South Australian teachers set for mental health boost and funding increase

Michael Williams
Michael Williams

South Australian public school teachers are set for a boost in more resources, including a boost to mental health services.

Minister Blair Boyer, education ministers from other states, and Federal Education Minister Jason Clare agreed that bringing all schools to 100 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) was needed in Australian schools.

That would mean an extra $190 million for SA schools.

“South Australia is leading the nation with our education reforms – and I intend to ensure we drive reform and secure the funding our state deserves,” Minister Boyer says.

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Teacher shortage issues continue

Nationwide, schools are struggling to meet staff requirements, and there are currently dozens of teaching vacancies advertised in SA schools.

Ahead of the meeting, Minister Boyer highlighted the efforts needed in his state.

“Teaching vacancies have remained steady in SA at around 60-70 throughout the year – and while it’s not the numbers seen elsewhere in Australia – it shows we’re not immune to the national teacher shortage,” he says.

“[With this funding] we can invest into the things that matter – such as well-being for learning and engagement. It would mean we would have the appropriate resources to support our students when they need it the most.”

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Minister Boyer says he will also push for an agreement focusing on the three areas that will result in better student academic outcomes: equity and excellence, well-being, and workforce. We know that a great teacher makes a massive difference. We know that if your mental health isn’t in good shape, you won’t perform well academically.

“Delivering on the Teacher Workforce Action Plan [a Federal action plan for teacher attainment and retention released last year] is urgent; alongside the improved working conditions we are delivering through a new Enterprise Agreement including permanency for more teachers and workload reductions through 100FTE [full-time equivalent] mental health and learning specialists,” he says.

Mental health practitioners in schools help students

Minister Boyer has been pushing for mental health reforms for some time; the 100 mental health specialists he says will be delivered is part of a bigger picture plan for SA schools.

Earlier this year, they launched a program that brought fifty-five mental health practitioners to 65 schools. Minister Boyer said at the time that the challenge was finding the staff to work as psychologists and social workers.

“This investment … will see a workforce including psychologists, social workers … and other learning support specialists in place to help young people tackle issues early.”

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Providing “an actual dedicated staff member” to deal with mental health issues would help with the “parlous state of the mental health of young people and staff” at schools across the state, and he believes teachers will benefit.

Fight for pay and better conditions still unresolved

Will the new reforms be enough to tie over frustrated teachers?

SA teachers have been striking on and off since August in an ongoing fight for better pay and working conditions. This included a strike during year 12 exams.

And while the SA branch of the Australian Education Union has encouraged teachers to accept the most recent offer, the deadlock between teachers may not be broken until they vote tomorrow, 15 December.

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Michael R Williams has been writing for regional newspapers for the past 3 years, including delivering the Longreach Leader to its 100th year. He is passionate about the opportunity journalism offers him to interview and tell the stories of Australians with a broad and diverse range of backgrounds. He is an obsessive reader and podcast listener.