One in six teachers working outside their area of expertise, documents reveal

The most heavily impacted areas were maths and science, with 22 per cent of years 7-10 maths teachers and 16 per cent of years 7-10 science teachers unqualified. Special education is also faced with a severe shortage of qualified teachers.

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“The demand for maths 7-10 and 11-12 and science 7-10 exceeds the number of available teachers,” the report said. “We are reliant on out-of-field teachers to meet the current demand.”

The report also analysed the impact of out-of-field teaching on HSC results and found a qualified teacher, on average, led to higher scores.

The difference was not statistically significant in maths standard 2 or English. However, a qualified teacher was associated with higher average HSC scores in science (except biology) and technology courses.

The confidential documents – released to State Parliament under rules allowing MPs to compel information from government – said the department’s mathematics teachers were generally older than the average teacher, with most aged over 45.

“Expected teacher completions for in-demand subjects – mathematics and science – are at best low but stable,” it said. “There may be insufficient numbers to replace teachers of high demand subjects with an in-field teacher.”

One of the documents said keeping retiring teachers in the job would be crucial to maintaining supply in subjects with acute shortages.

One of the government’s strategies to boost supply is to attract people from other careers to retrain as a teacher.

However, a report on the Teach.MathsNOW program to target career changers resulted in a “relatively low” number of applications, which an analysis attributed to set salary structures with limited capacity to recognise qualifications outside of teaching.

Many applicants also did not want to work in the geographic areas in which they were most needed, and some were deemed unsuitable when it became clear they did not have an aptitude for teaching, and their motivation was “perceived lifestyle benefits”.

Angelo Gavrielatos, the president of the NSW Teachers Federation – which is about to enter wage negotiations with the department – said teachers had been warning of a looming shortage for years.

“We have been waiting 10 years for a 10-year workforce plan from this government and they have produced nothing so far that reflects the seriousness of the situation or the size of the solutions required,” he said. “This will be a test of the new Premier’s commitment to our children and our teachers.”

The NSW government has pledged $124.8 million over four years to a teacher supply strategy, which will include new incentives to work in rural and regional areas, and a plan to attract STEM teachers from overseas.

A spokesman for the department said a priority in the strategy was to boost the number of teachers qualified in high-need and specialist areas, such as maths, science, technological and applied sciences, and inclusive education.

“The plan is to recruit ‘standout’ international and interstate teachers as part of a broader strategy to boost and sustain a high-quality teaching workforce,” he said. “Under the initiative, 460 teachers will be recruited between 2022-23, and 100 in 2023-24.”

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