Public schools facing shortage of 3000 casual teachers each day

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

As worrying new statistics reveal public schools in New South Wales (NSW) are confronting a shortage of 3,000 casual teachers each day, the state’s Teachers’ Federation says a recent wage agreement struck with the Minns Government will help replenish teacher numbers.

A survey released this week by the NSW Education Department shows almost 10,000 lessons every day have inadequate teaching, due to a 42 per cent shortfall in the number of casual teachers available to cover classes.

In the state’s primary schools, 40 per cent of the lessons were unable to be covered by a casual teacher, resulting in merged or collapsed classes. In high schools, students in nearly 30 per cent of uncovered classes were left with minimal supervision.

“Regrettably, this data comes as no surprise,” says NSW Teachers Federation acting President Henry Rajendra. “The teacher shortage in NSW public schools is a direct consequence of the former government’s wage cap that artificially suppressed teachers’ pay. The wage cap made the profession less attractive.”

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Unmanageable teacher workloads that Mr Rajendra blames on “the policies of the previous government” have also made the profession less attractive to school-leavers considering their tertiary degree pathways.

“The situation was so bad that resignation rates outpaced retirements.”

Will more money attract more teachers?

An agreement struck between the Teachers Federation and the Minns Government will take effect this week and is, says a Teachers Federation statement, one important measure to end the shortage by attracting and retaining the teachers needed.

The starting salary for a NSW teacher will increase from $75,791 to $85,000 and the salary for a top-of-the-scale teacher will increase from $113,042 to $122,100. All teachers will move to a new higher-paying step, including casual teachers.

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“Our historic agreement with the Minns Government will take effect this week. By paying teachers what they are worth, expanding the pool of teachers available, whether they are casual, permanent, at the early stages of their career or highly experienced, we can begin to reverse the damage done, ” Mr Rajendra says.

“Casual teacher rates have been adjusted upwards meaning typical casual teacher will now take home much higher pay than they would have previously. However, more work is needed to address the unmanageable and unsustainable workloads of teachers in order to make the profession attractive once again. We will continue to engage with the government on this matter.”

Mr Rajendra describes the newly struck wages agreement as “critical to rebuilding the teaching workforce”.

“Teachers have fought for it because they believe in their students’ right to access a quality public education and the transformative power of the profession,” he says.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]