The number of teachers leaving the profession has increased at a time the student population is also on the rise, prompting concerns Australia could be facing a teacher shortage.
A recent report by the Australian Council for Educational Research found that somewhere between 30 and 50 per cent of teachers give up their job within their first five years in the profession.
The population of school students is expected to increase by 26 per cent by 2022 and more teachers will be needed to teach those students, or class sizes will once more need to become larger.
If the ratio of teachers to students continues to fall, Australia could face a teacher shortage, at the very time it is intending to increase its innovation agenda.
Kimberly Crawford said she chose to leave her job as a primary school teacher in Brisbane after five years.
“I was keen to stay in the education sector to a certain degree, but just really felt that I was emotionally burnt out from the demands of a classroom environment,” Ms Crawford said.
“There were a large amount of additional needs, I taught children with behavioural difficulties and a wide range of special needs.
“A lot of the time it was dependent on seeking out support yourself.”
Merryn McKinnon, a lecturer at the Australian National University, has researched teacher attrition rates and found the level of work teachers are expected to do has increased over time.
“You have this sort of domino effect where the work burden sort of gets passed on and on and teachers’ burn out,” Ms Mckinnon said.
“So ultimately we’re sort of short-changing students in many ways.”
The Australian Council for Educational Research report found even conservative estimates show big increases in the number of primary school-aged children in the next four years.
They estimate there will be an extra 92,000 primary school kids in New South Wales by 2020, as well as more than 100,000 both in Victoria and Queensland.
Teachers say there is a lack of support
Data from the National Teaching Workforce Dataset Data Analysis Report in June 2014 showed the ratio of teachers to students was continuing to fall.
In addition to time pressures and lack of support as described by teachers, the Teaching and Learning Senate Inquiry in 2013 found that casualisation of the workforce was having a harmful effect on the profession.
New teachers were found to be the most likely to be offered short-term contracts, so they were not always offered induction or support.
Graduates interviewed as part of that Senate inquiry said they had left teaching because they were unable able to find permanent jobs.
Kylie Sweeting from a Queensland state school said her role involves working with teachers who identify as needing support.
Ms Sweeting said that in the past, teachers had received funding and support to go to professional development.
“But then after research was done they found that teachers were coming back into schools and not using what they’d learnt,” she said.
She said that so far her role was having more success than other training courses for teachers because she was there long term, coaching the teachers at the school.
Ms Sweeting said the two main challenges teachers have said they are faced with was student behaviour, and the pressure from the curriculum.
“There’s always way too much to teach and not enough time,” Ms Sweeting said.