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Teachers mark out terms for new pay deal

The education union is gearing up to negotiate a new pay and conditions deal with the State Government, saying the “teacher shortage crisis” is so severe in South Australia that some Year 12 classes are being left to fend for themselves if staff call in sick.

Aug 24, 2022, updated Aug 28, 2022
Picture: Russell Freeman/AAP

Picture: Russell Freeman/AAP

The union says in other instances classes are being combined, leaving one educator in charge of 50 students.

The Australian Education Union has started consulting with its members ahead of negotiations for a new enterprise agreement which are expected to start in October.

Queensland teachers recently secured an 11 per cent pay rise over three years and while the SA union wouldn’t be drawn on what SA teachers will ask for, state president Andrew Gohl told InDaily “in broad terms it’s got to reflect the complexity of the work, it needs to be competitive with interstate”.

“Educators deserve a pay increase that accurately reflects the increased complexity of teaching, one which attracts and retains new and experienced educators as well as being competitive with interstate to keep SA teachers in SA,” Gohl said.

“Enterprise bargaining which goes to the conditions under which educators work provides a real opportunity for the profession to have a say about what needs to be in place to deal with the teacher shortage crisis.”

Gohl said teachers would be pushing for measures to address three key issues:

  1. The “administrative bureaucracy” leaving teachers with “excessive” paperwork which takes them away from teaching.
  2. Increasing levels of “classroom complexity”, with growing numbers of students requiring additional support.
  3. A pay rise to reflect increasing demands and to better attract and retain teachers.

Gohl said the starting salary for an SA teacher was less than $75,000.

“Teachers want a salary that reflects the complexity of their work and the value of their work,” he said.

“Parents who’ve endured home learning would start to understand what the work is like. In broad terms it’s got to reflect the complexity of the work, it needs to be competitive with interstate… and of course our members are feeling, like every other worker, the pinch of inflation rates and cost of living.”

Gohl said a recent survey found SA teachers were working on average 55.5 hours a week.

“The problem is what’s required of us in terms of workload is excessive and unsustainable and that’s a fundamental problem around the teacher shortage crisis,” he said.

“If we don’t address that fundamental problem then we’re going to continue having problems attracting and retaining educators in schools and preschools in South Australia and we’re going to have trouble keeping the experienced teachers here saying I’d rather retire than keep working at this level.”

Gohl said federal and state governments were requiring from teachers “huge amounts of data extraction” about students.

“The amount of administrative bureaucracy that they’re required to complete as educators is just killing them,” he said.

“What our members are saying is if that data collection, data interpretation, data analysis is so important to the department then maybe they should be employing people within schools and preschools to do that – not leaving that to educators to do because it’s the role of educators to teach and enable learning.”

Gohl said some students requiring additional support were waiting up to three years to access professional help such as educational psychologists.

Unfilled vacancies and sick staff were also creating problems for schools.

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“Most schools at the moment on a daily basis are trying to fill vacancies created by people who are ill or by the sheer fact that they’ve been unable to attract anyone to that particular school to pick up the vacancy,” Gohl said.

He said the pool of temporary relief teachers had largely been “soaked up” by the private sector or public schools putting them on contracts.

“So there’s not actually people around to fill in the day-to-day vacancies either,” he said.

“So then teachers are combining classes, or there might by Year 12 classes that are running without teachers at all, so the kids are managing themselves.

“Or we’ve got support staff who are looking after classes, or we’ve got undergraduates who are looking after classes.

“There’s a range of measures being implemented by the system at the moment which fill gaps, kind of, but we wouldn’t say that that’s sustainable if we’re talking about a quality public education system.”

Attorney-General Kyam Maher said the government was “committed to negotiating in good faith for a new enterprise agreement for school teachers, and will consider any issues raised by the AEA in the context of those discussions”.

Education Minister Blair Boyer said teacher shortages were “an issue across the country and something that state and territory education ministers and I discussed at length last week in our national meeting”.

“We have an enormous opportunity to come together and take genuine, national action to tackle workforce shortages in education and I am excited to work collaboratively with other ministers to get more South Australians into teaching and to reduce the number of teachers leaving the profession,” he said.

“It’s also critical that early childhood educators aren’t forgotten in discussions about workforce shortages.”

Boyer said the government had already introduced a range of measures to support teachers including “extending country allowances to become ongoing, increasing permanency rates and contributing $28 million for autism inclusion teachers at every school and a further $50 million over four years to fund further mental health and learning supports in schools”.

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