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Grattan’s new report proposes strategies to stem teacher shortage crisis

The latest Grattan Institute Report, Attracting high achievers to teaching, is proposing a $1.6 billion reform package to “double the number of high achievers who choose to become teachers, and increase the average ATAR of teaching graduates to 85, within the next decade”.

In addition to offering $10,000-a-year-scholarships to encourage students into the profession, some teachers will be able make $80,000 a year more under the role of Master Teachers. Instructional Specialists would earn $40,000 extra a year.

Education deans are keen to make teaching more attractive by encouraging students with ATAR scores over 80 to consider a teaching career, although they say “the proposed reforms address only one part of what is needed to arrest the large, continuing drop in applications to study teaching”.

The Australian Council of Deans of Education (ACDE) president, Professor Tania Aspland, said: “The proposals in the Grattan Institute report will help make teaching more attractive to higher academic achievers, who place particular emphasis on the pay, intellectual challenge and promotional paths of potential careers…”

While Aspland believes lifting ATARs will see improvements in the classroom, she warns it is no panacea, and “personal attributes” have to be part of the equation.

“While we see clear value in inspiring many high achievers into the teaching profession, the report acknowledges the need for desirable personal attributes to accompany academic performance. It also points out that many great teachers may have had ATARs below 80.

“Interestingly, many Australian universities have also discounted the importance of the ATAR, with a recent report showing only one in four students enters teacher education based on ATAR alone”.

The ACDE has formed a partnership with Swinburne University to create a virtual roundtable discussion, called Future Teachers Talk, with the aim “to attract more secondary school leavers intro teaching”.

Aspland added: “There is clearly a need to address the fact that far fewer higher achievers choose teaching compared to 40 years ago when teacher salaries for women were above other female professionals and, for men, were on par with other professions.

“Today teacher salaries are 8 per cent less than the average of female professionals and 16 per cent below the average of other male professions. Pay scales also flatten within 10 years of graduation for teachers who choose to stay in the classroom and then fall further and further behind other professions throughout a teacher’s career.

"The Grattan Institute proposal of a $10000 cash scholarships, better career pathways with two new categories of teachers with adequate pay, and better marketing of the teaching profession certainly has merit,” she said.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) supports the initiatives, including that highly accomplished teachers should earn $80,000 a year more than they currently do and school-leavers should receive $10,000 scholarships to take up teaching degrees.

AWU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said: ““Australia must present teaching as an attractive profession to high achievers.

“Any initiatives which help to attract and retain academically-successful students into teaching are worthy of consideration.

“However, we do not support the position taken that if these initiatives were implemented that they should be funded from current funding provisions.

“It must be made perfectly clear to education ministers at all levels of government that any new initiatives must, under all circumstances, be resourced via new sources of funding, not redirected from already-scarce existing recurrent funding for public schools,” she said.

Haythorpe said the teaching shortage was so dire that, in 2018, 697 principals were surveyed as part of the AEU’s State of Schools annual (SooS) survey. It found 424 or 61 per cent of schools suffered teacher shortages last year. Haythorpe also highlighted the importance of status leading to better salaries and far less churn within the profession.

“Numerous international studies since the 1970s have consistently shown that higher teacher salaries, relative to those of other comparable professions, increase the likelihood of highly performing secondary students becoming teachers, and reduce long-term rates of attrition,” she said.

“To attract high achieving students into teaching it is absolutely necessary to invest in appropriate salary and reward structures. The report’s recommendation to offer $10,000 cash scholarships to high-achieving secondary graduates is certainly worthy of broader consideration as a way to both improve Initial Teacher Education (ITE) entry standards and increase the attractiveness of teaching to high-achievers.

“The introduction of career pathways such as the ‘Institutional Specialist’ and ‘Master Teacher’ need a much broader consideration by the profession and governments as there are industrial ramifications to these proposals.

“As this Grattan Institute report confirms, the attractiveness of teaching to high performing secondary school graduates has been in decline for at least four decades, and teacher shortages across a range of subject areas have now reached crisis point.

“However, it is important to note that without detailed workforce planning, we do not actually have a clear picture of where the workforce demands for the future are. In some states, we have a surplus of teaching staff for particular subjects and sectors and in others, shortages.

“It is imperative that comprehensive workforce planning is undertaken across the states and territories. This will provide more focussed and better resourced delivery of ITE and maximise the attraction and retention of high achieving entrants and graduates in the teacher workforce,” Haythorpe said.

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One comment

  1. About time, but I bet it does not happen. I have done many jobs in my 53 years of work experience, in the last 25 years I have been teaching in the Physical science area, this consists of basic mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. I have found teaching to be the most challenging and difficult.

    I don’t do it for money in this Country it does not have the status it once used to have. These proposals would certainly help lift the the status and standards. ATARS are not everything but encouraging high achievers to stay with the profession is a very worthwhile goal.

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