top spot.

Addressing teacher shortages, which are being measured in the tens of thousands, is an urgent priority for the sector. However, concurrently to that, we need to be looking to a sector-wide culture shift that better helps the workforce cope with the demands of the roles themselves, says Fleur Johnston, CEO of PeopleBench.

Johnston says addressing shortages will only be achieved by addressing the full hire-to-retire lifecycle of the teaching workforce as well as tackling cultural and practical issues that are leaving teachers feeling overworked and exhausted.

It means addressing the increasing challenges of teacher wellbeing and engaging existing teachers in the redesign of their role to shape jobs of the future and to better reflect changing education delivery – such as hybrid online and in-person learning environments, she says.

It’s work that Johnston believes is necessary and will pay off for the sector.

In doing so, we can not only influence the plateauing enrolment rates and declining graduation rates to fix the recruitment stage, we can also slow the more alarming exodus of teachers in the wake of the pandemic in order to address the issue of retention, she says.

The 2022 survey is currently open for collection and is calling for Australian and New Zealand principals and school teachers to have their say:

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