Education Workforce

Ms PAYNE (Canberra) (14:43): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Education. What is the Albanese Labor government doing to tackle the teacher shortage crisis it inherited?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:43): I thank the member for Canberra for her question. There aren’t many jobs that are more important than being a teacher, and we don’t have enough of them—not enough Australians becoming teachers and too many teachers leaving. This is a problem that has been building now for 10 years. In the last 10 years there’s been a 16 per cent drop in the number of young people enrolling in teaching, and there’s also been a drop in people completing teaching degrees. As a result, we don’t have enough new teachers, but on top of that a lot are leaving.

Think about this for a second: 30 to 50 per cent of teachers leave the profession in the first five years. A lot of really experienced teachers are leaving too—not retiring, just resigning. There’s no one reason for this, but one of them is workload. The idea that teachers rock up at nine o’clock and knock off at three o’clock isn’t right. The Productivity Commission released a report a couple of months ago that made the point that Australian teachers work longer hours than teachers overseas but they spend less time doing face-to-face teaching than their international counterparts. The report showed that only 40 per cent of the hours Australian teachers work includes face-to-face teaching. Fixing this will take time. Fixing this requires the Commonwealth government and state and territory governments to work together, and that’s what we’re doing.

Last month we released a draft national teacher workforce plan. It sets out the things the Commonwealth government will do, the things that state and territory governments will do and, most importantly, the things that we can do by working together. It includes $328 million in extra federal funding for things, including $159 million to train more teachers, $56 million for scholarships, up to $40,000 apiece to encourage our best and brightest to become teachers and a $25 million workload reduction fund to trial new ways to give teachers more time to teach. On top of that, there is a proposal for a national campaign to help raise the status of teaching to recognise the important work they do. So the draft is out there. We’re seeking feedback from teachers, principals and the general community about what’s right, what’s wrong, what needs to change and what should be put in the plan that’s not there. Ministers will meet in a couple of weeks to consider that feedback and finalise the plan.

Paul Keating said: ‘A good education is like the keys to the kingdom. It’s like a master key that opens every door.’ If that’s right—and I think it is—then our teachers are the key masters. We need more of them, and we need to keep the ones that we’ve got. That’s why this work is so important.