Teacher shortage denying Tasmanian students human right to full curriculum

A survey of schools by the Australian Education Union has found that a worsening teacher shortage is denying Tasmanian students the full education they are entitled to.

“Schools are not able to deliver the full curriculum to students if they can’t get a teacher in front of the class,” said David Genford, President of the Australian Education Union Tasmania.

“Every child has a fundamental right to a quality public education and our survey of schools shows the crisis in teaching is having a significant impact on student learning.”

“Principals and senior teachers are going above and beyond, adding to their already excessive workload to do the best by their students and focus on learning, but they can’t create teachers out of thin air.”

“The teacher shortage adds to a shortage of education support personnel, school psychologists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists, as well as excessive workloads experienced by teachers that have only grown in the past pandemic year.”

“The state government must acknowledge the teacher shortage is getting critical and act urgently, starting with the upcoming state budget.”

The Australian Education Union survey found Principals forced to take on full-time teaching loads, on top of managing schools with between 80-120 staff, because they were unable to source relief teachers.

Shocking survey responses that highlight the chronic teacher shortage include:

  • one school ten teaching staff short of their requirements on a single day
  • three full time teaching vacancies at school have remained unfilled since the start of Term 3
  • a primary school was forced to collapse five classes on the same day due to staffing challenges.

Schools feel support from the Department of Education Human Resources has been inadequate, with little coordination to assist struggling schools in terms of prospective staff or incentives to move staff across schools.

Of the schools that participated in the AEU survey:

  • 62% experienced significant difficulty filling fixed term positions in 2021, including urban, regional and rural schools.
  • One in five schools currently have unfilled teacher vacancies.
  • 43% of schools are using education students with an approved LAT (limited authority to teach) to fill class and/or specialist teaching positions.
    • Of the schools using student teachers to fill positions, almost half are using two or more. The highest number of students filling positions at a single school was four.
  • 80% of schools have been unable to fill relief teacher vacancies this year.
    • Of these, 9% are occurring almost daily and 34% are occurring once a fortnight or more.
    • In total, 54% of schools are unable to fill relief teacher vacancies once a month or more.

“When teacher positions cannot be filled or relief teachers cannot be found, principals and senior staff are forced to take classes, taking them away from their important focus on leading learning at their school.”

The AEU survey found that in almost all cases, schools were unable to compensate senior staff for taking on additional duties, pushing work into unpaid overtime.

“Principals already work 60-hour weeks and teachers are doing an average of 11 hours unpaid overtime every week – being forced to take on extra classes is driving senior teachers and the whole system to breaking point.”

“Premier Gutwein didn’t address the teacher shortage or public education in his State of the State speech – we need to see urgent action in the State Budget to guarantee children the education they need.”

“AEU teacher, principal and support staff members have put forward short term and longer term solutions to this crisis – we are ready and willing to work together – but plans must be backed by government funding and resources.”