Tasmania’s new educators call for respect, better working conditions

Early career Tasmanian teachers on Wednesday walked off the job demanding government respect and better working conditions to curb the state’s growing educator burnout. 

Australian Education Union stop work actions were organised at Hobart College and Montrose Bay High School on Wednesday as new educators led calls for much needed education reform.

It comes as the Department of Education’s latest Key Data report shows the number of new teachers leaving the system spiked at 54 last year – up 50 per cent on the year prior.

Research suggests as many as one in three early career teachers leave the profession in their first five years of service.

A further worrying statistic from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates 53 per cent of people who hold a teaching degree do not currently work in education.

Tasmanian teachers are the lowest paid in Australia, at a time of national teacher shortages and incentive packages of up to $50,000 being offered by some states to attract teachers.

Montrose High new educator and AEU workplace Rep Jim Farrands said “teachers and staff have just had enough” of ballooning workloads and untenable working conditions.

“We love our profession, we’re passionate about it and we love our our kids,” he said.

“But we’re the lowest paid teachers nationally. We’ve had the pandemic that’s made things difficult and there are very few relief teachers to stand in for us when we’re sick.

“There are less teacher assistants [available] and they don’t get paid during holidays.

“There are more behavioural problems. These kids need help. We need more school psychologists, more teacher assistants and more teachers.”

When asked why Montrose High educators held strike action on Wednesday, Mr Farrands said “we want to send a message”.

“We’re ready to do whatever it takes,” he said.

“We’ve got to get conditions better.”

AEU Tasmanian President David Genford said more in-class support, safe class size and additional school psychologists were some of the Lifting Learning solutions presented to the Rockliff government over a year ago to support new teachers.

Also presented were solutions for reduced workload and time with mentor teachers.

“But disappointingly Tasmanian educators are being disrespected by this State Government which refuses to support solutions to the education shortfalls impacting our schools and colleges,” he said.

“This is leading to more and more new educators walking away from what should be an exciting teaching career.

“Early career educators are our state’s future, and we should be doing much more to support them.

“It is unacceptable that the Rockliff Government has refused to support the solutions provided to them, and that is why experienced and new educators are joining in action to demand change.”

Mr Genford said more new educator resignations would likely occur unless real Government action was taken to address Tasmania’s growing teacher shortage and excessive workloads.

Wednesday’s AEU stop work actions followed similar events held across Tasmanian schools and colleges in recent weeks as teachers and support staff ramp up action to improve student learning and educator working conditions.