For everyone News in brief: Term 2, 2022
Schools under pressure with COVID plus flu
The rise of flu and COVID cases has resulted in staff shortages throughout Victoria’s education sector, with schools hit hard. Many have struggled to access the CRT support needed to run normal classes; some teachers in isolation have been running classes remotely; and there have been reports of whole year levels being sent home. The AEU has been urging the department to give principals greater flexibility in managing staff absences; to adjust expectations in terms of reporting; and to take the pressure off schools by postponing departmental initiatives wherever possible, so that schools can focus all their resources on covering classes and meeting the teaching and learning needs of students.
TAFE needed for skills shortage crisis
The National Skills Commission (NSC) has declared skills shortages in almost 20% of 799 occupations. Employers are finding it impossible to fill positions, especially when looking for teachers, engineers, healthcare workers, chefs, trades and hairdressers. The NSC’s report, ‘The State of Australia’s Skills 2021: now and into the future’, says the path forward for Australia’s economy is a workforce skilled in care, computing, cognitive ability, and communication, but major funding cuts have damaged TAFE’s ability to respond. Since 2013, more than $3 billion has been cut from vocational education.
Reform of chaplaincy program a good start
The AEU has welcomed the federal government’s proposal to open the National Chaplaincy Program to professionally qualified student welfare officers from the start of 2023. Currently, schools are required to hire chaplains endorsed by a religious institution. The AEU has long opposed the $60-million-a-year program as an ideological push by Coalition governments to get Christianity into secular public schools. We urge the federal government to abolish any support for religious involvement in public schools in favour of greater investment in appropriate student wellbeing and mental health programs, professional development for teachers, and qualified counsellors in every public school across the nation.
Expanded preschool for state’s youngest learners
One of the AEU’s longest-running campaigns has had a major win with the Andrews government’s announcement of expanded preschool programs for all three- and four-year-olds. This is a fundamental improvement to our education system, involving additional preschool hours, free kindergarten and new early learning centres to be built on school sites. The AEU is calling for equally bold initiatives to attract new teachers and educators into the sector to ensure adequate staffing without compromising on quality.