The dire situation faced by preschools and schools across the state and indeed the nation is creating significant issues for members, children and students. The teacher shortage has been a feature of country sites, as well as many sites on the periphery of the metropolitan area for some time. The spread of the COVID through our public education system has simply exacerbated this.
The shortage is a culmination of many factors including:
- uncontrolled excessive workloads;
- uncompetitive salaries;
- increased resignation and retirement rates; and
- little time to support and mentor educators, especially new teachers.
Neither has it been helped by a Departmental attitude that until recently has placed little value in the teaching profession and was seemingly stuck on some outdated teacher-bashing trope about teachers’ work.
While the Department for Education expectation has been for educators to work harder for longer, exploiting your goodwill has come at the cost of time with family and a balanced and healthy lifestyle – your wellbeing. Educators are saying enough. It’s not sustainable.
We can now expect desperate measures being implemented that will see new teachers employed who may not have the depth of training than might otherwise be the case. We all must do what we can to support and mentor new teachers. The system cannot afford to lose them! Join them up – they will need your support and the Union’s.
Towards a new Enterprise Agreement
Negotiations for a new Enterprise Agreement will commence soon. Planning is well underway to develop a new claim.
Members are loud and clear that a claim should contain three significant elements:
- measures to address and control spiralling workloads;
- measures to address increasingly complex classroom demands; and
- a salary increase commensurate with educators’ experience of increasingly complex work, unchecked increases to the cost of living, interest rates and the new-found understanding about the crucial role
public education performs in the good functioning of our community.
The AEU has commissioned independent research to be conducted by University of South Australia that includes a survey and focus group responses to examine workloads and work value of educators. This will reinforce the factual basis of our claim. This is the first academic research into SA educators’ working conditions ever conducted. Our claim will also draw upon the extensive annual survey work completed by Phil Reilly into leaders’ work.
Campaigning around the ‘Teacher Shortage Crisis’ will provide significant leverage to ensure that professional issues, work overload and pay commensurate with the importance of the education profession, are on
This leverage will not be enough, and we will need to recruit many more members. If your site membership is less than 70% of eligible staff, we may not be strong enough to pursue our claim to address these issues. I encourage members to work with your Campaign Organiser on strategies to boost membership.
Fix the Crisis Roadshow
While Education Ministers met in Canberra to discuss the crisis in September, the AEU held a series of ‘Fix the Crisis’ forums across the major regional centres of South Australia including Mount Gambier, Naracoorte, Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Berri and Murray Bridge including a large meeting at Mark Oliphant College for those in the northern suburbs and at Reynella East College for those in the south. An additional hybrid forum was convened at the AEU, and a Zoom session for country members.
The forums were well attended by members and non-members alike with representation from preschools, special schools and schools. Preschool teachers, early childhood workers and directors, schools support officers, teachers and leaders were present at every forum.
Attendees were asked three questions:
- What aspects of your job do you value the most and should be protected at all costs?
- What issues are currently getting in the way of you doing that?
- What solutions do you think would help fix it?
Your responses, particularly to the last question, will form the foundation of a new Enterprise Agreement claim.
In broad terms the most common responses have been that educators most value the learning relationship with children and students, especially when we see those ‘lightbulb moments’. High value was also placed upon time for professional learning between peers, the development of curriculum that engages students, and time for planning, programming, assessment, and reporting.
Most commonly, educators mentioned that the things that are detracting from a career in education include the overwhelming burden of education administration such as pointless data collection and ‘initiative’ fatigue.
Many bemoaned the lack of professional respect shown by politicians, the media and those in the education bureaucracy who, despite being many steps removed from the classroom, seek to dictate what and how to teach. Educators want professional judgement acknowledged
Classroom complexity and the lack of support for students who need it is a huge frustration and disadvantages many students.
When it came to solutions, educators are united that more time must be given to planning, programming, assessment, and reporting. Tasks that are administrative and bureaucratic should not waste educators’ valuable time.
Teachers want classroom support SSOs to assist with complex classes and they want faster access to specialised support for students with learning difficulties. Improved country incentives and housing were important for
A salary that keeps pace with the cost of living and recognises the crucial role educators play in our community was widely endorsed – though the strongest view was that no matter how much money governments put to salaries and incentives, it’s the unsustainable workload and negative impact upon wellbeing that is the cause of the teacher shortage crisis.
It is this last point that seems to be lost upon those that have the power to resolve the crisis.
President, AEU SA