Our children get up every day and head to school, ready for a packed day of learning. Now imagine this same scenario but they enter their classroom only to be told they don’t have their teacher anymore.

Australia’s education system is caught in the crosshairs of a competing crisis. Teachers are feeling the impact of two-plus years of COVID-related stress, and the twin demands of remote and face-to-face teaching. We know there are reports of teacher shortages and it’s putting an unsustainable strain on the profession. 

Our 4 million students, their parents, and our 350,000 educators, all want a quality teacher standing in front of every classroom, every day – we need to resolve our teacher shortages across Australia. Yesterday’s teacher shortage is today’s leadership shortage. These shortages include middle leadership roles and principal roles that are going unfilled, often with rotating relieving staff.

A focus on the wellbeing of teachers and leaders is essential, as a recent survey showed, 80% of educators felt their work-life-balance was either ‘less or non-existent’ and job satisfaction had dropped from 91% in 2017, to 63% in 2021. 

Through the work of the Australian Teacher Workforce Data initiative (ATWD) the 2018 data shows that 1 in 4 members of the teacher workforce indicated they were likely to leave the profession before they retire (25%) and around 1 in 10 intended to leave (13%) in under ten years. This was the same for classroom teachers. We also know that around 16% of our teaching workforce is approaching retirement age. All this at a time when the Australian Bureau of Statistics has flagged a 21% increase in the number of students starting school in 2030, compared with those starting in 2021.

In terms of the ATWD initiative, we are well placed to work with states and territories to drive the needed labour market modelling AITSL outlined in the 2020 National Teacher Workforce Strategy and was recommended more recently by the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review, to help get high-quality teachers into all classrooms across Australia.

The pipeline of participants in initial teacher education will help ease the burden of demand, but takes about 4 years, with some newer, alternate pathways on a smaller scale into teaching being canvassed. Some jurisdictions have begun to actively recruit teachers from overseas to ease their demand issues.

But does this truly solve this issue longer-term? A report released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics in October 2016 and more recently in 2020, estimated that 69 million teachers would be needed worldwide in the years to 2030 to provide every child with primary and secondary education. And this was before the impacts of COVID hit our global community. 

It's obvious that the solution to teacher-demand is not a quick fix, but by analysing the data from both demand and supply, we will know the shape of the problem we are solving and can ensure fit-for-purpose solutions.

Mark Grant, AITSL CEO