SUBJECTS: Draft Education Plan
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: But right now, I’m going to need a little Aretha Franklin because a $25 million campaign to bring respect back to teaching is launching today. Australia needs more teachers, and you know what? Teachers need more help. Senator Anthony Chisholm is the Assistant Minister for Education. Senator, good morning.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Good to be with you, Rebecca.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Aside from perhaps borrowing Aretha’s vocals, how are you going to recruit more teachers?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, we certainly want to ensure that we rebuild the standing of teachers across the community. I think for those of us with children in education I certainly know I’ve found a new-found respect for teachers through doing a bit of home-schooling during COVID. But it also, I think, is a key to attracting more people to the profession and studying at university.
And what we’ve seen over the last decade is there’s been a drop off in people enrolling to do teaching in university. And we’ve also had a high dropout rate at the same time. So, if we want to try and fix those things I think trying to build the esteem with which teachers are held in the community is an important part of attracting more people to the profession.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: How many more teachers do we need in Australia?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, it is in the thousands that we need. I don’t have the precise figure on me. But what I also have picked up as I’ve travelled around the country over the last couple of months is that a lot of teachers have put off doing long service leave because of what’s gone on with COVID and obviously restrictions around travel. So, I think that those people once, you know, as borders open up are going to start taking long service leave. So, I think that the challenge isn’t going away. It is going to be a constant theme that we need to address. And that’s why this is – you know, this draft that’s been released today is the start of a long-term plan. Because it’s been a challenge that’s been 10 years in the making. It’s going to take many years to fix. But we need to work collaboratively with states, universities, the teaching profession to ensure we’re doing what we can to address those challenges.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: This announcement today is a $25 million idea, $10 million of it on a PR campaign, as you say, to raise the profile of teachers. What else? What’s the $25 million going to be spent on?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: There’s also looking at a pilot program about teacher workload and also ensuring that teachers have as much face-to-face time in the classroom as possible. And there’s some states and territories that are doing some interesting things on that. So, we want to really build on those – you know, those good examples that are happening in other states and territories and give those the opportunity to be provided nationwide. So that’s what the draft plan highlights. We’re open to feedback on that, and we’ll also get some feedback from some of the states and territories who want to take on some of these pilot programs so we can evaluate and see what works and then look at rolling that out across the country.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Are you going to pay teachers more?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, that’s a difficult one for the federal government because we don’t actually employ any teachers. They’re all employed by the state jurisdictions. So, we don’t want to go around lecturing states saying, you know, teachers should be paid this, but what we want to do is provide the national leadership, and that’s what we think we’ve done with this draft plan, open to feedback now but working collaboratively with states and territories. We don’t want to pick a fight over something; we want to ensure we’ve got the best possible plan to attract and retain teachers and ensure that we’ve got the best possible education system into the future.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Senator Anthony Chisholm. It may not necessarily be about picking a fight, but, I mean, there’d be plenty of people going respect is nice. Of course, everyone wants, you know, decent working conditions. But how much of a factor do you think pay is? Like, when there’s – you say there’s not as many people going into teaching in the first place. We know the research shows 30 to 50 per cent of teachers leave in their first five years in the profession. How much of that do you think is down to pay and how much of it is down to things like burnout?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I think they are all significant factors. The other one I’ve picked up is around workload as well – teachers feeling that added pressure about reporting and also, you know, how they have to deal with students outside of the classroom and parents at the same time. So, I think they’re all factors but what we’re looking at doing is ensuring that there’s the best possible system in place. And where we’ve got – where we find things that are working to reduce teacher workloads in various states and territories, ensuring that we have the ability to give that support to states for that to be rolled out across the nation.
And I think that that will be playing our part to ensure teachers are doing what they do best – which is teaching the children in classrooms.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Given that it takes a couple of years to get the qualification to become a teacher, why not just pump more teacher aides into the system?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Again, that’s something that we are looking at. The other thing we’ve said that we would do is looking at speeding up the visa processing system. So obviously there’s – we inherited a big backlog, so that is something that we’re trying to throw more resources at so that teachers who do want to come and work here we can speed up that process to get more teachers on the ground and then working in the system to provide that support to children in the classroom.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Which countries do you know of that have people who want to come here and teach?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: My understanding is that it’s from a broad range across the world that people want to come here. And we’re looking at what we can do to facilitate that swift skilled migration option. And we’ll also be working with the education ministers across the country on that as well.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: You’re listening to Senator Anthony Chisholm, the Assistant Minister for Education. Right now, Jason Clare, the Minister for Education is at a principals' conference this morning. Do you have a sense, Senator, of what principals and teachers think of your plan to pump up the respect for teachers?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, we’re open to feedback. And that’s why we’ve released the draft plan and we hope to finalise it at a meeting of state and territory education ministers in early December. I myself am about to head up to Toowoomba and I’ll be meeting with Harristown State School this morning, so I’m sure I’ll get some feedback there. And we’ll be spending our time, as I’m sure the state and territory education ministers will be as well, to ensure we’re getting that feedback from the profession. And so far from what I’ve heard people are really encouraged by it and ensure they take it in the spirit in which we’re trying to fix these challenges across the country.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: I had a conversation with a principal just a couple of weeks ago. We were talking about the issue of labour shortages and whatnot. And, you know, to your point about workload and burnout, psychologists in schools was another factor that this principal agreed would assist in managing the workload. Would you like to see more psychologists in schools, Senator?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I’d certainly think that there’s an opportunity to provide more support. I think that we’re still evaluating the impacts of COVID on the schooling system and on students. There is, you know, for instance, looking at the NAPLAN results and the impact on grade 9s, you know, I think that is something that needs further attention. So, I think that, therefore, we should be looking at what additional support we can provide children to ensure that they’re thriving and getting the best possible education, particularly in those really key years as they get close to finishing high school, and we want everyone to achieve their best possible results.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Yeah, well, you are also considering employing parents to do admin tasks. What about older Australians to fill some gaps?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yeah, my mum had one job in her life, and she was a teacher aide at my local state school. So, I certainly value the role that those older citizens or parents play in our schooling system. I think all of us who’ve got kids at school know those parents who do that extra and go above and beyond that really make the schooling system tick. And they’re certainly people that I value, and I know that many people across the country do as well.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Senator, really appreciate you taking the time this morning. Thanks so much.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Thanks, Rebecca.
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Anthony Chisholm, the Assistant Minister for Education.