Career stability, overwork and the teaching recruitment crisis

Teachers leaving the profession in droves can be stopped using these strategies.
Jul 15, 2021
Treat teachers with some consideration and they might stick around.

Increasing casualisation of teaching is leaving those in the profession without career stability and discouraging those considering teaching as a job.

This is at a time when there is a distinct shortage of teachers and a profession that is generally under pressure and overworked.

Associate Professor Rebecca Collie, UNSW (Sydney) says, "This is a complex issue and there are many factors implicated in it. Fortunately, there are some factors that schools can focus on to help attract and retain teachers."

Associate Professor Collie is Scientia Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the UNSW School of Education with a research focus on motivation and wellbeing.

"Researchers have identified several job supports that are linked with greater retention and recruitment in the profession. Involving teachers in decision making across the school, seeking teachers’ perspectives, and encouraging teachers' input are factors associated with greater teacher retention and wellbeing at work.

"Provision of relevant and effective professional learning, along with support for classroom management also play an important role in helping schools attract and retain teachers.

"Research has also consistently shown that high workloads are a key job challenge implicated in teachers’ decision to leave the profession. Streamlining teachers’ administrative tasks and reducing extraneous tasks are important, as is ensuring that teachers are supported to switch off after work and recharge.

"Increasing the job supports provided to teachers, while simultaneously reducing the job challenges teachers face, may help schools to attract and retain teachers – and also ensure that teachers’ wellbeing is promoted." 

Dr Deborah Price, University of South Australia adds that, "Prioritisation of the wellbeing of the teaching profession continues to be challenged and pushed to the sidelines." 

Dr Price is the Research Degree Coordinator and Senior Lecturer in Inclusive Education and Wellbeing at the University of South Australia Education Futures.

"Prior to Covid-19 many of the nation’s potentially highest quality teachers were already questioning entry into teaching and reports ranged from between one quarter to a third of teaching graduates leaving the profession within the first five years of employment."

Dr Price notes the impact of not prioritising the wellbeing and status of our teachers. "The challenges in teacher recruitment numbers has been partly attributed to increasing stress, anxiety and mental health directly associated with increasing casualisation and job insecurity."

"The move to digital teaching platforms, 24/7 workloads, datafication, excessive administration, performativity related to global academic benchmarks, narrowing of curriculum, and the lowering societal perception of the status of teachers all play a part."

"Mentoring graduating teachers into local contexts is a key responsibility of leaders as such support has been shown to be a significant factor in early career teachers’ positive transition to the workplace and sustained and quality teaching careers."

"Unfortunately, systemic influences challenge leaders’ capacity in this process as they too are impacted by managing short-term contracts and increased casualisation."

Educational researcher for the Macquarie School of Education Dr Minami Uchida, says that, "Australian teachers are resilient, adaptive, and committed to their work. However, there is a looming recruitment crisis for teachers across primary and secondary schools due to systematic issues.

Dr Uchida, investigates the experiences of casual relief teachers in Australian schools and her findings are directly relevant to the current teacher crisis.   

"One major factor for the crisis is the significant proportion of teachers who are employed on temporary contracts or day-to-day casual basis.

"This lack of secure, permanent positions is an obstacle in discouraging the recruitment and retainment of passionate educators. Those teachers currently in the profession are also facing increased workloads without the commensurate pay rise.

"There is also little recognition from the public about the overwhelming emotional labour required from teachers to maintain student wellbeing on a daily basis. Without these issues being explicitly addressed through changes in policy, it will be students who are impacted by teacher shortages and burnout."

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