NEWS THAT MATTERS

Minister fudges teachers

shortage data again

On the eve of an election the Liberal National Government wants the public to believe that they can create 2,500 teacher positions within the next two years and that there is no teacher shortage. Yet the Education Minister Sarah Mitchell describes teacher shortages as a “beat up” and “misinformation” despite recent Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data showing that NSW had the largest decline in teacher numbers of all states.

The NSW Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell continues to deny there is a teacher shortage crisis in NSW, yet the recently released ABS data on the crisis is consistent with the Education Department's own data.

 

In an interview withe Radio 2GB host Ben Fordham last Wednesday, Mitchell refused to reveal how many classes have been merged or cancelled when asked by Fordham, who said “I'm interested to know how many merged or cancelled classes are there on a weekly basis in NSW?” Mitchell replied “But that figure is up to individual schools.”

24 February 2023

ALAN HAYES

 

NEW data shows NSW is falling behind the rest of the nation when it comes to teacher recruitment, with a net decline of 128 teachers over the past year, according to the ABS.

 

NSW was the only state to experience a decrease other than Western Australia.

 

It also shows that NSW net teacher recruitment over the past 11 years was the slowest of all the states other than Tasmania.

 

Victoria and Queensland recruited teachers at almost five times the rate of NSW over that period.

 

Last year it was revealed that 28,233 permanent teachers left NSW public schools between 2010 and 2021.

 

In 2021 alone, the Government’s own data shows it lost 2,425 teachers – with resignations overtaking retirements as the main reason for the loss.

 

The state’s teacher shortage has tripled under 12 years of the Liberals and Nationals.

 

Yet Sarah Mitchell, the NSW Minister for Education, continues to deny there is a teacher shortage crisis in NSW, claiming it is a “myth”, a “lie”.

 

During the 2GB debate with host Ben Fordham, Mitchell, after denying the teacher crisis problem then revealed that half of all NSW schools are impacted by teacher vacancies. And instead of the Government accepting blame for the current teacher crisis the Minister instead foisted the blame onto the teachers saying that they are “ringing in sick” and described the problem of thousands of school children missing out on learning as false.

 

Yet compared to other countries, between 2006 and 2018 NSW students dropped from 6th to 23rd in reading, dropped from 9th to 31st in maths and dropped from 3rd to 23rd in science.

 

In fact, NSW had the largest decline of any Australian state in PISA reading results between 2000 and 2018.

 

In the most recent NAPLAN tests one in six Year 9 boys did not reach the national minimum standard when it came to grammar and punctuation - the lowest in NAPLAN history.

 

Today, almost one in 10 Year 9 students in NSW cannot read at the minimum standard.

 

This means 12,500 Year 9 students cannot write at the minimum standard, while almost 9,000 Year 9 students cannot read at the minimum standard.

 

Prue Car, NSW Shadow Minister for Education, “The Liberal-National Minister described thousands of school children missing out on classes as a ‘myth’ and a ‘lie’ – the parents of this state know full well that cancelled classes are a reality that affects them every day.

 

“What the Minister does not seem to accept that the most important factor in a students outcome is having a teacher in front of them.

 

“How can the parents of NSW expect the Minister to fix the classroom crisis if she won’t even accept the problem exists.

 

“The Minster for Education continues to insist the teacher’s shortage is a nationwide problem, but this data shows that NSW is recording the largest declines and the slowest recruitment across the nation.

 

“It is astounding that the Minister for Education continues to remain in denial about chronic teacher shortages that so many parents and students know all too well about.”

 

And when put on the spot by the media, what does Sarah Mitchell do – tries to deny or downplay the existence of the teacher shortage crisis in NSW and directly contradicts her own department’s figures.

 

ABS data clearly shows that NSW has the highest number of students per teacher of all states in the country, with there being a teacher for every 14.2 students. The average across Australia is 13.4 students per teacher.

 

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said that “Based on the true numbers, NSW has one teacher for every 11.4 students.”

 

However, this seems at complete odds with her own department’s annual report from last year, which states that the “Overall student-to-teacher ratio” is 14.3.

 

The Education Department’s data is consistent with the ABS and completely contradicts Minister Mitchell’s figures.

 

Minister Mitchell is basically claiming that there are 14,000 more teachers than what the Department of Education or the ABS data shows.

 

This is not the first time that Minister Mitchell has tried to downplay the teacher shortage crisis by fudging the figures.

 

Earlier this year, after internal documents from her own department showed that teacher vacancies had tripled under the NSW Liberal-National Government’s watch, Minister Sarah Mitchell labelled this as “misinformation”.

 

On 8 November 2022, despite her own department’s data showing over 2,400 teacher vacancies at the time Minister Mitchell said that “to claim that there is some kind of shortage of thousands and thousands of teachers is just not true".

 

Even on 29 January 2021, Minister Mitchell described the growing teacher shortage crisis as a “beat up”.

 

The ABS data also showed that NSW is falling behind the rest of the nation when it comes to teacher recruitment, with a net decline of 128 teachers over the past year, according to the ABS.

 

NSW was the only state to experience a decrease other than Western Australia.

 

It also shows that NSW net teacher recruitment over the past 11 years was the slowest of all the states other than Tasmania.

 

Victoria and Queensland recruited teachers at almost five times the rate of NSW over that period.

 

NSW Deputy Labor Leader Prue Car and Shadow Minister for Education Prue Car said “It is embarrassing for Minister Mitchell to have data from the ABS and her own department directly contradict her.

 

“Minister Mitchell can keep trying and trying to deny the existence of the teacher shortage crisis but children and parents know the truth – their schools are suffering from a lack of teachers in classrooms.

 

“If you keep denying the problem, how can the people of NSW trust that you can fix it?”

 

But the Liberals denial of the teacher shortage gets even better – the government would have parents believe that as the election looms that a cash splash will solve he classroom crisis that is driven by chronic teacher shortages and crippling administration burden.

 

The NSW Liberal-National Government has promised $4,000 to teachers, who successfully achieve the “Highly Accomplished or Lead Teacher” (HALT) level.

 

This is the same government that produced only 310 HALT positions during its 12 years in charge.

 

In fact, in the four years from 2017 to 2020 the NSW Government approved only 60 HALT positions across the 2,200 NSW public schools. Yet now Mr Perrottet and Ms Mitchell want the public to accept that they can create 2,500 positions in the next two years.

 

Shadow Minister for Education Prue Car said “This is too little too late from a tired, 12-year-old government that is out of ideas and throwing money out the door 5 minutes before an election.

 

“Election-eve cash splashes won’t solve the classroom crisis that is driven by chronic teacher shortages and the unsustainable admin burden that has built up on our teachers.

 

“The Liberal National Government is expecting their own failing programs to suddenly start working.”

 

Yet not surprisingly, the Liberal-National Government’s own data shows that less than one in five teachers believe they have the time to do their job properly.

 

Now 60 per cent of teachers are planning to leave the profession in the next 5 years, and for the first time - last year, resignations outnumbered retirements in the teaching profession. NSW now has a situation where teacher resignations have overtaken retirements. And if less and less people can see themselves pursuing a career in teaching, we can't recruit more teachers into these programs.

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