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I come from a family of teachers.

My mother was a physical education teacher and each of my three sisters entered the teaching profession (one a primary school teacher and both of my twin sisters became high school teachers).

Two of my uncles were high school teachers, one becoming a highly-regarded principal.

I regard myself as a teacher, although I do not work in a school and have only educated adults.

So it is with more than a passing interest that this morning I read Pay and respect crucial to reversing teacher recruitment crisis, NSW union says .

The sub-heading continued; “State will need 11,000 new teachers in the next 10 years as more pupils enter schools, federation says.”

The article opened:

“The New South Wales Teachers Federation has blamed low pay and increasing workloads for a crisis in teaching recruitment, as a government discussion paper shows the proportion of high-achieving school graduates who choose to study teaching has dropped by a third since 2006.”

Two of my three sisters left teaching after the demands of the classroom, and bureaucrats, became too much and they each deemed their health and life balance to be better served by taking other roles.

Both became responsible for teacher training and, ultimately school assessment; of different types and in different countries.

The freedom to not have to worry about lesson preparation, out-of-hours work, and out-of-control students (and occasionally their parents), meant neither sister regretted their respective departures from the classroom.

One of my sisters to whom I am referring is my deceased sister; Mary.

Of course, I am biased but who wouldn’t want such a person as a teacher whose former pupil (writing as an adult) would write:

I am so sorry to hear of this terrible loss, Mary taught me in primary school and she was such a vivacious and interesting lady, who always had time for her pupils. All of us who were taught by her at Icknield Walk in Royston, near Ashwell, are grieved to have heard this news.

Federal and state governments commission report after report into the education system, in an attempt to discover how student outcomes might be lifted.

It seems entirely obvious to anybody with any semblance of understanding of the education system as to how this might be done: fund schools according to need, pay teachers more, reduce their workload, and demonstrate those same teachers the respect their skills and commitment deserve.

Research by the University of Sydney in 2018 showed teachers in New South Wales were working an average of 54 hours a week and principals 62 hours.

As the recruitment industry and many other sectors move towards a four-day week (for five days’ pay) teachers are heading in the other direction; working a six-day week for five days’ pay.

Novelist, writer, and social commentator, Jane Caro wrote, in February this year:

“(Professor Geoff) Gallop’s review, the first undertaken since 2004, found that while the intensity and complexity of teachers’ workloads had ramped up enormously, their salaries had gone in the exact opposite direction. The available evidence “clearly shows that from a point of parity in the late 1980s, teachers wages have fallen dramatically, with experienced teachers earning less than 85% of the average pay of other professionals,”

Can you imagine the reaction to the appointment of a Chief Commissioner of Police who had never been a police officer or a Chief Scientist who did not have any science qualifications?

The outrage would be immediate, widespread, and scornful.

Yet, last month, the NSW state government’s new appointment as secretary of the NSW Department of Education was a bureaucrat without teaching qualifications or experience.

That’s simply bewildering.

Combined, all these factors are having a dramatic impact on the attractiveness of teaching as a career; only 4% of new graduate students with an ATAR over 80 chose to study teaching, a decline of 32% between 2006 and 2019.

In Australia between 2009 and 2019, the number of enrolments in all tertiary courses rose 37% but those choosing teaching rose by only 4%, and the number of students who graduated from teaching or education fell 5%.

Recruiters know that the weighting given by candidates to each of; pay, resources (to do the job), hours of work, career prospects, organisational leadership, and community respect (for the role and/or employer) varies from candidate to candidate. However, when you have each of these factors heading in the wrong direction you have a looming candidate crisis with no quick or easy fix.

Let’s hope our politicians realise the time bomb they are sitting on before it’s too late (if it isn’t already).

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