HUNTER teachers asking for improvements to wages and workloads say people are withdrawing from or not joining the profession due to the "crushing weight" of administrative duties.
The NSW Teachers Federation is one week into its More Than Thanks campaign, which is calling for teachers to be given an extra two hours preparation time each week and an annual payrise of between 5 and 7.5 per cent. Their award expires in December.
The federation said there was already a teacher shortage and a recent report showed at least 11,100 additional teachers were needed to meet a projected increase of 137,418 public school students between 2020 and 2031.
Newcastle Teachers Association deputy president Scott Cox said the organisation heard "constantly how difficult it is not only to find casual teachers but to find permanent staff".
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"Often we have casuals that will teach out of their subject area," he said.
"The other thing we're noticing as well, being on panels that do recruitment processes, is we see the number of actual applications that are applying for jobs diminishing hugely."
He said the volume of administrative work was deterring some people from studying teaching and leading some teachers to reduce their hours.
"The burnout in the profession is happening a lot earlier and they're not just going 'We can't afford to retire at 50' or whatever it is, but they're going 'I can't sustain this amount of workload, I need to step back and do part-time or work casually', they're trying to survive it all really."
Mr Cox said the campaign followed 18 months of upheaval and ahead of students' return to classrooms.
"There is mental and physical exhaustion and frustration that we're being taken away from the reason we became educators - we love the classroom, we want to be in there, we want to help our kids do the best they can," he said.
"I would never say any of my colleagues in the last 15 years have ever said 'I don't want to plan effective lessons for my students', what they say is 'I don't want to be under this crushing weight of admin that for all intents and purposes is data collection for the purpose of data collection."
Mr Cox said it was important and effective for teachers to assess students, identify strengths and weaknesses and change their teaching accordingly.
But he said the Department of Education was setting targets for each school based on the previous three years, determining what level they were expected to hit in areas including the Higher School Certificate, NAPLAN and student attendance.
"We get numbers given to us and they say 'meet this value' and then you spend all your time analysing where that value comes from and trying to put a plan together and by the time you get your plan together then the next one comes down and we're changing that to something else... it's this compliance that comes down at a ministerial level that pits schools against each other."
Mr Cox said the requested payrise - above the 2.5 per cent annual growth cap on public sector wages - was necessary to attract new staff and retain current staff.
"We're at a crisis point where if something isn't drastically done within the education sector to make sure we have the staff and resources and the good people we need then it is going to be disastrous," he said.
"People stand up and are very happy to say thank you, but don't actually do anything to show their thanks in making things more manageable."
A department spokesman said teachers' salaries were nationally and internationally competitive and other aspects, such as release from teaching time, were comparable to other states and territories.
"Teachers in NSW enter the profession at high levels of remuneration relative to graduate salaries and continue to increase as accreditations and promotions are achieved," he said.
He said the department had a record more than 90,000 teachers on the payroll and the department had hired almost 10,000 teachers since 2017.
He said NSW had the country's most comprehensive rural and remote incentives scheme and in some cases, these incentives offer up to an additional $40,000.
"Despite this, it can be hard to find staff in certain areas of the state, and therefore we know that, while increased financial support does improve our ability to attract and retain teachers in certain areas, simply raising salaries is not the sole solution," he said.
"The department is taking a solutions-oriented approach to implementing strategies addressing teacher supply, wellbeing and teaching quality."
He said it is currently receiving teacher feedback about its Quality Time action plan that will help teachers spend more time on their students, plus is reviewing its incentives scheme to attract and retain current and future teachers in rural and remote areas.
"We are also trialling a casual supplementation program which looks at creating hub schools that can rapidly deploy casual teachers to spoke schools that need a casual on short notice," the spokesman said.
"More broadly, the NSW Government is working on a number of initiatives to deliver a sustainable supply of quality teachers, including in critical subjects and locations.
"In the 2021/22 NSW Budget, $124.8 million was committed to realise the initiatives included in the Teacher Supply Strategy, due for release later this year. The strategy will build on substantial existing investment to boost the supply of quality teachers.
"To promote and build the profession the department is undertaking a number of mid-career and excellence recruitment reforms.
"The FASTstream program plays a critical role in attracting the best teachers to NSW public education. It will provide high performing teachers and high potential university graduates with an accelerated pathway to school leadership, including the possibility of becoming a principal within ten years - half the normal time.
"A new program into teaching, the Initial Teacher Education degree, is being developed, targeting mid-career professionals with high potential to enter the teaching profession. The program will be focused on teacher shortage areas such as maths and science and will help ensure regional and remote areas have an adequate supply of quality teachers."
University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor Human and Social Futures Professor John Fischetti said the institution had seen an increase in the number of students studying teaching, from a total of 4326 in 2017 to 4414 in 2018, 4313 in 2019, to 4518 last year and 4767 this year.
"Student enrolments in University of Newcastle undergraduate and postgraduate initial teacher education programs have increased in the last three years," he said.
"The reputation of the School of Education coupled with the flexibility of the programs and our focus on emerging technologies and work integrated learning means students are equipped with the knowledge and practical experience to excel in school classrooms when they graduate."
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