Australian Education Union, ACT Branch

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Submitter information


Australian Education Union, ACT Branch

Where are you located?

Australian Capital Territory

What type of area do you live in?


Are you an education professional?
(e.g. teacher, school leader, learning support assistant, teacher’s aide)


Which sector do you work in?


What is your occupation?

Union President (formerly primary school teacher)

Elevating the profession

The actions proposed recognise the value teachers bring to students, communities and the economy.

Strongly disagree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

In the context of a teacher shortage crisis, the actions listed here fail to aim for the reset that is required. It fails to direct states and territories to take action other than those actions already in place. The evidence is that these actions are insufficient. This action plan does not address the real issues of workload, salaries and funding.

The focus of actions in this theme is on rewarding a very small number of individual teachers rather than elevating the profession. There are 300,000 teachers in Australia and the actions listed in this theme seek to celebrate just a tiny handful of them. This is not ‘elevating the profession’ but rather feeding into a popular but harmful perception that teacher quality is the main issue facing education. Rewarding people for going above and beyond is concerning – we need to respect everyone for doing their job, not just those who can take on extra unpaid work.

Actions 1-3 are marketing activities. While they may be necessary to overcome years of sustained attacks on teacher professionalism, in themselves they are not sufficient. Recognising the value of teachers requires a range of measures that respect teachers’ professional expertise and rewards them accordingly. No marketing campaign will be effective in delivering this objective without a concomitant increase to teacher salaries. While we note employment matters are the domain of states and territories, with each minister represented on the working group, it is disappointing in the extreme that the matter of teacher remuneration has not been addressed.

Additionally, elevating the profession requires sustained investment in infrastructure and maintenance to ensure that public schools exude quality and present as an attractive place to work and study.

Improving teacher supply

The actions proposed will be effective in increasing the number of students entering ITE, number of students completing ITE and the number of teachers staying in and/or returning to the profession.

Somewhat agree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

The actions in this objective are predominately focused on student entering ITE, with little attention paid to students completing ITE, retention in teaching, or measures to encourage teachers to return to the classroom.

We also note that most of the actions listed in this theme are existing programs. That we still need a national plan to increase teacher supply should be evidence enough that the piecemeal, inconsistent and under-resourced approach to tackling this issue is insufficient.

It is important that attraction strategies do not undermine attempts to elevate the profession by watering down registration requirements. We note with concern the investment in schemes such as TFA despite little evidence of these programs delivering successful outcomes. We would prefer to see the HAT funding used to increase postgraduate bursaries to above $30,000 per year, so that they would have a real impact on the financial disincentive to become a teacher mid-career.

States and territories should be incentivised to implement strategies aimed at keeping teachers in the profession, addressing the well-known factors that make teachers want to quit – workload, stress, pay and respect. Strategies should include career progression options that provide recognition and advancement for expert teachers to remain teaching rather than leave the classroom for management positions to accelerate their career. Teachers in their first three years in the classroom should have lower teaching hours and well-resourced mentoring and support.

The ACT Teacher Shortage Taskforce considered ways to reengage qualified teachers, particularly women who leave the workforce after taking parental leave. We recommend better support to managers to implement flexible working arrangements, employers paying teacher registration fees, and support to find affordable childcare close to the school where a teaching parent works.

While many of the actions listed above are the domain of states and territories as employers, the national plan can incentivise them to enact measures that would make a difference – not just re-state their existing, insufficient, activity.

Strengthening Initial Teacher Education (ITE)

The actions proposed will ensure initial teacher education supports teacher supply and quality.

Somewhat agree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

Linking funding of ITE to performance measures such as completion rates is a recipe for disaster and invitation to unscrupulous providers to lower standards to secure funding.

We strongly recommend that ITE students receive payment while undertaking professional placements, in recognition of their labour contribution and as a measure to encourage greater diversity of student intake and success, noting the inequities for students who have to hold down paid employment while completing full time professional placements.

We support the plan to increase the number of First Nations teachers by leveraging key lessons from MATSITI and supports the close partnership with the organisations listed. We encourage the department to engage with the AEU Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee, Yalukit Yulendj.

The AEU maintains its opposition to LANTITE as an assessment of skills, and that entry into and a passing grade in an ITE course should indicate sufficient skills. However, the AEU welcomes the change to allow students to take the test prior to the commencement of studies, the increased feedback and support and additional permitted attempts proposed in the plan.

