Interview - ABC Radio Perth
SUBJECTS: Draft Education Plan.
PRESENTER NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: Now it's interesting to see the Federal Government has today released a draft plan to bring respect back into teaching, recruit more teachers and reduce workloads. And whenever we talk about teachers on this show workloads comes up time and time again as one of the most pressing issues. Teachers say they cannot keep up, they are stressed, they are burnt out, and then they quit. And I've spoken to a lot of teachers over the last few months who have quit for these very reasons.
Now the Federal Government says if nothing changes Australia will actually be 4,000 teachers short by 2025. That's just a couple of years away. So some things that the Government is looking at that I'd like your thoughts on include this one in particular, how about paying parents to do administration work in schools? Would that help?
Now there's a few and we're going to go through them in a moment but tell me what you think. 1300 222 720. I want to first go to Senator Anthony Chisholm who's the Assistant Federal Minister for Education. Minister, thank you for your time, good morning.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Good morning, Nadia, good to be with you.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: 4,000 teachers short by 2025 if nothing changes. If we were in that situation how big an impact would that have on schools?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, what you'd know from the schooling system at the moment across the country is we're facing a shortage right now, and that's only going to get worse. And it is a challenge that's been ten years in the making.
What we've seen over the last decade is a 16 per cent drop in the number of students going to uni to learn teaching. So that's obviously had an impact. But then also we've had a 50 per cent drop out of students studying teaching over the course of the degree. And then they're also leaving the profession.
So there really is, when you think of that data of less people enrolling, less people finishing, it's led to the shortage challenge that we've got now, and that takes years to fix obviously, but of course unless we can get more people studying we're going to find that challenge in a couple of years' time of less teachers than what we need.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: And why the drop, is it the workloads that scares some potential teachers off?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, I think that's a reason for some of the drop out that we've seen from teachers, just the workload challenges. But also, I think part of what we want to do through this discussion paper is lift the community expectations around teachers and build the esteem with which teachers are held in the community, and hopefully that will lead to more people taking on teaching as a degree and therefore lead to more people, lead to more teachers studying and then coming out as teachers at the end result.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: Let's look at some of the issues then, because you're proposing a workload reduction fund of $25 million. What is that exactly?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: So what we've found is that there are some things that state jurisdictions and territory jurisdictions are trialling that we want to encourage more jurisdictions to take on that to ease the workload on teachers. So that's about funding pilots, but also funding the evaluation so we can actually see what works and then look at rolling that out across jurisdictions.
So it's really about picking up those innovative things that enable teachers to spend more time in the class rooms, and you alluded to one of them about potentially parents doing some of the admin work, that will therefore lead to teachers spending as much time in front of students, which is what we all want as a part of the system.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: Can we just elaborate on that idea because it is an interesting one, certainly not one that I've heard of before. The proposal, as I understand it, is that you'd actually pay parents to do some of that admin work. I mean what sort of work? How would that operate? How would that work?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, it would depend on jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but my understanding it’s – that the focus of it will be parents doing some of that basic admin work, that then frees up teachers to be available more for one‑on‑one class time.
So it's looking at ways that we can support that and do some trials in some jurisdictions so that we have more teacher time. Anyone who's been involved in the education system knows that parents often come in and help with reading and so forth. I, myself, my mum was a teacher aid for ‑ it was her only job that she ever had. So we know that parents do play those roles but it's about formalising it and giving a bit of Government support for that to happen as well.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: We're talking about classroom admin rather than school admin, right? We're talking about things that teachers actually need to do, and I'm just wondering what that is, I'm not a teacher so I'm hoping there's some teachers listening that might be able to tell me exactly what it is ‑ what's the kind of work they could palm off to parents?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yep, yep, and that's part of the discussion that we're open to now. So we want feedback from across the profession, from also principals, parents, so that we can evaluate this with a view to finalising the plan in early December.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: And you'd be willing to pay parents to do that?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yeah, that's what part of the pilot, that's what part of the money was for, looking at doing some pilots so that we can evaluate how they work and then if it's something that is reducing the workload on teachers and enabling them to spend more time in the classroom, then that's obviously something that we could look to encourage across the nation.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: I'm speaking to Senator Anthony Chisholm, the Assistant Minister for Education. I'm keen on your views on this, 1300 222 720. And I will go to your calls in just a moment. It's 21 to 9.
