15 December 2023

NSW teachers face 'humongous' staff shortages as Queanbeyan joins program to attract new teachers

| Claire Sams
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Children sitting in a classroom in front of a teacher.

Queanbeyan is part of a program hoping to attract locals to become teachers in areas where there are shortages of educators. Photo: Taylor Flowe.

It’s hoped there will soon be more teachers in Queanbeyan classrooms as the city joins a program incentivising regional people to become teachers.

The NSW Government announced in December that Queanbeyan would be included in the Grow Your Own – Local Teacher Pipeline (LTP) program – joining the western and south-western Sydney, Dubbo and Murray regions – which offers a range of incentives to would-be teachers following one of three pathways.

The participating Queanbeyan locals would be among 75 prospective teachers from across the four target areas, which would start in Term One next year.

Queanbeyan teacher Patrick Doswell said the program came at a time when the profession was facing “humongous” workforce shortages.

“Speaking broadly, it is important we provide incentives to people who want to join teaching as a profession,” he said.

“We need to take out those problems so people aren’t scared off by something that might have been their dream job.”

Mr Doswell said teachers were not only facing heavy workloads, but also concerns around student behaviour.

“As a teacher, you go into a room and encounter complex behaviour that has a litany of reasons to be there and not enough staff to support that student,” he said.

“Not only are we letting down that student, but we risk that student causing more issues down the line.”

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Another issue facing NSW teachers is when a class is ‘folded’ – a term for what happens when a teacher leaves and their class is divided between other teachers.

“It’s an issue facing a lot of schools at the moment,” Mr Doswell said.

“That class is then shifted into whatever spaces they can find within the existing structure of the school.”

Mr Doswell said that despite the challenges, a pay rise in 2023 had brought some relief to NSW teachers.

“That pay increase was a huge triumph and one of the fantastic stepping stones we’ve seen raising the profession back to the standard.”

Mr Doswell was also one of the 10,000 teachers moved onto permanent contracts in 2023, after more than a decade of short-term work.

“I’m feeling a bit more secure,” he said.

“I’ve been at the same school for 11 years, but every year I had to write an expression of interest for a job that I was pretty certain I would have.

“There was a lot of waiting to find out that you could work here again – especially in a profession that is haemorrhaging its workforce.”

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Member for Monaro Steve Whan said he hoped the LTP program would bring more local teachers into Queanbeyan’s schools.

“I heard from many teachers before and during the election campaign about the challenges local schools have been facing, and I am very pleased to see this improvement as the Minns Labor Government prioritises fixing the teacher shortage,” he said.

“This Grow Your Own – Local Teacher Pipeline initiative builds on the huge boost we have had by removing the Liberal National wages cap and giving teachers a decent pay increase, and by providing permanent jobs for so many people left without job security by the former government.”

Eligible schools have helped to identify local people with potential for the LTP program, including career changers, school administration and support staff, high school leavers and other community members.

While they are studying, participants will work one day a week in a NSW public secondary school, and are required to teach for three years at a NSW public school at an agreed location when they finish studying.

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