Premier Allen needs to do more – and quickly – to tackle the teacher shortage crisis in our schools, with advertised vacancies peaking at 2,600 in mid-September.
Countries around the world are also experiencing teacher shortages. Prior to the school year commencing in France, schools were short by more than 3,100 teachers, directly affecting the education of that nation’s 12 million students. By comparison, here in Victoria we have a similar number of vacancies in our public schools and a student population of just over 653,000.
Given that startling ratio, what might be deemed a crisis in France is surely a catastrophe in Victoria.
Over recent months, the AEU has turned up the heat on the Andrews government – demanding again and again that they address teacher shortages. Every day for several weeks, our branch president Meredith Peace has written to every state Labor MP, highlighting the number of vacancies advertised that day.
We have also published a full-page open letter in The Age and the Herald Sun; run weekly targeted social media ads; rallied on the steps of parliament with elected teachers, principals, and ES staff from the AEU Joint Primary and Secondary Sector Council, and marched to the Premier’s office to personally deliver our open letter.
Our campaign to get the government to act has generated significant media coverage. This coverage has boosted our efforts to stop Knox Council cutting kindergarten services, to achieve a delay in the implementation of changes to the school curriculum, and to stop the state government’s proposal to sack visiting teachers.
Over the last six weeks of Term 3 alone, the AEU has generated or been the focus of more than 1,120 media stories, with a significant presence on radio, around 125 mentions on Channel 10 News, 110 on Nine News, and 45 on Seven News, as well as numerous articles in The Age, Herald Sun, The Guardian, and ABC Online.
We welcome the Victorian government’s recent announcement of scholarships for secondary teaching students who commit to working in public schools, and increased support for more teachers in their first year in the profession. These are important steps in the right direction, and begin to address some key asks of the AEU’s Ten-Year Plan for Staffing in Public Education. But more must be done.
Existing school staff are massively over-stretched, covering the gaps caused by teacher shortages so that students can receive the education they need. This is taking its toll, with too many becoming burnt out, taking extended leave, or leaving the system altogether.
We are calling for retention payments as one of many solutions the government could implement right now to reward and retain existing staff in the profession. Our campaign will keep going until the government takes further, more immediate steps to address what can quite rightly be described as a catastrophe in Victoria.