Soaring numbers of university students, unregistered teachers fronting classrooms to plug shortages

This reminds me of the Whitlam era in the 60s and 70s when there was another big teacher shortage.  At that time I got a job teaching in a NSW High School despite having no teacher qualifications at all.  But I had a degree

In 2021, 320 teachers were granted Permission To Teach (PTT) approvals by the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) — an increase from 211 in 2020 and 178 in 2019.

Of the 320 approvals this year, 272 were for pre-service teachers in Queensland, with 222 working in state schools and 98 in non-state schools.

A PTT application can be considered when a school is unable to find an appropriate registered teacher for a specific teaching position and can be granted for up to two years.

QCT director Deanne Fishburn said the majority of PTTs were granted for one year or less.

"Teachers approved under PTT are restricted to teaching specific subjects and year levels in the nominated school only," she said.

"Importantly, applicants must also be suitable to teach and have the knowledge, qualifications, skills or training reasonably considered by the QCT to be relevant to the position."

Ms Fishburn said pre-service teachers who were granted PTT were generally in the final stages of their teacher education program and were continuing their studies while teaching.

A Department of Education spokesperson said the number of PTT  applications represented a small fraction of the broader teaching workforce.

"The majority of approved PTTs engaged by the department are in the final stages of their Initial Teacher Education programs, and about to graduate as a qualified teacher," they said. "This is a normal occurrence each year."

Queensland Teachers' Union president Cresta Richardson said using PTT to fill shortages should be a last resort. "We really should be producing enough quality candidates — and I'm not saying they're not quality people — but we really should be attracting enough people to universities, getting them through and supporting them as teachers," she said.

It comes amid concerns of further workforce shortages due to the Queensland government's vaccine mandate for any staff entering an educational setting, including schools.

Independent Education Union QLD/NT branch secretary Terry Burke said both schools and employees were waiting on clarity regarding the health direction arrangements and advocated for consultation.

Ms Richardson said the union was working with the department on understanding how the directive would be implemented.

"If we apply what's happened in Victoria and New South Wales, we would assume that there will be a very small proportion of people who may choose to remain unvaccinated," she said.

"Where there are numbers or support required, we'll be working with the department on how best to support those school communities to ensure teaching and learning can continue for students in those schools."

Contingency plan

An Education Department spokesperson said all Queensland state schools had contingency plans in place and were well prepared for any disruptions that might occur.

"Principals and their school teams have been planning for these scenarios for almost two years, and are ready to deliver programs that best meet the needs of their school communities," the spokesperson said.

"The department will continue to follow advice from Queensland's Chief Health Officer and Queensland Health to help manage the impacts of COVID-19 on students, staff, and their families."

Soaring demand for relief teachers

This year, the department increased the number of casual relief teachers available to schools to meet rising demand.

"The department continues to track the number of offers made to relief teachers to fill short-term demand within schools to cover the impacts from seasonal cold and flu, as well as managing public health advice, such as 'Feel Sick, Stay Home, Get Tested', which is now a standard practice in the workplace," the spokesperson said.

"The department continues to work towards offering more full-time and permanent employment to teachers within a school, or cluster of schools. and remains consistent with the government's commitment to employment security for public servants."

The spokesperson said the department had managed more than 200,000 relief teacher requests, filling 95 per cent.

"The requests that were not filled can be attributed to late notice of the request by school, geographical location and availability of the relief teacher for that day," the spokesperson said.

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