Stephen Cenatiempo: Well, Australia’s teacher shortage crisis seems to be getting worse and the Federal Opposition says there’s no solutions being offered by the Albanese Labor Government. Shadow Minister for Education Sarah Henderson says Education Minister Jason Clare has failed to take urgent action to support schools desperately trying to fill thousands of teacher vacancies at the start of the school year. She joins us on the line now Sarah, good morning.
Senator Henderson: Stephen, a very good morning to you.
Stephen Cenatiempo: Isn’t this a state government issue?
Senator Henderson: Well, no, it’s not because the Commonwealth works in conjunction with the states and territories and provides a whole range of support and of course, a very significant amount of funding.
So while the states and territories have a very important role, so does the federal government and under the watch of the Education Minister Jason Clare, he really is failing to treat this with the urgency it deserves.
We have thousands of teacher vacancies right across this country. One school in Melbourne, would you believe Stephen, has 19 vacancies. How can parents have any assurance that their children can learn under those circumstances?
It’s putting enormous pressure on teachers, on principles and, of course, on students.
And Jason Clare has made a couple of announcements – teacher scholarships that don’t go to non-government schools, and a few other bits and pieces but really we’re starting the school year with a real crisis and he’s doing nothing about it.
Stephen Cenatiempo: So what specifically can be done because I look at the situation here in the ACT, where we have the highest paid teachers in the country and we’re struggling to attract new teachers, largely because there’s a cultural problem in our schools here, but what can the federal government do to fix problems like that?
Senator Henderson: Well, it’s a complicated question, but there are some very straight-forward solutions.
One of the things that we’ve been prosecuting is we need to give mid-career professionals more incentive to get into teaching.
There are a lot of Australians who want to be teachers. But how can you take two years out of the workforce to do a master’s degree to become a teacher, you know, whether you might have other qualifications, whether you’re in maths or engineering or accounting… so there’s a real problem with our teacher education.
The universities are generally doing a very poor job, and that’s been identified, and we do a lot of work when we’re in government. And really, the minister should be putting the blowtorch to the universities.
If they are not producing teachers who are capable in the classroom because they haven’t had the right education – these universities should lose their funding.
So, this minister needs to get tough. Yes, there’s lots of the states and territories need to do as well and some are doing a better job than others. But at a federal level, there’s some really important action that can be taken.
That’s not being done.
Stephen Cenatiempo: Sarah, I appreciate your time this morning, thanks for joining us.
Senator Henderson: Yeah, great to talk to you. Thanks, Stephen.