Strategies by the State Government to tackle Western Australia’s teacher shortage are already beginning to pay off with vacancy rates for the start of the 2008 school year around half of what they were at the same time last year.
Education and Training Minister Mark McGowan said there were currently 21,500 teachers signed up to work at WA’s 770 public schools, leaving a shortfall of 134 positions (100 full-time and 34 part-time) throughout the State.
There were 264 vacancies at the same time last year.
Mr McGowan said the majority of vacancies this year were for secondary teaching positions in the Fremantle-Peel, West Coast, Swan and Canning education districts. The Pilbara also had more than 10 vacancies.
“I can assure the community that schools have strategies in place to deal with the situation and every regular class will have access to a teacher,” he said.
“Over the past year, the Government has been relentless in its approach to workforce issues in the State school system.
“While the vacancy rate is still too high, the fact that no school has more than five vacancies indicates that a number of the strategies we put in place throughout 2007 are beginning to bear fruit.
“For example, due to our early graduate recruitment program, we have managed to employ 628 graduates to date, compared with 487 at the same time last year.
“We have also appointed a further 48 teachers from overseas to start work during the 2008 school year.”
The Minister said longer-term initiatives, such as the additional scholarships announced in October last year, were on-track to deliver teachers to country areas from 2009 onwards.
“Many of the scholarships effectively lock graduates into Government contracts of up to four years at locations of need,” he said.
“Successful applicants will begin coming through the system as of 2009 and deliver a steady stream of new graduates for State schools over the next five years.”
Mr McGowan said 144 teachers currently working in desk jobs would also return to the classroom as part of the ‘Classroom First’ strategy.
“I expect further positions to be filled as a result of the ‘Let the teachers teach’ initiative, which will encourage schools to employ non-teaching staff to fill positions that do not require a teaching qualification,” he said.
“This will free up teachers to get back to what they do best - teaching.
“For example a school’s computer network and infrastructure could be maintained by a computer technician, freeing up a teacher to return to classroom teaching.
“Local clusters of schools will also be encouraged to share teaching resources with nearby schools that may not be fully staffed.”
The Minister said the majority of industries in WA were having difficulty attracting qualified staff and this included the teaching profession.
“Not all public schools in WA are affected by teacher shortages,” he said.
“There is a larger supply of teachers for primary schools, which cater for about 65 per cent of our 250,000 public school students.
“While we don’t have an across-the-board shortage, we do have a particular need for secondary teachers, particularly to take classes in Physical Science, English, Design and Technology, Maths and Society and Environment.”
Mr McGowan said the Carpenter Government would continue to work hard on continuing current recruitment initiatives and developing new strategies to boost the workforce into the future.
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