Teachers are the life-blood of the education system and have the greatest in-school impact on student learning. Ensuring an adequate supply of quality teachers is vital to the success of Australia’s schools and the outcomes of our students. It supports equitable education delivery, the future skills needs of Australia and our national productivity.
Yet, Australian schools are facing unprecedented teacher supply and retention challenges, with workforce shortages one of the single biggest issues facing teacher employers in all school sectors and early childhood education settings across Australia. This is not just a problem in Australia. The world at large is experiencing challenges associated with the competitive global teaching market, and the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Declining numbers of new graduate teachers, increasing demand from a growing student population and an ageing teacher and leadership workforce are all contributing to teacher shortages.
Previous modelling of teacher demand and supply has suggested that these shortages could worsen over the coming years, with the demand for secondary teachers to exceed the supply of new graduate teachers by around 4,100 between 2021 to 20251.
The existing shortages have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with teachers working in a challenging environment and education systems and schools having had to innovate to manage illness and absences. However, COVID-19 related shortages are just one part of a broader and systemic issue. Other factors impacting on shortages include the status of the profession, workload pressures and initial teacher education (ITE) participation.
Addressing the issue of shortages is a shared responsibility, with policy levers affecting the supply of teachers divided between governments. The Australian Government is responsible for skilled migration settings and funding ITE, while the employment of teachers and school leaders, including workforce planning, are the responsibility of the states and territories and the non-government sector. The Australian and State and Territory Governments all have a role in raising the status of the teaching profession and making teaching an attractive career. Governments should work together with education stakeholders to do this.
Governments and education authorities have put in place a range of measures to address teacher shortages. Despite efforts, shortages exist, underscoring the fact that teacher workforce challenges cannot be addressed by any one jurisdiction alone.
This issues paper sets out the nature of the problem and responses to date, to prompt discussion on priority areas of focus at a strategic discussion on the teacher workforce. The issues paper includes evidence and data on teacher supply and demand; a discussion of the factors that contribute to teacher shortages; an overview of government and non-government responses to date and discussion questions on potential actions to address teacher shortages.
The complete paper may be downloaded below.
1. Department of Education, Skills and Employment Modelling.