Are we facing a glut of teachers - Education Matters Magazine
Professional Development

Are we facing a glut of teachers

The evidence is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for teachers, particularly primary teacher graduates, to find permanent jobs.

In May, a federal government body, the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership, released a report showing that only half of education graduates got full-time jobs.

In 2011, 55 per cent of primary teacher graduates obtained full-time jobs, 31 per cent had part-time work and 14 per cent didn’t have jobs. For secondary teachers, 56 per cent had full-time appointments, 28 per cent worked part-time and 16 per cent didn’t have jobs.

Many graduate teachers in Victoria have short-term contracts, but want permanent positions. A 2012 Productivity Commission report, Schools Workforce, says contract and casual employment has been growing in Australia.

The report also says there is a surplus of teachers as “evidenced by the substantial number of (mainly primary) teachers who are on standby for positions in metropolitan areas”. For example, of the 33,000 teachers on waiting lists for permanent positions in NSW, about 19,000 are qualified primary teachers.

However, the Productivity Commission report also points out there are maths and science teacher shortages.

Earlier this year, The West Australian reported that more than 700 education graduates who applied to work in government schools missed out on jobs. Only 278 graduates out of 992 applicants had jobs by the first day of school this year.

Last week, the Barnett government said it would put a freeze on the hiring of new teachers.

Last year, the South Australian government in conjunction with universities released research predicting an oversupply of primary teachers and a very modest shortfall in secondary teachers.

And earlier this year, The Courier-Mail reported that 1608 new 2012 education graduates applied for work with Queensland’s Education Department this year, but only a fraction got jobs.

Unemployment among teaching graduates, particularly primary ones, is likely to get worse. Since the uncapping of university places in 2012, more students have been accepted into education courses.

Under the new demand-driven system universities can determine how many undergraduates they accept into degrees, except for medicine. As a result, universities are no longer guaranteed funding for a set number of student places. Their revenue now hinges on how many students take up their university offers.

The year before the demand-driven system was introduced, Deakin University’s Melbourne campus made 340 offers in its primary degree. In the first year of the new initiative, the number of offers jumped to 452 and this year the university made 511 offers in primary teaching.

Interestingly, the number of offers in science teaching at Deakin’s Melbourne campus has dropped by 15, from 65 in 2011 to 50 this year.

So, what can be done about the likely oversupply of teachers, particularly among primary teachers?

Perhaps Ontario, which has a glut of teachers, can provide guidance. The government in the Canadian province has just announced measures to cut back on the number of students training as teachers. The oversupply of teachers in Ontario is particularly acute among primary graduates.

The government will halve the number of university teaching places and also increase the time to complete an education degree. The measures are also intended to improve teacher training and raise standards.

British Columbia is also worried about an oversupply of teachers, but has been curbing enrolments. Part of the reason for the potential glut of teachers, according to experts, is the growth in the number of education courses offered.

Perhaps some of those courses should be dropped in British Columbia and Australia.

Now, 48 Australian institutions offer more than 400 initial teacher education courses. Some of those courses are new, particularly in Victoria where Holmesglen TAFE and the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE, now teach education degrees.

Of course, many Australian graduates who can’t find permanent jobs head overseas to teach. Canadians do the same. Third Degree recently met a graduate from Toronto who is teaching at a primary school in Essendon.

But it’s a waste of public money to keep training more and more teachers, particularly for primary schools, when the job market is tight. The money needs to be redirected into finding more ways to avert the shortfall in science and maths teachers.

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