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Lifting Learning is...

Recruiting teachers to isolated & hard to staff schools

We believe that every child, no matter where they live in Tasmania, should enjoy the same high-quality education and access to a full and rich curriculum.

But growing teacher shortages in both overall number and subject areas around Australia will worsen the existing staffing problems in Tasmania’s isolated and other high-demand areas. 

Educator shortages ultimately impact on the quality of learning that students receive. 

The top staffing issues identified by teachers in isolated schools were attracting experienced teachers, (e.g. those with ten or more years of service), sourcing relief teachers and retaining new educators beyond three years. 

Relief teacher shortages are critically bad in isolated areas and 63% of teachers, pre-COVID, reported turning up to work sick because of their school’s inability to cover their absence. Forty per cent of teachers said their school “rarely” or “never” could find relief teachers when required. 

Overall, Tasmanian teachers rate the Government’s isolated schools’ financial ‘incentives’ package as poor and is underwhelming when compared to what is offered to teachers in equivalent areas interstate and when compared with what other Tasmanian public sector workers receive. 

For example, Tasmanian police receive payments to compensate them for living in isolated areas of up to three times the equivalent payments received by teachers. 

Meanwhile, Tasmanian teachers receive an allowance designed to compensate them for the higher cost of living which has not been adjusted for inflation in almost ten years. And the “incentive” payments offered to teachers end after six years and have a gap in the second year when nothing is paid. 

In addition to more attractive financial packages, police also receive high quality housing, rent free, while teachers have to pay a nominal rent for housing of variable quality. A majority (56%) of teachers surveyed described Department-provided housing as either “low quality” or “very low quality” and just two per cent rated it as “very high quality”.

Education housing is generally designed for singles and not suitable for families which is a further disincentive for mid-career teachers, who are highly sought after, to relocate. 

In contrast, the Victorian Government has launched a campaign to recruit 4000 educators which includes generous incentives to fill high-demand positions of up to $50,000.

The NSW Government offer additional payments of around $30,000 with a range of other incentives layered on top such as $10,000 payments for experienced teachers to serve in high-demand areas and even a “climatic allowance” to compensate for working in hot weather regions.

I have lived and taught on King Island for over 35 years. I love living in this remote community, but I must say it does come with its challenges.

I have grown accustomed to the isolation, particularly the storms and gale force winds, but the high cost of living is still hard to accept. I have trained myself to ignore the prices of the fruit and vegetables. When I worried about the cost, shopping became too depressing.

The allowance that I receive as a teacher serving in an isolated schools goes virtually nowhere to covering all the additional costs of living on a remote island. Unfortunately, I have seen many fine teachers leave our community because they struggled to make ends meet.

Without realistic cost of living allowances sadly isolated communities such as mine will struggle to recruit and retain the quality teachers we need.

Such incentives would hopefully make a difference in attracting a variety of educators - both graduates and experienced teachers – to work in isolated areas and encourage existing staff to stay beyond the current three years of minimum service.

Lifting Learning

The Government to develop a comprehensive and attractive package of incentives to ensure all schools in isolated and high-demand areas can attract and retain the staff they need to provide high quality education for all.