As schools plan for the next school year, staff shortages are front of mind. Schools are still struggling to find new staff, as well as retain their existing employees. With attrition rates rising throughout the year, retention is critical, as is attracting the next generation of teachers, leaders and support staff.
In response to the AEU’s campaign to see government address the current workforce shortage crisis, we were pleased to see announcements from the Victorian government, late last term, to provide additional funding for important initiatives. These include scholarships for students studying secondary or combined primary/secondary ITE courses and an expansion of the Career Start program in 2024 and 2025, which supports mentors and graduate teachers in their first year. The targeted financial incentives program, which provides up to $50,000 to teachers willing to work in rural, remote, and hard-to-staff schools, will also be extended.
This is a good start, but only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the kind of bold and urgent action we need from the state government. With a new Minister for Education and a new Premier, the AEU will be continuing our campaign to highlight the impact of workforce shortages on student learning and on staff workloads and wellbeing. Government has an obligation to ensure every child has a qualified teacher in front of their classroom. They are currently failing our students and our schools on this front, and the Allan government cannot continue to expect staff to paper over ever-widening gaps and accept that it’s OK for public school students to miss out.
All of these issues rely on proper funding for public education, and addressing the massive inequity that exists in our system.
Intensifying the challenges faced by public schools – from shortages to student needs and staff workloads – is a lack of funding. With the AEU national schools funding campaign, For Every Child, up and running, now is the time for AEU members to get on board.
If these are the issues that concern you every day – shortages, workload, endless administration and compliance tasks, wages, accountability, a lack of respect for your profession, not enough time for preparation and planning, and a lack of resources to meet the needs of students – then get involved in our For Every Child campaign. All of these issues rely on proper funding for public education, and addressing the massive inequity that exists in our system.
We must hold our state and federal politicians to account. Both made election commitments to fund all public schools to the schooling resource standard (SRS). This is the standard set by government as the minimum amount required to meet students’ educational needs – and yet, public schools in Victoria only receive 90.4% of this standard, whilst all private schools are funded at more than 100%. This underfunding is a deliberate political decision, and we need to let our politicians know that it’s not good enough. Governments constantly expect schools to improve student outcomes – well, it’s time for them to play their part!
In the current phase of the campaign, we are focused on telling Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that we expect our public schools to be fully funded. AEU organisers and leadership will be out and about, asking all members and supporters to sign a postcard to the PM. We will be delivering these at Parliament House in November – so let’s make sure he’s got a huge pile of mail landing on his desk! There is also a digital version available.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the work of AEU members during the campaign for a Voice to Parliament for Australia’s First Nations people, and the disappointment felt by many following the referendum result – in particular, AEU Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and communities, who have carried a great load during what has been a very challenging debate.
The AEU will continue to stand with First Nations people, and campaign to achieve the recognition and justice they deserve. As teachers, principals, and education support staff, we have a deep responsibility to build the skills, knowledge and understanding of all students, to help shape a better world. Public education is at the heart of our society and democracy, and your work is transformative.