Rockliff gets an “F” after back-to-school bedlam

Severe staff shortages and chronic underfunding at the start of another year confirms the verdict that the decade-old Tasmanian Liberal Government is a solid “F” for failure on managing public education, the AEU Tasmanian Branch said today.

An AEU survey has found that principals are spending as much as a third of their time ahead of Term 1 commencement trying to find staff, rather than their core job of preparing the school for student learning:

  • Almost 2 in 5 principals (38.2%) report a teacher shortage of one or more Full Time Equivalent (FTE). Some schools are more than three teachers short.
  • 1 in 4 principals (26.1%) have spent 10 hours or more trying to recruit staff.

“We know some schools are so desperate to find staff that they are advertising on Facebook,” said Mr Genford.

The State Government has attempted to paper over cracks by banning schools from ‘purchasing’ required staff using their Schooling Resource Package (SRP) until all vacant positions are filled. This allows the State Government to fudge the numbers to underplay the extent of the staffing crisis.

“Ten years ago, the Tasmanian Liberal Party promised to ‘lead the nation in education’ and by their own measure have failed dismally,” said David Genford, AEU Tasmanian Branch President.

“A decade of Liberal Government mismanagement and austerity has left us with record levels of burnout among teachers and principals and an entire generation of students short-changed the support they need to reach their full potential,” he said. 

“Teachers and support staff in schools and colleges do an amazing job and strive every day to give their students the best education possible, but increasingly every day is an uphill battle with unsafe workloads, seeing more teachers than ever leaving the profession and the state.”

Shamefully, the Rockliff Government signed a secretive bilateral Agreement on December 4 2023, which leaves public school students starting the year more than $2,000 per student (10%) short of the minimum funding standard required. Worse still, the extended agreement maintains a funding loophole that allows millions of dollars intended for students to be spent on capital depreciation and other non-school items such as transport.

“Delivering minimum funding for schools would make a world of difference to students. It would mean more individual support for students with complex needs, small group tutoring for those at risk of falling behind, and more psychologists, social workers and education support staff,” said Mr Genford.

As speculation of an early state election grows, the AEU will shortly launch its education blueprint, outlining the key policies AEU members will seek all candidates to support, including fully funding schools, fixing the staffing and workload crisis, and ending stand down for support staff to deliver the quality public education Tasmanians expect and deserve.