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Strategy needed to attract top students as teacher shortage looms

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“We know we need more teachers, but they have to be top shelf,” Dr Wilson said. “We need a national recruitment campaign, one that would involve a strategy to ensure that we are getting the right people. We could have some sort of national media or television campaign.”

But Dr Wilson said the strategy would also require departments to know more about their existing workforces, such as which subject disciplines faced the biggest shortages and the problems that were forcing teachers out of the job.

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Working conditions were also key to ensuring that it was an attractive career, amid concern about an increasing administrative burden consuming time that could be better spent focusing on students, Dr Wilson said.

All sectors are facing shortages of teachers over the next 10 years, as the population grows. Projections for NSW show the public system will be educating another 72,250 students by 2029, a nine per cent increase.

The COVID-related economic downturn could provide a recruitment opportunity, with analysis of economic downturns overseas showing that they prompted greater interest in secure jobs such as teaching and health.

“Jobs like teaching and nursing are competing with other industries where salaries might rise faster,” said Michael Coelli, an associate professor in economics at the University of Melbourne.

“They are both difficult jobs. As other opportunities decline, they’ll find competing with those other opportunities a little easier. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens for graduates in the next little while.”

Julie Sonnemann, a school education fellow at the Grattan Institute, said teaching would attract more applicants if there were opportunities for career development in which the best educators could be recognised as masters of their craft.

While there are highly accomplished and lead teacher qualifications available, the bureaucracy and cost involved in applying for them has resulted in very few teachers applying or achieving those credentials.

“We know that there’s a strong link between teachers’ own results at school and how effective they are later on, in terms of attracting people who do well,” she said. “It’s not the only quality, but it’s an essential quality.

“One of the biggest reasons young people with high ATARs are increasingly rejecting teaching is that it isn’t seen to have a career path.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it used models to assess teacher demand, supply and availability, and had a “strong understanding” of where extra teachers would be required.

“In addition the department surveys schools and teachers annually on a number of factors, including engagement, intention to remain with the department, and their career aspirations,” he said.

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