Welcome to the

20
21

State of the Sector Report.

PeopleBench would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the country on which we are privileged to live and work.

In the spirit of reconciliation, we recognise that sovereignty of these lands was never ceded. We pay our respect to elders past, present, and emerging and extend this respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

State of the Sector

This report reflects the responses of

0

Principals

0

Other School Leaders

0

Middle Leaders

0

Teachers

0

Business/HR Managers

Across Australia.

While this represents a small slice of the national K/P–12 school landscape—there are 9,621 schools reflected in the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s (ACARA) data for 2020—it is reasonably representative of the population in terms of school sector (the split of Government, Catholic, and Independent schools), school type (Primary, Secondary, and Combined Years), school size, and geography.

State of the Sector

Introduction

Welcome to the second PeopleBench State of the Sector Report. This report summarises the results of a survey that was conducted in March, 2021, and was designed to gather the perspectives of Australian educators about the challenges and opportunities they face in the school workforce.

Section one:

Sector
Sentiment

Sentiment /ˈsɛntɪm(ə)nt/ noun a view or opinion that is held or expressed.

It’s challenging to be an educator right now. Educators routinely teach and lead in circumstances that are volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous at the best of times—not to mention the impacts of a global pandemic. In this section, explore the sector’s sentiment through the lens of educators and education leaders as they reflect about their own role in the education workforce today, and the school workforce overall, and as they imagine the education workforce three years from now.

Section one:

In one word, how do you feel about your role in the school workforce today?

To get a quick gauge of educator sentiment, we asked respondents to sum up how they felt about their current role in one word.

A total of 312 people responded to this question. The words they chose painted a vivid picture of the challenges facing educators after a year of disruption and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the words chosen were many and varied (and included optimistic words such as Positive and Excited), the most commonly-used words centred around themes of exhaustion (Exhausted, Exhausting, Tired) and busyness/workload (Busy, Overworked).

The overall tone of the sentiment expressed here should raise alarm bells for the future of the teaching profession and school workforces. Negative perceptions are likely to negatively impact attraction and retention of current and future teachers. Research has consistently found that where teachers feel valued and are satisfied in their jobs they are more likely to remain in the profession (Schleicher, 2018).

Section one:

In one word, how do you feel about your school’s workforce overall today?

We also asked respondents to sum up how they felt about their school’s workforce as a whole in one word.

A total of 317 people responded to this question. The words they chose reflected similar themes and patterns to the previous question. The most commonly used words centred around themes of workload (Overworked, Overwhelmed, Busy) and exhaustion (Tired, Exhausted).

Despite this, a sizeable minority of respondents chose optimistic words such as Supportive, Committed, and Proud.

Section one:

Reflections on the school workforce today

To explore sentiment in more detail, we asked respondents to rate their agreement (using a five-point Likert scale from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree) with three statements about the school workforce today.

Again, responses to these questions revealed stark differences by role type, with Principals more likely to report feeling excited, confident, and well-prepared than respondents in other roles.

Teachers and Middle Leaders typically reported feeling least excited, confident, and well-prepared; responses from Other Senior Leaders and HR/Business Support staff typically fell in-between.

The less positive sentiment expressed by Middle Leaders may reflect that these roles often require incumbents to juggle a teaching load with their first managerial position and are subjected to pressure from both above and below, and frequently feel tension between their department and the whole-of-school direction (Harris & Jones, 2017).

When I think about my school’s workforce today, I feel excited.

42%

Middle Leaders

40%

Teachers

50%

Other Senior Leaders

56%

HR & Business Support

80%

Principals

When I think about my school’s workforce today, I feel confident that we can execute our school’s vision.

52%

Middle Leaders

57%

Teachers

67%

Other Senior Leaders

75%

HR & Business Support

93%

Principals

Principal confidence seems to have remained strong,
in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the 2019 State of the Sector, 93% of
Principals reported feeling confident that they could execute on their school’s vision.

When I think about my school’s workforce today, I feel well-prepared to deal with the challenges that may arise.

33%

Middle Leaders

50%

Teachers

62%

Other Senior Leaders

63%

HR & Business Support

77%

Principals

Section one:

Key Takeaways: Sector Sentiment

  • Typically, the more senior a respondent’s role, the more optimistic their outlook on the school workforce. Principals were more likely to use positive than negative language when describing the school workforce, and were more likely than other respondents to report feeling more excited, confident, and well-prepared to manage workforce challenges. Principals’ optimism seems to have held up despite the challenges of a COVID-disrupted year—the sentiments reported in our 2019 State of the Sector report (which included only Principals and no other roles) were comparable to this year’s survey.

  • Teachers and Middle Leaders tended to use more negative language when describing both their role and the school workforce overall, and were least likely to report feeling excited, well-prepared, or confident when thinking about the school workforce now and in the future.

  • Generally, Primary school respondents were most likely to take an optimistic outlook on the school workforce both today and in three years’ time, followed by Combined Years school respondents. Secondary school respondents were least likely to report an optimistic outlook.

  • While Catholic and Independent school leaders were similarly optimistic about the school workforce today, Independent school leaders were more likely—and Catholic school leaders less likely—to be optimistic when thinking about the school workforce in three years’ time.

