They say there’s hardly a sector of the economy that is free from staffing shortages right now – but when this happens in public schools, something much bigger is at stake.
During Term 2, vacancies advertised on Recruitment Online peaked at over 1,600 – the vast majority for teaching positions – with some of our hardest-hit schools posting over a dozen jobs. Some schools have had ten or more teacher vacancies all year, with far too many students not having a permanent teacher and some having no teacher at all.
Around the same time, the Andrews government handed down its 2023–2024 budget. This budget projected a real funding cut to public schools of 2.7%, although the education minister, Natalie Hutchins, has since claimed that some of the more than $4.9 billion not yet allocated in the budget will go to education.
With 2024 indicative school budgets due in September, there’s not much time for the funding to be determined – not least in a way that increases the government’s overall spending on public schools.
A budget that represents a funding cut for public schools is not a credible one for a government supposedly striving to make Victoria the ‘Education State’. However, it is precisely what is missing in the state budget that reveals an inconvenient fact.
In the Education State, you would expect that all school-aged children and young people would be guaranteed a well-supported, permanent teacher.
You would expect that if there was a workforce shortage, the government would be doing all it could to address the problem.
You would expect budget measures that invested in keeping the existing workforce, and decisive and effective plans to engage and train the next crop of teachers.
What you would not expect is the government of the Education State to say that it is OK for some of our students not to have a teacher.
And yet, sadly, that is precisely what the Premier has said through this budget.
To say this has been disappointing would be a major understatement, given the situation our members currently face.
Proudly, the AEU will continue to campaign and to demand much better of the Andrews government, so that it fully delivers on the one educational promise that we make to all children: access to a high-quality public education.
Budgets are always a measure of what a government values. And a budget that fails to prioritise and fund any initiatives to directly address teacher shortages now or into the future is a disaster for our community.