School Funding in a Time of Teacher Shortage

The spectre of teacher shortage will haunt the next meeting of Australia’s education ministers.

Without swift action from Commonwealth and state/territory governments, this growing crisis will exacerbate the difficulties that commonly face disadvantaged schools in finding sufficient teachers for students most at risk of falling behind.

Australia is poorly placed to deal with this crisis. OECD data shows that 34 per cent of students enrolled in a disadvantaged school in Australia lack sufficient teaching staff, compared to 3 per cent in an advantaged school. This not only puts students at risk as individuals.  It also entails risk to the wider society, through planting the seeds of social division.

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New Plan to Solve Teacher Shortage Ignores Root Causes

Last Friday, Australia’s state and federal education ministers met with emotional teachers, who spoke of working on weekends and Mothers’ Day to cope with unsustainable workloads – and how they were thinking about leaving the profession.

This was part of their first meeting hosted by the federal minister Jason Clare. The top agenda item was the teacher shortage.

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A Letter to Parents on NSW Teachers’ Strike

The following is a letter to parents from the NSW Teachers’ Federation on the forthcoming strike by teachers.

Every day across NSW, children are missing out because of a lack of teachers. It’s an unacceptable situation affecting public and private schools. Children can’t put their education on hold and wait for this to be fixed. They have a right to be taught by a fully qualified teacher today and every day. This is why teachers and principals have made the difficult decision to go on strike on Wednesday, May 4.

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What it Means to be a Teacher

This article is reprinted from Larry Cuban’s blog on School Reform and Classroom Practice. Larry is Professor Emeritus of Education at Stanford University. It is an abridged version of a speech to graduates and their families in June 2001. It is just as pertinent today as in 2001.

I have thought a lot about the past 46 years I have spent in education. I have taught in urban high schools and Stanford for many years [in addition to being an administrator]. It is teaching – not administration or scholarship [however] – that has defined me as an adult….

Teaching has permitted me to be a lover of ideas, a performer, a lifelong learner, a historian, a writer, and a friend to former students and colleagues. For these reasons and because at this moment in our nation’s history teachers have moved to the top of the nation’s school reform agenda, I want to comment today on both the exhilarating and troubling aspects of teaching….

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Funding, Enrolments and Staffing in NSW Public Schools

The following is a summary of a submission to the Independent Inquiry on the Teaching Profession in NSW Public Schools. The full submission can be downloaded below.

The NSW public education system has undergone a huge expansion in bureaucracy since 2003. There was a massive increase in administrative staff in schools and in central and regional offices that is many times greater than the increase in students. Yet, there was only a very small increase in inflation-adjusted funding per student despite a large increase in disadvantaged students. Expanding the bureaucracy was prioritised over funding classroom learning and support. As one former principal told Save Our Schools, it reflects an “increase in roles orchestrating compliance not teaching, learning and curriculum”.

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Too Many Classes are Taught by Out-of-Field Teachers

Many Year 10 students in Australia are being taught key subjects by unqualified teachers according to a major new study. It found that 15.5% of Year 10 classes are being taught by teachers out of their field of expertise. Twenty per cent of mathematics classes and 21% of English classes are taught out-of-field. The study found that 12.5% of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes are being taught out-of-field. This is likely an under-estimate because of inadequate data on science teaching.

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Teachers Say There is Too Much Administrative Work & Stress in Schools

Over half of all secondary school teachers in Australia report that they have too much administrative work which takes away time for preparing for classes and is a major source of stress.  A quarter of teachers say they experience a lot of stress at school. These are amongst the highest percentages in the OECD. They are significant factors behind teachers leaving the profession. These are significant factors behind teachers leaving the profession.

Australian teachers also have less professional autonomy over classroom content and assessment than in other OECD countries, but there is more professional collaboration in Australian schools. However, a majority of teachers do not believe their profession is valued by society.

These are key results from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), an international survey of school teachers, school leaders and the learning environment in schools released this month. The report provides important insights into the state of the teaching profession in Australia and other countries.

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How Do Teachers Teach–Then and Now

The following article by Larry Cuban, Professor of Education at Stanford University, provides an interesting historical perspective on teaching methods. Comment is invited on its application to Australia. It is republished with permission from Professor Cuban’s blog.

Most policymakers, researchers, and parents believe that good teachers and teaching are the keys to school improvement yet these very same folks know little about how teachers teach daily. And that is the rub. Good teachers and teaching are the agreed-upon policy solutions to both high- and low-performing students yet reliable knowledge of how most teachers teach and what are the best ways of teaching in either affluent or low-income, minority schools are absent among policymakers, researchers, and parents.

How do most teachers teach?

The short answer is that teachers draw from two traditions of teaching.

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Teacher Workload Has Increased in Australia

New figures released by the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018 show that teacher workload in Australia increased significantly since 2013. The increase was one of the largest in the OECD.

The new figures confirm the concerns of teacher organisations and teachers about their increasing workload. The increased workload, especially time spent on management and administration, and the stress it places on their lives is a reason reported by many teachers for leaving the profession.

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Teacher Unions Benefit Schools and Students

Strong teacher unions are critical to improving equity in school funding according to a new study published in the academic journal Review of Economics and Statistics. They also play a major role in translating funding increases into increases in student achievement.

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