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Teachers 'hopeful' after sharing stories of workforce crisis with ministers

Education minister says national action plan will address teacher shortages | August 12, 2022 | Canberra Times

Teachers are hopeful a landmark meeting between education ministers, educators and their unions will be a turning point in dealing with a dire workforce shortage.

Canberra teacher Angela McDonald almost brought federal Education Minister Jason Clare to tears when sharing her experience of working up to 70 hours a week and feeling torn about whether she could stay in the profession she loves.

"The key themes were reiterated time and time again... that teachers need to be paid what they're worth, we need more time to do our jobs effectively, and that the workloads are unsustainable," Ms McDonald said.

"Teachers are not staying within teaching if they managed to get there in the first place because they're getting burnt out and exhausted and leaving."

The St Thomas Aquinas Primary School teacher said the roundtable discussion did not dwell on the impact of the pandemic on teacher absences as the staffing issues pre-dated the pandemic.

Educators brought up the issue of an increasing cohort of children with complex needs and the importance of managing the health and wellbeing to teachers and students.

St Thomas Aquinas Primary School teacher Angela McDonald attended the education roundtable. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Independent Education Union of Australia federal secretary Christine Cooper said the voice of teachers and principals had been sidelined for far too long.

"We have had a very good morning and we're very hopeful," Ms Cooper said.

The way that initial teacher education courses prepare pre-service teachers for the classroom was a hot topic at the roundtable.

Ways to get students into practical work experience sooner in their degrees were floated, but Ms Cooper warned it could lead to a heavier workload for existing teachers.

"We have concerns where that program doesn't actually take into account the impact it will have on classroom teachers who will be needing to mentor those students," she said.

While there were no quick fixes for the teacher crisis, Ms Cooper said there were some short-term measures that could be taken to keep people in the profession.

Increasing access to classroom release time and reducing the administration work were important steps to take the pressure of educators, she said.

"This constant recording and data, some things just have no value so why are they doing it?"

The discussion occurred as public school teachers in NSW and Catholic school teachers in NSW and ACT are in ongoing negotiations for their enterprise agreements. Teachers have walked of the job several times.

An ACT teacher shortage taskforce is also due to hand down a report within weeks.

Ms McDonald said the national forum would help in negotiating their individual workplace agreements.

"It did seem a very collaborative space where it was acknowledged that sectors, public, Catholic, independent, all need to work together," she said.

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