Get all your news in one place
100’s of premium titles. One news app. Zero ads. Just $10 per month.
The Canberra Times

Striking Catholic school teachers say low pay, burnout is driving people out

Catholic school teachers strike in Canberra, ACT on Friday | May 27, 2022 | Canberra Times

Catholic school teachers say mounting workloads and uncompetitive pay is turning people away from education as they walked off the job on Friday.

However, the head of Catholic schools in the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese says there is no evidence of educators leaving the profession at higher rates.

The Independent Education Union of Australia ACT/NSW branch is claiming a 10 to 15 per cent pay increase over two years and workload reduction measures.

The Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese has not put forward a figure for a pay rise but is waiting for the outcome of negotiations between the NSW government and public school teachers in the state.

Catholic school teachers Daniel Burns, Angela McDonald and Bernadette Bradley attended a rally as teachers went on strike on Friday. Picture: Keegan Carroll

At a rally in Canberra, St Thomas Aquinas Primary School kindergarten teacher Angela McDonald said COVID-19 had exacerbated an existing teacher shortage.

"Teachers are exhausted coming off the back of all the remote learning and COVID. There's just not enough people. We can't have a sick day and know that our class will be covered," she said.

"We can't continue to work at the level that we are and we're not encouraging new people to come into the profession."

St John Paul II College teacher Daniel Burns said he's noticed work intensification during his five-year career, and more compliance and administration tasks.

"There's a fair bit of burnout within the profession, which is causing stress and for teachers to want to find new jobs which is really disappointing," he said.

"We have to go to uni between four and five years to become a teacher. It's a profession. We want to be treated as such. I think that 5 per cent pay rise to the 7.5 per cent [per year] is fair."

St Francis Xavier College vocational education teacher Bernadette Bradley said when she started in teaching 40 years ago, educators had more freedom and flexibility.

"Now it seems to be driven by not the teachers, not actually the kids' needs, but the bureaucrats that run education," Mrs Bradley said.

"I don't believe we have a teacher shortage. What we have is a teacher crisis. We have plenty of trained teachers, plenty of excellent teachers that have left the profession because it's just unmanageable."

Catholic Education Canberra Goulburn director Ross Fox said the strike was regrettable and Catholic school employers believed staff deserved a meaningful pay increase.

"We're subjected to finite government funding. The remainder of our funding comes from fees paid by parents," Mr Fox said.

"We've got to be realistic about what we can afford and we work in a competitive market where naturally our teachers will look at what the pay and conditions are in government schools."

Mr Fox said an increase in teacher pay could put pressure on school fees. He said vacancy and attrition rates in recent years were no different from the past.

"We're not seeing evidence of a great resignation. In fact, we're seeing amazing satisfaction and fulfillment amongst our teachers as the students are benefiting from their professionalism and their dedication."

He said reducing administration and extra release time formed part of the discussion with the union.

We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on The Canberra Times website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. See our moderation policy here.