AEU welcomes new investment; urges government to address workload.

The Australian Education Union Victorian Branch welcomes the Andrews Government’s announcement that it will invest in public school staff throughout the state. The $244.6 million investment includes cash incentives to attract teachers into hard to staff roles, additional support for learning specialists and additional principals and teachers to support schools in improving teaching and learning.

Meredith Peace, President of the AEU Victorian Branch says that “This investment is needed to support staff, who are the most valuable resource in our schools, to increase the value of the teaching profession and to ensure all students are taught by qualified teachers and have access to the range of subjects and supports they require.

“We know some schools have difficulties in attracting staff to fill vacancies, and with a rapidly increasing student population, this is likely to get worse. Investing in the workforce is a positive first step in finding solutions to this problem.

“Workload is the underlying critical problem which contributes to staffing shortages and attracting teachers into leadership roles. Government must invest further resources to address serious workload issues in schools. The 2016 ACER workload study showed teachers are working on average 53 hours a week, principals on average 60 hours a week, and at least 50% of support staff cannot complete required work within their paid hours.

“Lack of support for our staff in public schools is one of the biggest issues our members face. Government needs to go beyond meeting the demand for teacher shortages and employ more staff, so that teachers can spend more time focusing on teaching and learning and principals can be educational leaders rather than administrative and compliance officers.

“Teachers play a vital role in shaping and developing the minds of the next generation of Victorians. While financial incentives to encourage teachers into hard to staff roles is a good start, there must be investment in providing additional staff, beyond what is needed for student growth, to reduce workload. It is workload that is having a serious impact on the ability of teachers and school leaders providing the highest quality education for their students.

“Whilst we support initiatives to attract new entrants into the teaching profession, including those from other industries, the AEU remains concerned about the funding of programs such as Teach for Australia, which fast track training and delivery of teachers into schools. It is essential to meet the demand for teachers, but this must not be done at the expense of the existing standards or the quality of teaching and learning we deliver to our students.

“We welcome the funding to support the new learning specialists in public schools. The AEU gained these positions in the current Victorian Government Schools Agreement (VGSA) 2017, to provide a career pathway for teachers to remain in the classroom and use their expert teaching and learning skills to support other staff. Providing these staff with support and additional professional development will assist them and their colleagues, to deliver high quality education to their students.

“While this investment to attract teachers and principals will hopefully see improvements and greater levels of support in some our most disadvantaged public schools, this must be followed up with additional funding to address staff workload.

“The Morrison Government has continued to ignore the needs of children in our public education system by making the state government sign onto a dodgy bilateral funding agreement that delivers most of the money to catholic and independent schools that have the least need. Today’s announcement by the Victorian Labor Government is a positive step that tells our school staff that they are recognised and valued for the important work they do,” said Ms Peace.

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