How will improved salaries address the complexities of schools to retain and attract teachers? 

Photo by Melissa Walker-Horn

“Teachers have the hardest and most important jobs; they’re building our nation. And we should appreciate them, respect them, and pay them well”

James Hunt

The recent salaries agreement between the NSWTF and IEU with the NSW Government has been widely reported and goes someway to acknowledge the work of teachers and school leaders. Teaching is a dynamic and challenging career. Improved salaries are one part of the solution toward resolving the teacher shortage.

It should be noted that other incentives are offered to attract teachers to work in hard, and very hard to staff schools. Yes, there are schools beyond the Great Dividing Range!

The flurry of government media releases, and positive reporting in mainstream media has resulted in broad public acknowledgement that this salary increase is necessary and fair. Social media posts by enthusiastic teachers and Teacher Unions highlight the success of their committed campaigning to achieve this salary outcome. Most certainly increasing the take home pay for teachers and school leaders is welcome but may also hide in the shadows of other costs usually borne by teachers.

Current research suggests that Australian teachers and school leaders spend on average $950 per year on stationery and classroom equipment to support student learning.

The 5-year Productivity Inquiry: From learning to growth (Inquiry report – volume 8; Report no. 100 – 7 February 2023), highlighted several tools for improving student outcomes in schools. Increasing school funding such that schools receive 100% of SRS and providing teachers with access to high-quality teaching materials will compliment improved salaries and focus on better teaching.

The NSW government has announced strategies aimed at reducing administrative workload currently felt by teachers and school leaders. These include increasing the number of administrative staff in schools and reviewing or, in some cases stopping the rollout of new policies. The rollback of schools managing budget areas is vital to address the school leader workload. A 2023 report in the Journal of Educational Change () identified the relationship between school autonomy and increasing workload of school leaders. The devolution of responsibility from the state to the local school has had profound implications for principals and teachers alike.

The cost of living is putting pressure on family budgets, school budgets and the government! The savings measures that have been announced by the NSW Education Minister are encouraging and should be viewed in the context of what real changes to policies, procedures and working conditions will be achieved.

Whether this new agreement will attract and retain teachers remains to be seen.