Lucy Hood

Education Reporter


MORE than 2500 extra public school teachers must be recruited in the next four years to stem a major skills shortage.

A workforce analysis by the University of Adelaide, obtained by The Advertiser, shows that an extra 364 new teachers will need to be employed this year.

The analysis, prepared for the Education Department, predicts the annual recruitment target will surge by 75 per cent in 2012, when 640 new teachers will be needed.

Shortages are already forcing some teachers to take on subjects outside their expertise and principals are warning of potential curriculum cuts if recruitment targets are not met.

The Education Department predicts an increase in graduates will be "adequate" to cover demand but principals and the teachers' union warn the target will not be reached.

They argue teacher graduate numbers will be stagnant as students continue to be drawn to higher-paid professions.

A survey of 20 country and northern suburbs schools by The Advertiser yesterday found many were already experiencing teacher shortages, particularly in maths, science, technical studies and languages.

SA Secondary Principals Association president Jim Davies warned that filling positions in these areas was becoming "extremely difficult".

"We are competing against industries such as geosciences and engineering that can offer far more lucrative careers and higher salaries," he said.

"We also have a large number of teachers planning to retire and many are going on long service leave, making it very difficult for schools to fill short-term positions."

According to the Teacher Registration Board's 2007 annual report, of the 36,206 registered teachers in South Australia 17,363, or almost half are aged between 50 and 70.

Education Department papers produced in 2006, obtained by The Advertiser under Freedom of Information, state that "with the average age of . . .  teachers at 49 . . . within seven years, demand will exceed supply as teachers reach retirement age."

One of the 20 metropolitan and country principals contacted yesterday by The Advertiser, who asked not to be named, said: "We find all of the subjects hard to staff except English and Society and Environment."

Another said: "We have several positions to fill next term but I've got no idea where the teachers will come from."

 Australian Education Union research shows almost half (47 per cent) of country schools and a third (33 per cent) of metropolitan schools are experiencing teacher shortages.

The research found:

ONE third of country schools are cutting subjects because of teacher shortages.

ONE third of country schools are filling positions with teachers not qualified in the subject area.

A quarter of schools are forced to re-advertise positions while 60 per cent receive few applications.

AEU SA branch president Correna Haythorpe said the shortages were an "alarming reality".

She said public teachers would strike on Tuesday, June 17, in support of a 21 per cent pay rise, improved conditions and incentives for attracting and retaining staff. "Schools won't be able to offer a comprehensive curriculum and there will be increased burden on staff who are forced to teach in areas outside of their expertise."

 The current pay dispute follows a landmark case in Victoria, where teachers became the highest-paid in the nation.

 An Education Department spokeswoman said based on the forecast, there would be "adequate" numbers to cope with demand.

"The number of new graduates. . . existing teachers and the programs we have in place to attract and retain teachers. . . will be adequate to meet the demand," she said.

"We have a range of strategies to attract teachers to some curriculum areas, including country teacher scholarships. . . while. . . under EB (present enterprise bargaining talks), we are looking at additional incentives to attract teachers to hard-to-staff areas, like maths and science and difficult to staff country areas."