More EAs, and I appreciate these are, you know, State Governments responsible for employing teachers and education assistants, do they need more EAs?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, it's really difficult for us to be telling the various States what to do. We obviously want to provide the national leadership required and put funding where it's appropriate. Part of that is leading the discussion nationally. So that's something that we'll take feedback from the States and Territories on.
As I said, the plan is to take that feedback over the next month with a view to finalising the plan in early December, and then obviously implementing over the next couple of years.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: But would this add to the school's budget though again, I mean EAs but also paying parents? Who'd pay for that? Would that come out of this fund that you talk about, or would that be a school or a state responsibility?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, what we've proposed in here is to ‑ we've put some money in to trial some of these things so that we can see how they work, but also proper evaluation. And that for us is the key to do the trial, see what works, see what gives teachers the best support to be teaching in class rooms, and then work out how we can actually fund that longer term if that's what is successful.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: Minister, this ‑‑
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: So that's ‑‑
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: I beg your pardon, go on.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: That's what we're trying to achieve with this, and obviously we've worked collaboratively with States so far on the draft that we've put out today, but we want to continue that dialogue and get more widespread feedback over the next month.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: You also look at better curriculum planning. What does that mean? Is that sort of shared class planning? Can you explain what that is exactly, how do you better plan a curriculum?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, it's exactly that. So one of the consistent feedbacks we've had is around access to lesson plans and obviously with the national curriculum there's more ability to do that across the board. So we've heard a lot of feedback about what we can do. I also know that ATSILS have been working on that at the same time, so this is about how recognising that as a challenge and the Government saying that we want to provide that support across the country.
It's an interesting one because I've spent a bit of time in remote areas as well and it's a different challenge in Schools of the Air, for instance, about those lesson plans. So I think we need to be innovative and look at ways we can support the different schooling environments to help share those lesson plans and provide that support for teachers as a result.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: How are you going to recruit more teachers? What's the plan there?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well there's a couple of aspects to this. So one of the first things we've done is released more university places in critical skills needs, including teaching. So there are more university places available.
And as I mentioned before, we really want to build the esteem with which teachers are held in the community and I think that for a lot of people who went through COVID and had to do some home schooling, I think they got a new appreciation for the work that teachers do. But we want to ensure that we build that across the nation. So we've got $10 million for an advertising campaign that goes to that.
What we hope is that that will also lead to more people wanting to enrol and study at university, whether they be people finishing Grade 12 this year, but also people who might be a bit older and have done another career who want to transition across to become a teacher. So we want to make that easier at the same time.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: So it's not only recruiting though but one of your challenges, I think it's fair to say, is retaining teachers, and there is research that shows 30 to 50 per cent of teachers leave in their first five years of the profession. If anyone listening has done that, I'd like to know why on 1300 222 720. And then the issue of apprentice style paid degrees often comes up. There's a lot of support for that. Is that worth looking at?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I think it is and there's a separate program, a separate review that's underway that's being led by Mark Scott, the Vice‑Chancellor at Sydney University that goes to specifically teacher training. So I imagine that that is something that they are evaluating in terms of their look at unis and the best way to get teachers, qualified teachers into the classroom and teaching in the right environments. So that work is under way, but we certainly recognise that retaining teachers is a critical part of that, and part of these 28 recommendations is also about what we can do to ensure that there's professional development, so teachers see that there is a reason to stay, there is an opportunity to develop their skills further and become better teachers throughout their life.
So that's something that is important and it's something that this draft review goes to as well.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: Senator, do you think teachers are paid enough?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Well, it's a really difficult one to answer Federally. I think that teachers play a significant role in our community. I certainly value what they do, and I certainly think they earn every dollar that they're paid at the moment. We obviously want to work constructively with the States as part of this Federal Government doesn't employ teachers directly, so it is a matter for the States. But I certainly think they need to be well remunerated, and I think that broadly speaking society respects that as well.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: I do appreciate your time, thank you very much.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Thanks Nadia, good to be with you.
NADIA MITSOPOULOUS: You too. Senator Anthony Chisholm there, he's the Assistant Minister for Education.