Interview - The World Today
Subject: Teacher shortage
JOURNALIST: With more children at school than ever before but fewer people lining up to become teachers, the Federal Education Minister, Jason Clare, says it's time for a shake up.
CLARE: It's serious and it's getting worse. It's not just because of the flu. It's not just because of COVID. It's bigger than that.
JOURNALIST: The shortage has prompted plans for a major overhaul, including offering paid teaching internships to professionals in industries like law or accounting who are doing a two-year master's degree in education.
CLARE: It's a good idea to get people who are already in the workforce, mid-career professionals, to make the switch to the classroom. Whether they're mathematicians or scientists or lawyers or God forbid politicians – if you can get people who have got qualifications to jump into the classroom then that's a good thing.
JOURNALIST: How would you decide who could get that paid internship? Which careers applied?
CLARE: It could be any. What you want is professional, well-trained teachers in the classroom. But certainly, we have a chronic shortage of math teachers and science teachers in our high schools. That's where the shortage is most acute. And that's why in the election campaign, we talked about mathematicians and scientists as the sort of people that we'd love to see make the switch.
JOURNALIST: The paid internship is one of the suggestions that will be flagged at an emergency workforce summit with federal, state and territory education Ministers. Another is creating more so-called master teacher or senior teaching positions and awarding them a 40 per cent wage boost. Jason Clare admits that's a major shift but says it's up for discussion.
CLARE: One thing is certain, we're not going to fix this problem by just doing the same thing time after time. We've got to look for new ideas that are going to help to not just fix the shortage of teachers, but also raise the performance of our kids. We want our kids to get the best possible education they can.
JOURNALIST: This all sounds expensive, so how much of the cost will state and territory governments have to bear?
CLARE: Well, the only way we fix this is if state governments and federal governments work together.
JOURNALIST: The Australian Education Union deputy President, Meredith Peace, says people with experience in other careers can really benefit students. So the paid internship plan could work.
PEACE: But we must ensure that we don't undermine the quality of our graduates coming into the system.
JOURNALIST: She's less sure about the idea of master teachers with big pay rises, arguing a wage rise for all teachers would be fairer.
PEACE: I don't think it's the solution to pick out a small group of people and suggest we're going to give them significant pay increases. This is a much more complex issue than that. We do need to have proper career structures that reward people and high performing teachers, if you like, or people who want to stay in the classroom and use that skill to ensure our kids get the best education. But this is about our career structure and providing decent salaries, if you like, across the board.