Private schools poaching public staff amid teacher shortages

The Australian Education Union has continued to hear reports from AEU principals of private schools across Victoria poaching teachers from the public school system amid the current staffing shortage crisis.

AEU Victorian branch President Meredith Peace said these reports are extremely concerning, with this practice exacerbating the already serious staffing challenges faced by the state’s public schools.

“This is causing considerable stress and workload for principals, and puts at risk the right of every child to have a qualified teacher in their classroom and/or access certain parts of the curriculum," says Ms Peace.

“What we are seeing here highlights the current inequity that exists between public and private schools.

"Victoria’s public schools are only funded to 90 per cent of the federally determined resource standard, whilst the majority of private and Catholic schools are already at or in excess of 100 per cent. This means public schools are not operating on a level playing field and students are missing out on aspects of the education they are entitled to, thus diminishing their educational opportunities.

“It should therefore come as no surprise that private schools are able to use their abundant resources to offer financial incentives and opportunities, that public schools have no capacity to match.

“Private schools are the beneficiaries of federal and state government funding that resources them beyond the resource standard and their needs, while public schools remain underfunded and in need of urgent support.

“Public schools do the heavy lifting when it comes to supervising student teachers on placements in schools as part of their teacher qualifications, as well as employing the majority of graduate teachers. It is extremely disappointing to see private schools poach staff who have been supported in the public system to develop their skills and knowledge, only to be induced by incentives that public schools can’t match.

“At a time of historic teacher shortages and growing concerns of understaffing across Victoria’s public schools, such reports highlight just how essential it is for the Andrews government to take bold action.

“Every child deserves an equal opportunity to a comprehensive and high-quality education, provided by fully qualified teachers and whilst this circumstance is allowed to continue, we are denying some children that right."

The Australian Education Union in Victoria has released a Ten-year plan for staffing in public education, with recommendations for the Victorian Government to attract and retain teachers. The AEU is calling for urgent and bold action, including:  

  • Retention payments to be paid to existing staff in kindergartens, public schools and TAFE as incentives to keep them in the workforce 
  • Government-funded studentships providing cost-of-living financial support to Victorian students undertaking initial teacher education, with a guaranteed ‘bonded’ position when they graduate
  • Funded job placements for pre-service teachers during their study; and more targeted and funded support for early career teachers and their mentors
  • Further workload reductions.

“Victoria’s public school teachers are amongst the most dedicated professionals who go above and beyond to meet students’ needs. However, ever-increasing workloads, increasingly complex and challenging work, administration and accountability, and a lack of support are forcing them out of the profession.

“The Victorian Government must respond to these challenges with the urgency they demand,” Ms Peace said.