Action 11 should be strengthened to require employers to provide accelerated salary progression in recognition of prior workplace experience. It should also consider strengthening awareness of VET pathways to a teaching qualification that may be more accessible for paraprofessional teaching assistants. Formal articulations of nested courses of study (as approved by TEQSA) would be helpful in assuring these potential future teachers that undertaking Certificate or Diploma level qualifications can then be credited against the requirements of a Bachelor degree. It would also enable state education employers to provide employment-based pathways or financial incentives to these groups through partnership with HE providers and the TAFE sector.

Maximising the time to teach

The actions proposed will improve retention and free up teachers to focus on teaching and collaboration.

Somewhat agree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

Reducing excessive workload must be prioritised if attraction and retention strategies are to be effective. As such, this plan must have a stronger compulsion for states and territories to participate in teacher workload reduction initiatives (action 14).

We do not support the listing of the Schools Administration System (of the ACT) under point 15. Our members report that its design and functionality increase teacher administrative workload. It must be removed.

The ACT Education Directorate has implemented crisis management responses to reduce teacher workload at the request of the AEU. These include pupil free days and reduced reporting requirements. These are band-aid responses, which are welcome, but do not represent systemic and sustained workload reduction.

The national plan should be specific about workload reductions measures. We recommend actions like: 80% teaching load for beginning teachers, additional administrative resourcing for school leaders, limits on maximum weekly hours, adequate resourcing to support student adjustments to meet the increasingly diverse needs of student.

We support action 17 – all initiatives should be subject to workload assessment. This should be part of the next NSRA and added to all bi-lateral agreements made under it.

In relation to action 18, we note that there has been a significant increase in the number of teaching assistant paraprofessionals employed in the ACT public school system (around a 50% increase from 2016 to 2022), and yet there has not been any indication of a correlated decrease in teacher workload.

Additionally, if ITE students are deployed to address the teacher shortage (as has been agreed to in the ACT), they need to be paid for their work. There are industrial and regulatory considerations for this.

Better understanding future teacher workforce needs

How effective are the proposed actions in better understanding future teacher workforce needs, including the number of teachers required?

Very effective

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

We note how highly regulated the teaching workforce is, and how poorly states and the Commonwealth have conducted workforce planning through to the present. Information on teachers is held by employers, by ATRAs, and by WWVP regulators, and information on students is available through demographic data. Actions to understand future workforce needs should not aim to ‘improve information available’, but rather must assume such a situation of ignorance to be unacceptable and must build information infrastructure to ensure future shortages never occur again. It is not a lack of data that has caused this problem, but a lack of functional collaboration and funding to be able to plan. Teachers are now bearing the brunt of poor government decision-making.

Jurisdictions must be held accountable for utilising readily available data to undertake and share workforce planning and not to squander resources. Jurisdictions must share data with AEU branches, as has been agreed to by Teacher Shortage Taskforce in the ACT, an initiative of the AEU in partnership with the ACT Education Directorate. Data should include early childhood teachers, for whom regulation application varies.

The ACT Teacher Shortage Taskforce was the first initiative in Australia to measure indicators including current and future workforce needs, staff absences, the availability of relief teacher staff, and consequent split and collapsed classes. Its success has hinged on the fact that the AEU, as the sole professional representative of teachers in the ACT, was directly supplied data and consulted on its interpretation. The AEU must be consulted on the development of national datasets listed as actions here.

Better career pathways to support and retain teachers in the profession

The proposed actions will improve career pathways, including through streamlining the process for Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher (HALT) accreditation, and providing better professional support for teachers to retain them in the profession.

Somewhat agree

Would you like to provide feedback about these actions?

We welcome the emphasis on retaining existing staff as this is insufficiently addressed in theme 2. However, the actions are limited in their impact. Action 24 requires greater Commonwealth direction and resourcing otherwise it will result in jurisdictions reporting on existing initiatives that have proven to be ineffective.

We recommend that the AEU is involved in the mentoring and induction guidelines under action 25, because our members know the significant workload impact of mentoring. The ACT has mentoring for beginning teachers in our Enterprise Agreement, but schools often struggle to make arrangements for entitlements to be accessed because of staffing shortages.

Action 26 while welcomed is unlikely to have a significant impact on retention issues. We are not aware that teachers are leaving the profession because they do not feel adequately prepared to teach First Nations peoples or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives. This action is therefore better placed under the theme of strengthening ITE.

We welcome streamlining HALT accreditation processes, noting the low uptake of HALT is due to its onerous applications that add workload demands on teachers.

Action 28 includes funding for micro-credentials that could be better spent on CPD that is already required by ATRAs. Teaching is already an industry with excessive CPD requirements as compared with other professions. Teachers do not need to have even more professional development demands but rather need paid time out of the classroom to be able to engage in CPD and further study that is suited to their career interests and school’s needs.