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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Tamsin Rose

One-fifth of last year’s teaching graduates in NSW aren’t registered in the profession

Primary school teacher writing on a clear whiteboard in a classroom
According to NSW government data, more than 7,000 people received bachelor of education and diploma in education qualifications last year. Photograph: chameleonseye/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The New South Wales government does not know whether about a fifth of last year’s teaching graduates are working in schools, despite widespread shortages and its push for pay rises for top-performing teachers.

According to state government data, more than 7,000 people received bachelor of education and diploma in education qualifications last year, but 1,418 were not registered as teachers with the NSW Education Standards Authority (Nesa).

The figures, released in response to a question on notice, showed almost 4,000 graduates across the state were working at government schools and 1,783 at non-government schools. The government did not know what happened to the remaining graduates.

However, Nesa said graduates can be employed as teachers without yet being registered with the authority and that they “could also be working in other educational institutions or early childhood services”.

The opposition’s education spokesperson, Prue Car, said the data showed the government was failing to recruit much-needed teachers.

“The fact that one in five teaching graduates aren’t even choosing to become teachers shows that the Perrottet government is dropping the ball,” Car said.

A Nesa spokesperson said graduate teachers do not have to record their employment with the authority “until they reach an accreditation milestone”.

On Wednesday the premier, Dominic Perrottet, announced a plan to pay higher performing teachers more than their counterparts, alongside other measures designed to improve parts of the sector.

He said he did not want teachers leaving the profession because they were unable to make more without moving into a managerial position.

Noting previous attempts at “performance pay” had failed, Perrottet said that was not a reason to avoid trying again.

Car called the plan a “thought bubble” that “does nothing to address the teacher shortage” – and the union agreed.

The NSW Teachers Federation president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the proposal would create division within schools and failed to address the underlying issues of conditions and overall pay leading teachers to leave.

“Teaching is a collegial endeavour and these approaches break down that collegiality,” Gavrielatos said.

“Every single day teachers are working side by side, dealing with the complex challenges of the contemporary classroom. Policy settings that detract from that are counterproductive.”

He said the scheme would not solve the teacher shortage crisis – a view echoed by experts including the University of Sydney associate professor Rachel Wilson, who specialises in educational assessment.

“When teachers are enormously busy and under heavy demands as they are now, very few of them will be able to summon the energy to go through the rigorous process to be accredited at a higher level,” Wilson said.

The NSW Secondary Principals’ Council rejected the idea due to the lack of detail being provided by the government.

“How do you measure excellence is a really important question which no one’s been able to answer yet,” its president, Craig Petersen, said.

“If they’re doing their teaching and getting paid more for doing the same job as a teacher at the desk next to them, then we’d have some issues with that.”

Perrottet also announced the establishment of the “parent advocacy team” from within the department to provide an alternative complaints avenue for parents if they are worried about something happening at a school.

He said it was natural for issues to arise over the course of a child’s schooling and sometimes finding a solution would be more than parents, teachers and principals could handle themselves.

“We have a duty to be accountable, to be transparent, to meet families where they are and help them get the very best for their children,” he said.

But Wilson said the proposal had “not been foregrounded by substantial data, research evidence, or consultation”.

“Taking an adversarial stance and pointing the finger at teachers just further frustrates the profession,” she said.

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