  • While not an assessment of wellbeing or mental health, our results suggest that many teachers—especially those in the public sector—could use additional support to deal with the demands of their roles today (particularly regarding workload and work intensification). Results also speak to a need to redesign roles in the school to allow for sufficient resources (e.g., autonomy) to buffer against the risk of burnout.

Section one:

What can
sector leaders do?

1.

Recognise, reward and continue to support school Principals to maintain their resilience and share their perspectives and learnings with staff across the sector

2.

Engage Middle Leaders and Teachers in the process of designing the jobs of the future, reflecting changing service delivery models (e.g., the rise of online learning and hybrid delivery), work intensification, and shifting skill requirements

3.

Explore ways to improve individual autonomy and access to support (e.g., professional development, coaching, mentoring) for Teachers and Middle Leaders

4.

Identify opportunities to improve person-job fit via appropriate professional development and career planning processes for all roles

5.

Manage the potential negative effects of sub-optimal school culture/climate by investing in building leadership capability, building psychological safety, and conducting proactive and systematic performance planning and development processes

Section two:

Strategic
Priorities

Across the sector, education leaders are managing complex enterprises—with all of their constituent functions, risks, and governance challenges and with varying degrees of resourcing and external support. Pull up almost any Australian school website and you’ll find reference to strategic planning, including, in particular, the school’s vision and mission and annual school improvement plan, and often the school’s strategic plan. In this section, learn more about the top strategic priorities of Principals and senior leaders across the sector.

Section two:

Key Takeaways:
Strategic Priorities

  • ID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of both a) taking a deliberate and comprehensive approach to setting strategies to guide schools over the coming few years and b) planning for contingencies and potential scenarios that may affect the implementation of these strategies.

  • In our survey, school leaders prioritised Teaching and Learning Strategy above all else, but Workforce Strategy was generally regarded the second most important strategy for leaders over the next three years, regardless of school type or sector.

  • Leaders have an opportunity to use the disruption to convention that has been brought about by the pandemic to take stock of their current strategy and consider whether the plans and initiatives they currently have in place will allow them to achieve their schools’ goals, or whether a different, less conventional approach is needed.

Section two:

What can
sector leaders do?

1.

Leverage the learnings and opportunities in COVID-19 disruption to deliberately design new Service Delivery Models for the delivery of schooling, ensuring we establish baseline and impact measurements for student outcomes and employee experiences

2.

Review current strategy and planning frameworks and processes in schools and schools systems. Aim to move toward:

  • An increased emphasis on Workforce Strategy as a key enabler of sustainable schooling and impact on student outcomes
  • Longer planning horizons
  • Deeper and broader engagement of school workforces and communities in the co-design of future school Workforce Strategy

3.

Examine school and system leadership team capability—and invest in building, buying, or boosting expertise and capacity to design and implement workforce improvement strategies over time

Section three:

Workforce
Challenges

In creating schools that are great places to learn, the education sector—in Australia and beyond—is challenged to make schools great places to work. The list of potential workforce challenges is long, with each contributing to the complexity and volatility of the education landscape: staff retention and turnover; workforce age; absenteeism; workforce resilience; attracting and recruiting staff; leadership pipelines; staff capability, training, and development; performance management; psychological and physical injury claims. This section presents the findings about the greatest perceived workforce challenges overall, by school type, and by sector.

Section three:

Key Takeaways:
Workforce Challenges

  • Across all sectors and school types, respondents’ top five workforce challenges were likely to include the Supply of suitable teachers, Attraction and recruitment of suitable staff, Teacher capability, Pipeline of future leaders and Improving staff resilience both this year and in three years’ time.

  • Compared to the challenges identified by a different sample of Principals in the State of the Sector 2019 report, school leaders this year placed lesser emphasis on Improving staff resilience, the Pipeline of future leaders, and Training staff. They placed greater emphasis on the Supply of suitable teachers and the Attraction and recruitment of new staff.

  • Subtle differences between sectors indicate a need for a nuanced leadership and policy response to address how the most pressing challenges play out differently across Australia’s diverse K/P–12 Education sector, in context.

Section three:

What can
sector leaders do?

1.

Ensure that workforce strategy, planning, and experience improvement processes systematically consider all stages of the hire-to-retire lifecycle in schools and school systems, using data to inform where finite effort and budgets should be spent on improvement initiatives in order to have greatest impact on student outcomes and the sustainable delivery of schooling

2.

Ensure that they are accessing international, national, state, and territory data on a full range of workforce variables to be certain that the factors they are focussed on addressing include not only the issues impacting them today, but also those that are trending to become issues in the short- and medium-term future

Section four:

Workforce
Supply

Much has been written about the teacher supply crisis in Australia and overseas. Teacher shortage forecasts for Australian states and territories are being measured in the thousands, and tens of thousands, with NSW alone predicting a shortfall of 11,000 teachers in the next decade. The teacher supply challenges facing regional, rural, and remote schools are becoming even more acute. Learn more about the sector’s perception of workforce supply challenges today and in the future in this section.

