Undervalued and overworked

An inquiry into the teaching profession in NSW has recommended significant changes to teachers’ salaries and working conditions.

The report of the Valuing the Teaching Profession Inquiry noted a dramatic increase in the work of teachers and principals at the same time as a significant decline in teacher salaries.

Some of the factors contributing to increased workloads include constant policy change; a substantial rise in student need; rapid changes in technology; the expansion and reform of the curriculum; new compliance, administration, data collection and reporting responsibilities; and greater community expectations of schools and teachers.

Teachers’ salaries have declined compared to other professions, the report says. It calls for an urgent 10-15 per cent increase in teacher salaries and improved career options. It also recommends the return of specialist staff to assist teachers, more time for collaboration, planning, assessment and monitoring student progress and extra school counsellors to help address the rise in student mental health issues.

The independent inquiry, commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation last year, investigated the work of teachers and principals and how it has changed since 2004.

Its expert panel was chaired by former WA premier and education minister Dr Geoff Gallop. The other panel members were former justice of the NSW Industrial Court and deputy president of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, Dr Tricia Kavanagh, and former chief executive of the NSW Institute of Teachers, Patrick Lee.

The inquiry received more than 1000 submissions from teachers and schools, professional bodies, academics, economists and education experts.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos says teachers and principals have unsustainable workloads without the time and support to do the job expected of them, and without the competitive salary necessary to attract and retain teachers into the future.

“The current policy settings are failing. They’re failing teachers, but they’re also failing kids. And that’s already now manifesting itself in teacher shortages,”

“Unless there’s a policy reset so that the profession is much more attractive for young people to enter and to stay, the teacher shortage we’re now experiencing will pale into insignificance.”

Gavrielatos says more than 10,000 extra teachers will be needed in the next 20 years for an expected 25 per cent rise in student enrolments.

“This is a report that will not be gathering dust,” Gavrielatos says.

Despite “profound changes” in the work and workload of teachers, and uncompetitive salaries, teachers’ dedication and commitment to public schools remains high, the Inquiry found.