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Media release: Valuing The Teaching Profession - An independent Inquiry

November 24, 2020

Following more than four weeks of public hearings featuring representatives of the teaching service and other experts we have reached the final day of hearings at Valuing the Teaching Profession – An Independent Inquiry.

Below is a copy of closing submissions NSW Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos will deliver to the Inquiry, headed by former WA Premier, Dr Geoff Gallop.

“Mr Gavrielatos said: “It is not a question of whether teachers and principals need more support and time to focus of teaching and learning. They do.”

“It is not a question of whether the salaries of teachers and principals have kept pace with other comparable professions. They haven’t.”

Mr Gavrielatos will tell the Inquiry our public schools no longer have support from the Department of Education in areas such as curriculum implementation, equity programs and student and staff welfare.

He will say:

  • Student numbers are projected to increase by 20 per cent over the next 20 years making the need to attract and retain teachers urgent.
  • The recruitment and retention of good teachers depends on improving salaries and working conditions;
  • Teachers must have more release time for lesson planning and a reduction in administration, compliance and data collection work; and
  • Teachers deserve a competitive professional salary matching the complexity and intensity of the work they do every day.

The Independent Inquiry, headed by Dr Gallop and including former NSW Industrial Relations Commission deputy president Dr Trisha Kavanagh and Patrick Lee, former Chief Executive of the NSW Institute of Teachers, will report in February 2021.

Where: Heritage Room
When: from 9.30am Tuesday 24 November 2020 Federation House 22-33 Mary St Surry Hills

The proceedings are being live-streamed via the Inquiry website www.teachinginquiry.com.au.

Media contact John Hill 0412 197 079


Closing statement by Angelo Gavrielatos

Valuing the teaching profession – an independent inquiry

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you again today.

It is with great pride that I sit here having listened to all the evidence presented to this inquiry by teachers and principals, indeed representatives of the teaching service at large, working in settings across NSW.

Their testimony reminds us that the teaching service is made up of passionate and committed professionals.

They are the difference makers. The glue that holds our public education system together.

As the evidence has shown, the period under review by this inquiry has been one of unprecedented change.

Change in

  • curriculum, assessment and reporting policy and practice that has altered what is taught and how it is taught.
  • technology, impacting on teaching practice, the curriculum and assessment, communication and administration.
  • the needs of students and the complexity of those needs.
  • the role of schools in our society and in local communities.
  • the resultant skills and expertise of teachers along with the responsibilities they have and the professional standards they are required to meet.

Local Schools, Local Decisions, billed as the biggest reform in 100 years, has been the biggest disaster in 100 years.

In an effort to cut costs and jobs, the department removed vital systemic support from schools in areas such as curriculum implementation, equity programs and student and staff welfare.

In their place came a dysfunctional and ever-changing system of compliance and control, reporting and red tape.

All this has made the job of principals and teachers more difficult, more complex and time consuming, as we have heard.

We must also acknowledge that every single day principals and teachers are doing more than should be expected of them to compensate for the under-resourcing of our public schools.

It is an unfortunate reality that the funding policies of the Commonwealth and NSW Government leave public schools indefinitely below the Schooling Resource Standard which is the accepted minimum resource level. It would take an additional $2 billion a year to lift them to that standard.1

And while workloads are at record levels, salaries have continued to slide below the average level of other professionals.

Does anyone seriously believe that teachers, entrusted with the responsibility of securing the nation’s future, should be paid less than a PR person as they are now?

The growing gap was clearly set out in the evidence of Professor John Buchanan from the University of Sydney Business School.

He said a minimum increase of 10 to 15% in teachers’ salaries was required if they are to be competitive in the contemporary labour market.2

The case for a salaries reset is urgent and compelling.

Teachers need a professional salary that reflects their skills and expertise and the value of their work.

They also need additional release time for lesson planning and collaboration with their colleagues. The non face-to-face contact time for secondary teachers hasn’t changed in over 70 years. The allocation of two hours a week for primary school teachers hasn’t changed since the 80’s. They had no release time prior to that.

Effectively, there has been no additional non face-to face contact time for the profession as a whole since the days of blackboards and chalk when the demands on teachers were significantly less.

