Fix teacher shortage crisis now - AEU open letter to the Premier

In an open letter published in the Herald Sun and The Age this morning, the Australian Education Victorian Branch has called on Premier Daniel Andrews to act now to urgently fix the teacher shortage crisis being experienced in Victoria’s public schools.

This letter comes as teacher and staff vacancies for public schools in Victoria hit record numbers yesterday, with 2,255 positions advertised on the Education Department’s vacancies website.

AEU Victorian Branch President Meredith Peace said that despite early warnings, the Victorian Government has chosen not to take significant steps to address the shortages.

“The AEU Victorian Branch presented its Ten Year Plan for Staffing in Public Education to Premier Andrews more than twelve months ago, providing the government with a range of short, medium and long-term strategies to address the teacher shortage crisis Victoria’s public schools are facing.

“The AEU has emailed all government members of parliament every day for the past four days telling them how many vacancies are currently listed and asking them to take action. 

“The AEU has only been contacted by five of those MPs in response offering to discuss the issue. 

“Public teachers, principals and education support staff can no longer be expected to continue to spread themselves so thinly. It is time for bold and urgent action from the State Government to ensure Victoria has a stable supply of teachers, principals and support staff in the public school system now and well into the future,” Ms Peace said.

Contents of the letter:

Dear Premier Andrews,
Right now, there is a teacher shortage crisis in our public schools.
Every school in the state is affected — that means every student is impacted.

Some schools are 30 staff short, while others that are fully staffed can’t get replacement teachers when a permanent teacher falls sick. Most schools have very few and sometimes no applicants for teacher jobs.

As a community, we make a promise to our children and young people when it comes to their education, that they have the right to access high-quality, properly funded public education, and to be taught by a fully qualified permanent teacher. We are failing on this promise.

Teachers are leaving the profession in unprecedented numbers and many more are burnt out or on the brink. They are feeling undervalued. Class sizes are the largest they have been in many years. Teachers are working unsustainable and unpaid overtime, doing all they can to cover the gaps so that our students have the best programs possible when they do not have a permanent teacher. Principals, assistant principals, and education support staff are doing the same.

Not enough people are undertaking teacher training, and 50% of those who enrol in teacher education courses don’t complete them. And more than 40% of teachers leave the profession after five years.

More than 12 months ago, the profession warned you that the teacher shortage would likely see many classrooms without a permanent teacher unless you took urgent action.

Given the lack of real action by your government, does that mean you think it is ok for children and young people not to have a permanent teacher? Our students deserve better than that.

You need to take bold action now, we can’t afford to lose any more teachers and we must attract new teachers to our classrooms.

You need to:

  • provide retention payments for existing staff; fund paid placements for student teachers during their teaching rounds
  • pay a cost of living allowance to those undertaking teacher training and who commit to working in a public school
  • increase funding to directly support new teachers, in their first years on the job, including support time for mentors

Premier, there is a teacher shortage crisis in our schools.

You must act now!

Our students, their families, and the profession demand it.
Meredith Peace, Branch President, on behalf of AEU Victorian Branch members.

Meredith Peace is available for interviews.
Media contact: Dishi Gahlowt – 0434 159 833

16 August 2023