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Teacher shortages Teacher shortages

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Authors: Jo Earp
Teacher shortages

Around four out of 10 secondary principals and one in five primary principals say they have major or moderate difficulties finding suitable staff to fill vacancies – with the most common solution being to require teachers to teach outside their area of expertise.

The findings are reported in the latest Staff in Australia’s Schools (SiAS) survey, which was carried out between May and August 2013, and involved 15 475 teachers and 1579 leaders working in the government, Catholic and independent sectors.

According to the data, about 11 per cent of primary principals had at least one unfilled vacancy for a general classroom teacher at the beginning of 2012.

‘When viewed in the context of the number of Generalist Classroom Teachers working in schools, the estimated total number of unfilled positions at the time of the survey (0.6 per cent) is quite low,’ the report says.

In secondary schools, the highest staffing shortages were in Mathematics – with five per cent of schools reporting at least one unfilled vacancy at the beginning of 2012.

However, the report notes: ‘Despite the relatively low numbers of principals reporting unfilled vacancies in individual curriculum areas, there are still fairly large numbers who report that they have difficulties in suitably filling staff vacancies across all areas of the curriculum.’

Of the primary principals who took part in the survey, four per cent reported ‘major’ and 17 per cent ‘moderate’ difficulties in filling the vacancies; for secondary principals the figures were eight per cent and 31 per cent respectively.

The report says the proportions have changed very little since the 2007 and 2010 SiAS surveys.

When it comes to strategies to deal with staffing shortages, in the 2013 survey, primary principals reported the most common as:

  • requiring teachers to teach outside their field of expertise (13 per cent of Government principals, 11 per cent of Catholic and nine per cent of Independent);
  • recruiting retired teachers on short-term contracts (11 per cent of Government principals, six per cent of Catholic, and three per cent of Independent);
  • reducing the curriculum offered (nine per cent of Government principals, four per cent of Catholic, and five per cent of Independent);
  • combining classes across year levels (seven per cent for all sectors).

For secondary principals, the most common strategies reported were:

  • requiring teachers to teach outside their field of expertise (39 per cent of Government principals, 36 per cent of Catholic, and 15 per cent of Independent);
  • recruiting retired teachers on short-term contracts (30 per cent of Government principals, 12 per cent of Catholic, and six per cent of Independent);
  • recruiting teachers not fully qualified in subject areas with acute shortages (24 per cent of Government principals, 14 per cent of Catholic, and eight per cent of Independent);
  • reducing the curriculum offered (19 per cent of Government principals, seven per cent of Catholic and nine per cent of Independent).

Other strategies reported by participants included combining classes within subject areas and sharing programs with other schools.

The SiAS 2013 survey was carried out by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Education.

‘Teacher shortages can be hard to measure because schools use a variety of strategies to ensure that classes are not left without a teacher, including reducing the curriculum on offer, employing less qualified teachers, or increasing class sizes,’ ACER Research Fellow and co-author of the survey report, Dr Paul Weldon, says.

The SiAS findings are presented in two reports: Staff in Australia’s Schools 2013: Main Report on the Survey, and Profiles of Teachers in Selected Curriculum Areas. Both reports are available from the Commonwealth Department of Education website.

Around four out of 10 secondary principals and one in five primary principals say they have major or moderate difficulties finding suitable staff to fill vacancies – with the most common solution being to require teachers to teach outside their area of expertise.

The findings are reported in the latest Staff in Australia’s Schools (SiAS) survey, which was carried out between May and August 2013, and involved 15 475 teachers and 1579 leaders working in the government, Catholic and independent sectors.

According to the data, about 11 per cent of primary principals had at least one unfilled vacancy for a general classroom teacher at the beginning of 2012.

‘When viewed in the context of the number of Generalist Classroom Teachers working in schools, the estimated total number of unfilled positions at the time of the survey (0.6 per cent) is quite low,’ the report says.

In secondary schools, the highest staffing shortages were in Mathematics – with five per cent of schools reporting at least one unfilled vacancy at the beginning of 2012.

However, the report notes: ‘Despite the relatively low numbers of principals reporting unfilled vacancies in individual curriculum areas, there are still fairly large numbers who report that they have difficulties in suitably filling staff vacancies across all areas of the curriculum.’

Of the primary principals who took part in the survey, four per cent reported ‘major’ and 17 per cent ‘moderate’ difficulties in filling the vacancies; for secondary principals the figures were eight per cent and 31 per cent respectively.

The report says the proportions have changed very little since the 2007 and 2010 SiAS surveys.

When it comes to strategies to deal with staffing shortages, in the 2013 survey, primary principals reported the most common as:

  • requiring teachers to teach outside their field of expertise (13 per cent of Government principals, 11 per cent of Catholic and nine per cent of Independent);
  • recruiting retired teachers on short-term contracts (11 per cent of Government principals, six per cent of Catholic, and three per cent of Independent);
  • reducing the curriculum offered (nine per cent of Government principals, four per cent of Catholic, and five per cent of Independent);
  • combining classes across year levels (seven per cent for all sectors).

For secondary principals, the most common strategies reported were:

  • requiring teachers to teach outside their field of expertise (39 per cent of Government principals, 36 per cent of Catholic, and 15 per cent of Independent);
  • recruiting retired teachers on short-term contracts (30 per cent of Government principals, 12 per cent of Catholic, and six per cent of Independent);
  • recruiting teachers not fully qualified in subject areas with acute shortages (24 per cent of Government principals, 14 per cent of Catholic, and eight per cent of Independent);
  • reducing the curriculum offered (19 per cent of Government principals, seven per cent of Catholic and nine per cent of Independent).

Other strategies reported by participants included combining classes within subject areas and sharing programs with other schools.

The SiAS 2013 survey was carried out by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Education.

‘Teacher shortages can be hard to measure because schools use a variety of strategies to ensure that classes are not left without a teacher, including reducing the curriculum on offer, employing less qualified teachers, or increasing class sizes,’ ACER Research Fellow and co-author of the survey report, Dr Paul Weldon, says.

The SiAS findings are presented in two reports: Staff in Australia’s Schools 2013: Main Report on the Survey, and Profiles of Teachers in Selected Curriculum Areas. Both reports are available from the Commonwealth Department of Education website.

As a principal, which subject areas do you have difficulty filling vacancies for?

Have you joined forces with another school to reduce staffing shortages?

As a principal, which subject areas do you have difficulty filling vacancies for?

Have you joined forces with another school to reduce staffing shortages?

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