It is undeniable that quality teaching is the biggest in-school factor for influencing student outcomes. For students to have the opportunity to thrive in their education, we know our teachers must have the right education, knowledge and experience to unlock student potential. But, what happens when there are not enough teachers to support our more than 4 million students to succeed?

At a time when research is showing that teachers are feeling two years of COVID-related stress, the demands of remote teaching and more recently, teacher shortages due to COVID, combined with the obvious strain put on the profession by reported teacher shortages, we are at a tipping point that will likely impact this generation of learners.

As data is still being collected and analysed for 2022, whatever teacher shortages we might have are compounded by reports of shortages in leadership roles too: a significant number of middle leadership roles and principal roles are going unfilled.

Perhaps the recent survey of educators across Australia shows us something about why, with 80% feeling their work-life-balance was either ‘less or non-existent’ and job satisfaction had dropped from 91% in 2017, to 63% in 2021.

As AITSL CEO, Mark Grant states, This data shows that the wellbeing of our educators and leaders is just as important as it is for children and young people, and is vital to a well-functioning education system, especially so in a period of workforce pressures.

Through the work of the Australian Teacher Workforce Data initiative (ATWD) we know that 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%); however, around 1 in 10 intended to leave (13%) in under ten years.

This was the same for classroom teachers as for those in leadership roles. We also know that around 16% of teachers were 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 when compared with 2021.

Nationally, schools are suffering from teacher shortages, due not just to COVID, but a longer term issue with the pipeline of teachers entering the profession, exacerbated by the numbers leaving.

Realistically, the solution to teacher-demand is not a quick fix. Increasing the pipeline of participants in initial teacher education, will help ease the burden of demand in the future but takes about 4 years, with some of the newer alternate pathways to teaching having more concentrated timeframes than tradition avenues. Some jurisdictions have begun to actively recruit teachers from overseas to ease their demand issues,Mr Grant said.

However, the issue of teacher shortages is not unique to Australia, and although we will have some success in recruiting teachers from outside Australia, the countries they’re coming from are dealing with their own shortages.

A report released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics in October 2016 estimated that 69 million teachers would be needed worldwide in the following 14 years in order to provide every child with a primary and secondary education. And this was before the impacts of COVID hit our global community. UNESCO reiterated their report in 2020: nothing had changed – still 69 million teachers needed.

The recently released ATWD Report has given states and territories much needed data about the shape and nature of the teaching workforce, especially on the supply side. The next data release in mid-2022 and then again later in the year, will go even further to provide up to date information about teachers’ intentions. This is especially so as state and territory education employers get more precise in providing their future demand data.

The examination of the data provided by the ATWD, coupled with state and territory demand data, is critical for developing solutions to ensure we have enough teachers with the right qualifications, helping students thrive and succeed in their learning journey, wherever they are in Australia,Mr Grant said.

As the Secretariat to the ATWD initiative, AITSL would be well placed with its work with states and territories to drive the needed labour market modelling suggested in the recent Quality Initial Teacher Education Review to help get high quality teachers into all classrooms across Australia.

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Notes for Editors - The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) provides national leadership for the Australian, state and territory governments in promoting excellence in the profession of teaching and school leadership. AITSL is funded predominantly by the Australian Government.