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POSITION PAPER

Key Messages and Recommendations

  • Contrary to popular belief, the NSW Council of Deans of Education (NSWCDE) is confident that there is no significant oversupply of initial teacher education (ITE) graduates (Preston, 2013; Fischetti, 2015).
  • Employment data can vary across state lines, urban vs. regional job markets, age level and subject area of teaching specialisation. Therefore, ITE programs may wish to make market-based adjustments to student intakes and work to increase student quality and suitability for teaching, but need not decrease their enrolment numbers (Preston, 2013; Fischetti, 2015).
  • The increased casualisation of the teaching workforce is a trend that privileges short-term economic concerns above what is best for students’ learning. NSWCDE advocates for schools and systems to retain permanent positions for teachers whenever possible, while acknowledging current realities.
  • To this end, we believe that career advising processes at secondary and tertiary level must continually be improved to help future teachers understand the realities of the job market they will enter: one in which working casually may be a necessary step toward attaining a long-term teaching position in their area of expertise.

Background

A popular, and politicised, message gaining currency of late has been one of rampant teacher oversupply and universities “pumping out graduates” into a bleak job market in which as many of “90 per cent of teachers graduating university in NSW and Queensland fail to find a job” (Ferrari, 2013; McDougall, 2014; Patty, 2014;). However, a careful analysis of statistics paints a far different picture. Despite the fact that finding immediate permanent teaching positions can prove difficult for new graduates, long-term data show that, far from the dire unemployment numbers that have raised headlines, the vast majority of new graduates – more than 80% – are employed as teachers in the years soon after graduation. Some of these teachers hold part-time and casual roles, and of these, some may be in those roles by choice and others may be looking for full-time work. In fact, the number of graduate teachers looking for employment is on par with other industries such as accounting and social work (Preston, 2013). Analysis of smaller sets of more recent data on 2014 graduates indicates that 96% of graduate teachers are working, albeit not always in a position of first preference (Fischetti, 2015).

NSWCDE seeks to inform the conversation around the employment prospects for teacher education graduates from a holistic, evidence based perspective, with the purpose of improving the profession’s stability, sustainability, and prioritisation of student learning outcomes.

Discussion

With more than 80% of teacher education graduates working in teaching at age 25-29 years, it is clear that most graduates manage to find work in the teaching profession, and prefer to find work in the teaching profession. However, the reasons why some graduate teachers are not finding immediate work in teaching, are underemployed (part time/casual while seeking full-time work) or working in other professions are more complex than a simple oversupply of university graduates. The proportion of women in the teaching workforce, compared to other occupations, may be a factor of high levels of part-time teaching employment– women are generally more likely to work part time for parts of their careers. Since 81% of the primary teaching workforce almost 60% of secondary teachers in NSW are female (with numbers of male teachers in decline) (DEC, 2014), it is reasonable to expect that this would impact the number of those trained in teaching who are not working full-time in teaching, across career stages.

Relative salary levels provide another window into the choices of some graduate teachers to find work outside the teaching profession. Trained secondary teachers, especially, are likely to find jobs outside of teaching that provide higher compensation, if they choose to look for them. As Preston notes,

Higher salaries (and associated advantages in conditions and status) may explain why some graduates, especially secondary teacher education graduates in inland NSW, may be working in other occupations – it is a matter of their choice, rather than an inability to obtain a position in the home occupation. For individuals aged 25 to 29 to be earning much the same as they would in the home occupation probably indicates that the knowledge and skills associated with their qualification are important in the other occupation, and thus not ‘wasted’” (2013).

With schools relying increasingly on casual positions, it is becoming more common for graduate teachers to spend some time in casual roles before securing full-time employment. Research shows that “the quality of teaching and learning provision are by far the most salient influences on students’ cognitive, affective, and behavioural outcomes of schooling” (Rowe, 2003, p. 1), and casual teachers are often not given the opportunity to achieve to their full potential of teacher effectiveness due to other paid work obligations, missing out on professional development, and not having the chance to develop sustained relationships with students over the long term (Klopper and Power, 2014). Indeed, teachers themselves perceive that working casually as opposed to in permanent and contract roles hinders their advancement and professional growth, and that the greater amount of classroom experience gained by those in full-time employment helps them to be more effective in the classroom (Mayer, 2014). NSWCDE acknowledges the reality of the present teaching profession while continuing to hold the position that staffing schools with permanent or long-term contract teachers is more optimal for students’ educational outcomes.

