Proposals put forward by the Grattan Institute to attract high achievers into the ranks of the nation’s school teachers demonstrate the fundamental importance of additional Commonwealth funding for improving public school student performance.

Amongst other findings, the new Grattan Institute report has recommended that highly accomplished teachers should be able to earn up to $80,000 a year more than at present, while high achieving school-leavers should receive $10,000-a-year scholarships if they take up teaching.

Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the report’s recommendations about teaching scholarships and higher pay bands for public school teachers will generate a necessary conversation in the education community about attraction and retention of teachers across Australia.

“Australia must present teaching as an attractive profession to high achievers,” Ms Haythorpe said. “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.”

“The Morrison Government has already prevented public schools from being fully funded under the SRS through to 2023. The public school sector simply does not have any spare funding available to invest in initiatives similar to that proposed by the Grattan Institute.”

“The Morrison Government must not be allowed to use any potential response to this report as a smokescreen for its continued failure to fund public schools at the Schooling Resource Standard,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that the Grattan analysis confirmed the findings in the AEU’s latest annual State of Our Schools (SooS) survey, the most comprehensive survey of teachers and principals in Australia. In the 2018 survey, 697 principals were surveyed, with 424 (61%) stating that their school had experienced teacher shortages in the last year.

Ms Haythorpe said it was important that education departments and the teaching profession work together to make teaching a more attractive option for potential Initial Teacher Education students.

“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,” Ms Haythorpe 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,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“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.”

“Therefore 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,” Ms Haythorpe said.