The number of people studying teaching degrees is declining, despite growing classroom numbers.

Federal, state and territory ministers will develop a national action plan, to be agreed to in December, following a meeting to fix the “massive challenge” of teacher shortages.

Key points:

  • Paid internships, visa fast-tracks and funding reform will be considered under a new national teacher plan
  • State and federal ministers will develop a workforce plan to be agreed to in December
  • NSW has proposed salaries of more than $110,000 for highly accomplished teachers

Education Minister Jason Clare said ministers heard confronting stories from teachers of 70-hour working weeks, but also heartwarming stories from the profession.

Mr Clare said the national plan would focus on strategies to encourage more people to become teachers, to help prepare them for the workforce and to retain the teachers already in employment.

The first meeting of education ministers since Anthony Albanese’s election win was attended not just by politicians but also teachers, principals and representatives from the unions and independent and Catholic school groups.

Mr Clare told ABC Radio National this morning that classrooms were growing, but fewer teachers were available to run them.

“You have more and more kids going to school … at the same time we have seen a drop of 16 per cent of young students going into teacher training,” he said.

“There aren’t many more jobs more important than being a teacher and we just don’t have enough of them.”

The graduation rate for teachers is also far lower than for other university students, sitting at just 50 per cent compared to an average of 70 per cent for other degrees.

Mr Clare said ministers would consider paid internships for final-year teaching students as well as early hands-on experience to improve retention rates for university students studying teaching.

He also questioned whether university funding should be reformed, so that funding was given based on completions rather than enrolments, akin to vocational education funding.

He said the government could also consider reintroducing shorter one-year education diplomas, though ministers did not go into that level of detail today.

The NSW government has already backed the Commonwealth government to consider university incentives to attract and improve retention of students studying education.

It is arguing against a national push on teacher pay, saying that should be left to the states — and it’s considering an overhaul on pay agreements, proposing to offer $73,737 for new graduates and a salary up to $117,060 for teachers who gain accreditation as a highly accomplished or lead teacher.

NSW has also proposed employing dedicated workers to help ease administrative burdens for teachers, something Mr Clare supported.

The state’s Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, proposed visa fast-tracks for people seeking to teach in high-demand subjects, and possibly even an accelerated path to citizenship.

Mr Clare said it was something he intended to take further at the national jobs summit in September.

Queensland is also negotiating pay rises for teachers, and the education union has agreed in-principle to 4 per cent yearly increases for the next two years and 3 per cent the year after, with potential adjustments for inflation.

Mr Clare said salaries for new graduates were already attractive, but that pay prospects tailed off as teachers progressed in their careers.

“The pay that teachers get when they start is pretty competitive, then it goes up in grades for about 10 years, and then it tops out,” he said.

“After 10 years, if you’re looking for a pay rise you either have to leave the classroom to become an assistant principal or you leave teaching altogether.

“So we’re losing some of these great teachers.”

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace said ministers had emerged from today’s meeting feeling optimistic, despite the substantial challenge.

“We heard first hand some of the struggles … and some of the glories of being a teacher, and we heard first hand what we need to do to go forward,” Ms Grace said.

“It is a breath of fresh air.”


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