A staggering 87% of NSW public schools are impacted by a shortage of casual teachers each day, new figures from the state’s education department show.
The new survey – the first of its kind to gather data on the true extent and impact of the teacher shortage faced by NSW public schools – reveals there are nearly 10,000 lessons without a teacher across the state every day due to a 42% shortfall in the number of casual teachers available to teach classes.
This means public schools across the state have been left short on average 3,000 casual teachers every day – nearly half of what is required to meet the state’s educational demand.
In the state’s primary schools, 40% of the lessons unable to be covered by a casual teacher resulted in merged or collapsed classes. In high schools, students in nearly 30% of uncovered classes were left to their own devices with minimal supervision.
The numbers were significantly worse in parts of Sydney’s west and south-west, rural and remote areas and at schools for specific purposes – but the issue was widespread with almost 90% of schools across the state reporting a shortfall in casual teachers on a given day.
The survey also reveals how the severe shortfall in casual teachers results in a domino effect – including cancellation of library lessons, programs providing additional support to those most in need and time set aside for professional development.
To address this, the NSW Government has rolled out a series of initiatives to ensure teachers feel supported and respected. In recent months, the Department has moved to reduce teacher workload, boost teachers’ salaries and create more permanent positions for school staff.
NSW Deputy Premier and Education Minister Prue Car said the survey “lays bare the extent of the crisis that the former Liberal National government denied and ignored while they claimed teachers weren’t working hard enough to get a pay rise.”
“Even to this day the former government is in denial about their legacy. The Minns Labor government was elected on a mandate to fix this mess and we are addressing it head on,” Car said.
“It is vital for a child’s education that they have a qualified teacher in front of them for every lesson, and that is what we’re working towards.”
Disheartening, but not surprising
Henry Rajendra, NSW Teachers Federation acting President said the union’s recent agreement with the Minns Government is a step towards resolving the alarming teacher shortage in NSW public schools.
“It’s disheartening, but not surprising, to face a daily shortage of 3,000 casual teachers,” Rajendra told The Educator. “This crisis stems directly from the previous government’s wage policies, which undervalued our role, suppressed our salaries, and led to unmanageable workloads, driving many from the profession.”
Rajendra said the latest figures are “devastating” for both primary and high school students who he said “deserve consistent, quality education”.
“Our new agreement, effective this week, is vital to enticing and retaining teachers by offering fair pay, starting with an increased salary from $75,791 to $85,000 for new teachers, and significant raises for all, including casual staff,” he said.
“Still, the journey isn’t over. We must address the ongoing issue of excessive workloads to truly revive our profession and give all kids the education they deserve.”