Section four:

Greatest Teacher supply challenge by school type

Participants’ single greatest workforce supply challenge for teaching roles varied predictably by school type.

In Primary schools, Middle Years (year 3–6) Teachers were most likely to provide the greatest supply challenge, while Other Teachers posed the greatest challenge in Secondary schools. The Other Teachers category often included Special Education and Design & Technology Teachers.

Combined Years school respondents’ greatest supply challenge was evenly split three ways: Maths, Physical Sciences, and Senior Secondary Teacher roles – this is consistent with much of the public discourse about acute Teacher shortages nationally.

Workforce Supply Challenges : Teachers

Number of responses by school type.

No Data Found

Section four:

Key Takeaways:
Workforce Supply

  • In Secondary schools, Maths teachers were most often identified as posing the single greatest teacher supply challenge, followed by Other teachers. In Primary schools, the most often-cited supply challenges were for Middle Years (Year 3–6) teachers, followed by Early Years teachers. In Combined Years schools, Maths, Physical Sciences, and Senior Secondary teachers were equally likely to be cited as the greatest supply challenge.

  • Across all three school types, Teaching Support roles were consistently cited as the greatest workforce supply challenge, though this was most pronounced for Primary schools. In both Secondary and Combined Years schools, Senior leader and Student support roles also featured prominently.

  • While patterns in the results were reasonably consistent across sectors, Government and Catholic school respondents’ greatest supply concerns related to Middle Years teachers (largely due to this sample comprising a majority of Primary schools) and Independent school respondents’ greatest concerns were for a range of Other teacher types not listed in the survey (e.g., Special Education; Design & Technology).

  • Across all three sectors, teaching Support roles were most likely to be cited as the greatest supply challenge among non-Teaching roles, followed by Student support roles.

Section four:

What can
sector leaders do?

1.

Ensure that they are accessing international, national, state, and territory data to understand Teacher supply and demand, turnover, capability, and capacity across all segments (Catholic, Independent and State) of the education sector in the development of informed workforce strategy for their schools and school systems

2.

Acknowledge that for some roles, and in some parts of the country, the supply crisis is unlikely to be resolved through branding campaigns, incentives, or intensifying traditional recruitment efforts. Instead, re-focus efforts on finding ways to deliver schooling with fewer Teachers (or fewer Teachers in the same location as their students) as part of the solution to supply problems, ensuring to measure and monitor the impact of these changes on student outcomes over time and adjust strategies accordingly

3.

Continue to advocate for—and invest in—policies and programs that enable the ongoing cultivation of a strong future teacher supply pipeline, and continue to advocate loudly and positively for the teaching profession

4.

Engage with Teachers of all backgrounds and career stages to understand their needs and career aspirations and co-design employee experiences that reflect a commitment to making schools great places to work

Section five:

The HR Function
in Schools

Human Resources (HR) in the education sector is on a path of maturation. As a separate organisational function, HR in schools is a relatively recent phenomenon with Principals historically carrying the bulk of responsibilities, relying on relatively little access to in-school specialist advice. However, this is starting to shift: HR functions are now moving from an operational basics level (payroll, industrial relations) to begin exploring organisational development, with some schools tackling workforce strategy and organisational and job redesign as enablers of new service delivery models and innovative pedagogy. In this section, discover more about the HR function in schools—the issues addressed, the functions managed, and the support provided.

Section five:

The school’s greatest HR strengths

When we asked participants to rate their school’s strength on a list of HR functions and activities on a from 0 (weakest) to 100 (strongest), scores were modest across the board, suggesting that few schools have a) established consistently strong HR practices, and/or b) effectively communicated the purpose of these activities in the school context so that staff understand their value.

The most consistent strength in the list was Supporting diversity and inclusion, which is critical to enabling schools to serve an increasingly diverse student population. This was followed by Training and developing staff, which is a relative strength in Education—with its formalised professional learning requirements.

The most poorly-ranked activity was Remaining engaged with staff alumni, reflective of the fact that there is little effort invested in maintaining alumni networks as a way to facilitate knowledge sharing and encourage quality staff to return to the school. In an environment of teacher shortages, such networks may provide a low-cost contribution to solving some staff attraction and recruitment challenges.

Supporting flexible work practices also yielded consistently low scores and is an area in which Education has lagged other industries. Addressing this gap represents an opportunity to attract a wider range of professionals into schools.

Supporting staff resilience was also rated poorly. Despite having decreased in relative priority since our 2019 survey, this remains a critical part of many schools’ response to the challenges explored in this report.

School Type Attracting new staff Recruiting new staff Inducting/on-boarding new staff Training and developing staff Providing performance feedback Supporting flexible work Managing workplace culture Managing workplace climate  Supporting return to work  Supporting transition to retirement Supporting diversity and inclusion Remaining engaged with alumni Supporting staff resilience
Combined Years 68 66 65 61 54 45 67 64 60 55 62 44 54
Primary 62 61 63 75 61 58 67 69 64 62 70 45 63
Secondary 50 51 49 54 46 43 44 44 50 44 54 31 38
All 61 60 57 62 54 52 58 58 58 53 62