Finally, despite what may seem a relatively high rate of ITE graduates looking for work, reductions in training new teachers could well result in future teacher shortages. There has been a decline in ITE completions since 2009, and the rate of retirements will increase in coming years as the “baby boomers” advance in age (currently 53% of the teacher workforce is age 45 or over). While the supply and demand of primary teachers is currently well-balanced to meet projected needs, there are possible projected shortages in some areas of secondary education, particularly languages other than English, physics, mathematics, many fields of applied studies (DEC Supply and Demand, 2014). Independent schools are an area of projected growth as well, with estimates showing that they will require roughly 12,200 additional teachers (4,800 primary and 7,400 secondary) by the year 2020 (ISCA, 2011).

NSWCDE’s Position

It is the position of the NSWCDE that at both secondary and tertiary levels, students interested in a career in teaching should be given a realistic picture of the job market they will be heading into, one in which working casually or outside one’s preferred geographic area or subject area may be necessary in the short-term to secure long-term employment. Many universities are already implementing the recommendations of the recent Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) report in their admissions processes – measures to ensure that education students demonstrate “both academic skills and desirable personal attributes for teaching” (p. x). This may occur in a variety of ways, including interview or essay requirements, higher ATAR standards, and considering evidence of prior experience.

NSWCDE remains proud of the quality teacher preparation occurring in many ITE programs across Australia and maintains that, rather than 90% of teacher education graduates unable to find a job, 84% of teachers have been able to find work within two years of graduating, with 34% of graduates in full-time permanent roles, 38% in full-time contract roles, and the remainder in casual and part-time roles (Mayer, 2014). NSWCDE will continue to advocate for schools and systems to maintain full-time permanent or contract positions wherever possible, to improve teachers’ confidence in their job security and to better enable them to strengthen students’ educational outcomes.

Works Cited

Department of Education and Communities (DEC). (2014). “2014 Teaching Workforce Supply and Demand.” Retrieved from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/media/downloads/about-us/statistics-and-research/keystatistics-and-reports/workforce-plan-4-school-teachers.pdf

Department of Education and Communities (DEC). (2014, July). “Male school teachers” (fact sheet). Retrieved from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/media/downloads/aboutus/statistics-and-research/key-statistics-and-reports/staff-information/male-schoolteachers.pdf

Ferrari, J. (2013, 25 March). Millions wasted training teachers, The Australian. Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/education/millions-wasted-trainingteachers/comments-fn59nlz9-1226605045315

Fischetti, J. (2015, 9 March). “How many UON teaching graduates actually go on to get jobs in the field?” Personal communication.

Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA). (2011, 19 August). Education and Training Workforce: Schools. Submission to the Productivity Commission. Retrieved from http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/education-workforceschools/submissions/sub018.pdf

Klopper, C. J., & Power, B. M. (2014). The Casual Approach to Teacher Education: What Effect Does Casualisation Have for Australian University Teaching?. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(4). http://dx.doi.org/10.14221/ajte.2014v39n4.1

Mayer, D. et al. (2014). Longitudinal Teacher Education and Workforce Study (LTEWS) Final Report. Department of Education, Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/ltews_main_report.pdf

McDougall, B. (2014, 8 July). “No school jobs available for thousands of trained teachers throughout NSW schools.” Daily Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/no-school-jobs-available-for-thousands-oftrained-teachers-throughout-nsw-schools/story-fni0cx12-1226980912361

Patty, A. (2014, 20 October). “The human cost of NSW’s teacher oversupply.” Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/the-human-cost-of-nsws-teacheroversupply-20141020-118l98.html

Preston, B. (2013, August). Destinations of initial teacher education graduates: A report for the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. Retrieved from http://www.barbaraprestonresearch.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013-BPreston-Reportfor-NSW-VCC-Initial-teacher-education-graduate-destinations.pdf

Rowe, K. (2003, October). “The Importance of Teacher Quality as a Key Determinant of Students’ Experiences and Outcomes of Schooling.” ACER Research Conference Keynote. Retrieved from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/docs/pdf/Rowe_2003_Paper.pdf

Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG). (2014, December). “Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers.” Retrieved from http://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/action_now_classroom_ready_teacher s_print.pdf

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