As schools struggle for teachers, even $28,000 bonuses aren’t enough



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AEU federal president Correna Haythorpe said acute teacher shortages showed the need to lift funding to public schools to help “recruit and retain” sufficient numbers of teachers.

“Public schools are funded below the schooling resource standard, which is the minimum level governments agreed a decade ago. The challenges are too great for governments to continue to fail on funding,” she said.

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“There has been active poaching of public school teachers,” Haythorpe said, adding that private schools can offer “smaller class sizes and different working conditions”.

The NSW government, which is demanding its federal counterparts lift their share of public school funding by $8.2 billion over 10 years, has recently slashed school budgets by $150 million amid sliding enrolments.

NSW Education Minister Prue Car said the government’s once-in-a-generation pay rises were having a “positive impact” on recruitment.

“We are seeing encouraging signs of a downward trend in the number of teacher vacancies. Having a qualified teacher in front of every class is key to lifting student outcomes,” Car said.

New figures show there were 1947 full-time teaching positions vacant in April, down slightly from 2132 at the same time last year. Principal and executive vacancies have flatlined, with 73 and 606 empty roles respectively.

However, acute shortages in some schools have forced the government to increase the number of schools in its “priority recruitment support program” by 40 per cent.

The program allows schools with chronic shortages to advertise bonuses of up to $20,000 and relocation payments of $8000.

More than 100 schools are now offering bumper payments, with Ryde Secondary College and Killarney Heights High offering $20,000 bonuses for science and technology teachers. Shortages are most acute in regional and rural NSW.

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Haythorpe said classes merged or run without teachers is evidence of the “need to make sure we have funding in place for more teachers and more specialist support for those kids who need it the most”.

One parent, who spoke anonymously, said she was worried an increase in casual teachers covering classes was especially disruptive for high school students.

“We have moved our two older children into private schools. We felt the sector might offer more stability and continuity makes a huge difference, especially for children who tend to be disruptive,” she said.

“Having casual teachers a couple of days, sometimes they aren’t experts in the subject and that can be difficult when managing potentially disruptive classrooms.”

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare has offered to lift the Commonwealth’s share of funding for public schools to 22.5 per cent, which means NSW public schools would receive an extra $4.1 billion from the federal government over 10 years.

with Nigel Gladstone

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