Phil and Mardi were on the road for the second half of term 3 visiting members’ sites at Whyalla, Port Augusta, Booleroo Centre, Renmark, Berri, Blanchetown, Moorak, Mount Gambier, Penola, and Kangaroo Island. It was great to meet regional leaders and experience first-hand their enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment to the values of Public Education.
The visit highlighted the difficult environment and context in which regional schools are currently operating. Key issues are:
- A very tight employment market for teachers and leaders which is having a major impact on country schools. The established employment systems, including advertisement and use of the employable teachers register (ETR), no longer deliver and schools are increasingly fending for themselves.
- Leader workload pressures have significantly increased. Leaders in some instances are carrying near full teaching loads to cover for lack of TRT availability. Leaders are spending much of their valuable time as recruitment agents; finding people and identifying accommodation and supporting relocation. They are also spending many hours on IESP applications which are increasing hours of work and emotional demands on leaders.
- The level of direct and ongoing support leaders require is limited. This is most pronounced in schools with specific challenges and those schools with an inexperienced leadership team.
The recent conditions created through the COVID pandemic still linger and it appears that more difficult operating conditions will continue as “the new normal”.
Leaders are supportive of the Department’s country employment strategy and spoke positively about the differentiated employment programs introduced, streamlining of panel processes, and the Department’s pause of some initiatives at the height of the pandemic. However, a strong view is that these are insufficient to deal with the deeply embedded problems that regional education now faces.
Important learnings for SASSLA include:
- Short, medium, and long-term strategies are needed to adequately support country education. Short term strategies need to focus on the immediate problems while longer term strategies should focus on making structural changes to employment.
- Different regional locations experience different issues and responses, support is required depending on the location.
SASSLA will consolidate the issues and suggestions raised in our Regional Forums in a report to the Minister and Chief Executive early in term 4.