For everyone Keeping women in the profession

Rebecca Rhodes, photo by Meredith O'Shea

At the Federal Women’s Conference in 2023, AEU members focused on two areas where better government funding could support women educators to achieve more sustainable work/life balance and better manage student behaviour.

The first area was flexible work. Where teaching was once an attractive option for young women because due to the 11 weeks of the year where they could be home to look after their own children, increased workloads for teachers no longer allow them to switch off during school break. On top of that, many other industries now allow employees to work from home – a benefit that, for a lot of women, now outweighs the flexibility offered by school holidays.

“If the education sector, 75% female, wants to compete in this new world, we need to step up in the flexible work department,” says conference delegate Rebecca Rhodes of Rosebud Secondary.

She suggests that if schools are reluctant to offer part-time arrangements because of the lack of consistency for students, then two teachers could each work a three-day week, incorporating a crossover day in the middle. This could also be an effective way for women to share leadership positions, which currently attract a disproportionate number of men.

Workplace violence was the second major issue the delegates brought to the table. “It’s no secret that behaviour management is a huge problem, and it has been worse over the past couple of years,” says Rebecca, adding that there simply aren’t enough staff to deal with fights or other disruptions in schools.

“In this climate of shortages, principals are so stretched that they can’t possibly teach their own classes and do all the admin tasks required of them, while also helping to keep staff and students safe.”

These issues are central to the AEU’s Ten-Year Plan for Staffing, which presses the need for better government funding so that public schools can attract and retain staff, provide positive working conditions, and access the support of allied health professionals.

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