There also needs to be a reduction in the administration, compliance and data collection work teachers and principals are increasingly forced to do.

It is simple choice: Do we want teachers filling in forms or working on ways to best meet the needs of their students?

A reset is vital if we are to successfully address the growing shortages of classroom teachers in NSW.

As the Education Minister Sarah Mitchell admitted earlier this year, teacher shortages are an issue across the state. She added: “I do think money is part of it. But it is not the only part.”3

We must also put a stop to the rising insecurity of the profession. The number of temporary teachers increased by 36 per cent from 2014 to 20194 and that is making it harder to retain teachers in the profession.

It is no coincidence that resignation rates are highest among young teachers who are the most likely to be on short term contracts.

Recent research by the NSW Education Standards Authority shows an increase in the rate of early career teachers leaving the profession. It found 13 per cent of graduate teachers or around 1 in 8 who started in 2013 were not accredited six years later.5

Setting up the profession for the future

Getting the right salaries and working conditions in place is also essential if we are to meet the future challenges we face and recruit the thousands of additional teachers we will need.

Student numbers in public schools are projected to increase by 25 per cent within the next 20 years.6

The complexity of students needs will also increase with that unprecedented growth.

The confidential disability strategy of the Department of Education shows that the number of students with disability alone may increase by 50 per cent in the next ten years.7

Educating these children with disabilities will require up to 11,000 additional specialist staff at a time when there are increasing shortages and an ageing workforce.

In the years ahead we will find out how far reaching the impact of COVID 19 is on the learning and health of our students is. Already 91% of teachers say the pandemic has led to an increase in the number of children with mental health issues at their school.8

The NSW Government has also flagged “the biggest education shake up in 30 years” as it shifts to an entirely new curriculum by 2024.9

An acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education, who recently appeared before a NSW Upper House inquiry, acknowledged that would mean more work for teachers, then added “it is not as if that has not happened before”.10

It defies belief that she would say that, ignoring the fact that the systemic expert support teachers relied upon in the past when implementing such significant curriculum change has been all but gutted by the Department of Education.

It also defies belief that the NSW Government doesn’t understand that an arbitrary 1.5 per cent a year wages cap, that it wants to impose on all public sector workers, will make it impossible to successfully meet these challenges.

We know from evidence that improving salaries and working conditions will have a positive impact on the attractiveness of the profession and the performance of our education system.

As the OECD said in 2014, “countries have to pay their teachers well if they are to achieve excellence, justifying recent trends for increased teacher salaries”.11

It is with a sense of responsibility that I offer these final remarks to the panel on behalf of our members who are at the heart of our system.

The evidence is compelling. The teaching service must be genuinely recognised and tangibly rewarded with more time to concentrate on teaching and learning and a competitive professional salary that matches the complexity and intensity of the work they do every day.

On behalf of the NSW Teachers Federation, I want to thank you and commend you on your work so far.

The teaching service awaits your findings and recommendations.


1Rorris, A, The Schooling Resource Standard in Australia, October 2020
2 Buchanan,J, Curtis, H, Tierney,S & Callus, R, NSW Teachers’ Pay: How it has changed and how it compares, 2020, p3
3Chrysanthos, N, Singhal, P, Hunter, F, ‘Boost incentives for rural teachers, say education sector leaders’, Sydney Morning Herald, February 21,2020
4Portfolio Committee No. 3 – Education, NSW Legislative Council, Budget Estimates 2019-20, Supplementary questions, p28
5NSW Education Standards Authority, Attrition of NSW Graduate Teachers, March 2020, p3
6Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy, 2018-2038, p190
7NSW Department of Education, Strategy for Students with Disability, unpublished, July 2018, slide 88.
8NSW Teachers Federation, Mental health and school counselling survey, October 2020
9NSW Government, ‘Biggest education shake up in 30 years’, Media release, June 23, 2020
10Portfolio Committee No. 3 - Education, NSW Legislative Council, Review of the NSW School Curriculum, Jane Simmons, November 4, 2020, p36
11OECD Education Indicators in Focus, April 2014, p4

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© New South Wales Teachers Federation. All Rights Reserved.

Authorised by John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

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