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Teachers fleeing the job

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Teachers are burning out as work impinges on personal and family time, according to educational leaders and experts.

Educators are leaving teaching in droves. Experts say it’s serious

Education experts warn that the shortage of teachers across the country is dire with ever-increasing workloads combined with expectations that they be available outside of working hours contributing to their workforce attrition rates.

Malcolm Elliott, president of the Australian Primary Principals’ Association said that teachers who are “digital natives” especially could feel a need to be constantly on call to respond to parents after work hours.

“We’ve failed really to guard the time and energy of our teachers in confining it to a reasonable amount of time,” he said.

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“We want families to be involved, because we know that if they are involved in the education of their children that is support which is so important for their learning.

” … 71 percent of teachers who considering leaving the profession cite a heavy workload as one of the reasons, 68 percent the need for a better work/life balance, and 61 per cent say their job is affecting their mental health and wellbeing.”

“But now what’s happened is parents have become more and more involved than they necessarily need to….we don’t want parents to feel that they’re not welcome or that they can’t question what’s happening in schools, but it can become a huge problem.”

Mr Elliott made his comments as part of an expert panel discussion held by the Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education (ILSTE) at the Australian Catholic University on 14 September.

A Productivity Commission interim report released on the same day painted a bleak picture of teacher shortages and student outcomes across the nation.

It showed that 71 percent of teachers who considering leaving the profession cite a heavy workload as one of the reasons, 68 percent the need for a better work/life balance, and 61 per cent say their job is affecting their mental health and wellbeing to the point of wanting to quit.

Improving working conditions and the status of the profession are the keys to the future, teachers say. Photos: Unsplash

The draft report found that Australian teachers spend more hours working and less time teaching (at 40 percent of the time) than their international counterparts do. It recommended reducing the administration, communication and clerical tasks required of teachers.

On student performance, it found that every year, between 5 and 9 per cent of Australian students do not meet year-level expectations in either literacy or numeracy. At the online event, Andrew Pierpoint, president of the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association said that the teacher shortage situation is “past dire” and gave an example of a small 26-teacher high school which has been operating with 12 teachers short “since day one”.

“Now they are doing the very best that they can, but it’s very difficult to provide a quality curriculum when you’ve data like that,” he said.

Sally Egan, deputy executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission said that the ongoing shortages experienced in rural, regional and remote locations is now spreading into metropolitan places as well, and that the Commission is partnering with the country’s two Catholic universities to maximise fourth-year education para-professionals in different ways to address the need.

“We are facing an acute shortage of teachers in classrooms across the nation. The situation calls for improving the status of the profession and recognising the complexity of the work teachers do every day.”

She said that teachers are less motivated by salary concerns than the positive impact they hoped to have and their desire to be supported and challenged as life-long learners themselves.

Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith, the director of ILSTE, said that new ideas and ways to improve teacher education are urgently needed and that requires more longitudinal research into who and why people are attracted to the profession and their progression through it.

“We are facing an acute shortage of teachers in classrooms across the nation. The situation calls for improving the status of the profession and recognising the complexity of the work teachers do every day,” she said.

“The futures of all young people will be affected unless we address key issues including attracting and retaining teachers in the workforce.”

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