New research shows the urgent need for full funding of Tasmanian public schools

The urgent need for the full funding of public schools is revealed in new research that shows acute teacher shortages across Tasmania, unsustainable teacher workloads and significant declines in student and teacher wellbeing that schools are not fully resourced to address.

The AEU’s 2024 State of our Schools survey results are being released at a campaign event in Hobart today, where 189 miniature school houses will cover the lawns of Parliament House, highlighting the unacceptable reality that Tasmanian public schools are underfunded by $119 million in 2024.

In the survey of 237 Tasmanian public school principals and teachers, conducted in March and April:

  • 81% of principals said there had been teacher shortages at their school in the last year. More than half the principals (52%) said they had unfilled teaching positions at the time of the survey.
  • Over a quarter of teachers (27%) said they had taught merged classes regularly or constantly during the last year due to the teacher shortages.
  • The proportion of teachers who describe their school as significantly under-resourced has jumped from 10% in 2020 to 42% this year. The 2024 figure is the highest of any state in the nation.
  • Over 60% of teachers reported a decline in student wellbeing and engagement in the past 18 months. Nine out of 10 teachers reported a decline in teacher wellbeing and morale.
  • 86% of principals said the level of counsellor support at the school was inadequate and 38% said their students were waiting more than four weeks, on average, to see a counsellor.
  • Workloads remain unsustainable, with 16% of teachers working 55 hours plus a week. The number of teachers who plan to leave before retirement has jumped from 12.5% in 2020 to 34% this year.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said Tasmanian public schools remain funded below the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), which is the minimum level governments agreed a decade ago was required to meet the needs of students.

“Tasmanian public school principals, educators and support staff are doing an extraordinary job, but they are being asked to do too much with too little.” she said.

“The proportion of Tasmanian educators who say their school is significantly under-resourced has dramatically increased, showing that funding increases are not matching the increases in the needs of students.

“The diversity and complexity of student needs has never been greater, and teachers and principals are reporting alarming declines in student and teacher wellbeing.

“Teacher shortages remain a very serious problem and this survey shows one third of teachers now plan to leave the profession before retirement, primarily because of unsustainable workloads.

“Fully funding public schools is the only way to ensure every child gets the support they need to succeed, and we can recruit and retain sufficient numbers of teachers. There needs to be additional teachers and counsellors, along with more support staff and specialist staff, such as speech therapists.”  

The AEU research comes after an inquiry, ordered by Education Ministers, warned in December that the underfunding of public schools is “undermining other reform efforts with real implications for student educational and wellbeing outcomes, teacher attraction and retention”. The Expert Panel that conducted the inquiry said the need for full funding was “urgent and critical” and it was a prerequisite for student learning and wellbeing improvement.

In the AEU survey, Tasmanian principals said students with disabilities or learning difficulties and those who have fallen behind in literacy or numeracy would be the biggest beneficiaries if public schools were fully funded at 100% of the SRS.

Educators listed additional support for students with disability or behavioural issues and more time within their paid hours for lesson planning, assessment and reporting as changes that would most assist them to improve student outcomes.

AEU Tasmanian branch president David Genford said the survey results highlighted the critical importance of the Tasmanian Government reaching an agreement with the Albanese Government this year to fund public schools at 100% of the SRS.

“Our children only get one chance to get a great education. We need full funding, not more talk and delays,” he said.

“Tasmanian students and teachers are giving 100%, now we need the politicians to do the same.

“It’s time for the Prime Minister to step up and lift the federal SRS share from the current 20% to 25% by 2028.

“The Tasmanian Government needs to fund a genuine 75% of the SRS. That means getting rid of the accounting tricks that artificially inflate the state funding share by 4% through the inclusion of non-school spending such as capital depreciation.

Short-changing our schools is short-changing our students.”

Mr Genford said Tasmanian public schools are officially funded at 94% of the SRS this year but once the 4% of non-school spending was factored in the true figure was 90%. That leaves public schools $119 million short of the funding they should have.

By contrast, Tasmanian private schools, which educate far fewer disadvantaged students, remain overfunded at 101% of the SRS this year.