Classroom teachers cut under Will Hodgman
Independent analysis of data from DOE annual reports shows that there are less teachers in classrooms now under the Hodgman Government than when it came to office.
In 2014, Will Hodgman’s newly elected government axed 180 classroom (or base-grade) teachers despite a pre-election promise not to cut frontline services in education or health*.
A report prepared for the AEU by Population Demographer Dr. Amina Keygan shows that since 2014 classroom teacher numbers have been cut by 68 (headcount) or 116 Full-time Equivalents (FTE). A cut of 116 FTE is equivalent to a reduction of about 2500 teaching hours each week.
Dr Keygan’s research also found that for teachers, from 2014 to 2017, workers’ compensation for stress related claims jumped by 60 per cent.
“Will Hodgman came to office promising not to cut frontline positions like teaching but broke that promise by axing 180 classroom teachers and our students and schools are still suffering as a result,” said Helen Richardson, AEU Tasmania President.
“We’ve had warm words and glossy plans from the Hodgman Government but they just haven’t delivered the education staff into classrooms. This means that students are missing out while teachers are trying to cover the gaps and stress levels have risen dramatically.”
Teachers and principals reported via an independent ACER survey, released last month, a desperate shortage of education staff and specialists in schools which is impacting on student learning. Principals reported working 60-hour weeks and working 28 hour weeks in school holidays to plug the gaps.
“Three quarters of high school and college teachers reported that they don’t have enough time to ensure the majority of their lessons are well planned. One third of primary teachers don’t believe they meet the learning needs of kids slipping behind. All political parties should want to urgently fix this situation,” said Ms Richardson.
“We’re the most disadvantaged state and our students have high and complex needs. Any state government serious about lifting the educational achievements of students needs to be increasing classroom teacher numbers not cutting them.
“Tasmania had a signed Gonski agreement with the Commonwealth which would have delivered around $85 million to hire more teachers and specialists. However, Will Hodgman sided with Malcolm Turnbull and ripped-up that deal which also cut funding for students with disability by almost half.
“Instead of fighting for our full Gonski funding, which could have provided up to 450 more teachers, Will Hodgman sabotaged the existing agreement without a plan to fix chronic education staff shortages, some of which are his Government’s own making.”
Dr. Keygan’s report showed that, from 2014 to 2016, the needs of kindergarten students have also increased with a four per cent decline in the number of students meeting Kindergarten Development Checks which measure development in areas such as language, motor skills and cognitive ability.
The research also shows that, from 2015 to 2017, there has been a small but welcome increase in the number of professional staff such as school psychologists and speech therapists, but ratios remain unsustainably high and students wait up to a year for assessments.
From 2014 to 2017 additional Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs) have been recruited, which is also welcome because they are important leadership roles in our schools, but they cannot cover for a lack of classroom teachers caused by State Government cuts.
REPORT KEY FINDINGS:
- Teacher claims for workers’ compensation related to stress has increased 60 per cent from 2015-2016 to 2016-2017.
- There was a four per cent decline in students achieving their developmental outcomes as measured by Kindergarten Development Checks.
High ratios of students to professional support staff remain such that there are:
- 1 school psychologist to 927 students** (FTE)
- 1 social worker to 879 students (FTE)
- 1 speech pathologist to 1278 students (FTE)
- Since 2014 classroom teacher numbers have been cut by 68 (headcount) and overall by 116 Full-time Equivalents (FTE). A cut of 116 FTE translates to a reduction of 2500 teaching hours a week.
This latest research follows a report by independent policy analyst Martyn Goddard that found the Hodgman Government was diverting $51 million in education specific GST funding away from Tasmania’s public schools.
“Sadly, teachers and principals are not seeing the Hodgman Government deliver through the school gate what’s urgently needed to ensure every child receives the individual attention and tailored support they need for a quality education,” said Ms Richardson.
The AEU has launched a campaign, called a Quality Education for All, calling on the main Tasmanian political parties to commit to delivering the additional education staff needed in schools and TAFE, and to cutting the administration burden on teachers and principals. Educators are calling on Liberal, Labor and The Greens to commit to an additional 250 teachers, 200 more support staff and an increase in professional staff such as school psychologists and social workers, as a matter of urgency.
“The ACER survey found that eighty percent of principals needed additional staff such as teachers and professional staff and teachers reported an urgent need for more teacher assistants for in-class support and to help with administration,” said Ms Richardson.
“Unless Will Hodgman commits to investing the 250 additional teachers and 200 support staff schools need, as a minimum, his education legacy will be one of cuts and broken promises.”
*Unlike Labor and the Greens, we won’t sack nurses, teachers or police. We’ll prioritise essential frontline services over other, less essential areas of Government. [The Liberals’ Future Directions Document]
**The Australian Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools Association recommend a ratio of psychologists/school counsellors to students of 1:500.