Rural areas left waiting for teachers
TEACHING jobs are sitting vacant for months at rural and remote schools across Queensland, with experts predicting the shortfall to increase in coming years.
Schools are feeling the pinch over a lack of teachers opting to move out of city areas, with principals receiving fewer applicants for key positions and being forced to look interstate and even overseas to fill the gaps.
Independent Schools Queensland acting executive director Josephine Wise said rural and remote parts of the state faced serious challenges regarding shortages.
"Pressures such as an ageing workforce, population growth and fewer undergraduate and graduate teachers specialising in core areas such as STEM and languages are exacerbating workforce issues," Ms Wise said.
"Anecdotally, independent Schools Queensland is seeing more job advertisements for teachers running throughout the year, instead of during the usual peak recruitment times.
"Some schools have developed alternative strategies to recruit teachers from interstate and overseas."
St John's Lutheran School in Kingaroy, with about 425 students, currently has two vacant teaching positions - a junior primary teacher and an ICT/science teacher.
Principal Karyn Bjelke-Petersen said there had been a number of occasions where applicants had accepted positions only for them to suddenly withdraw within days of accepting to take up roles in the cities, leaving the school stuck.
"It can be really frustrating from our side of things," she said. "It is a challenge when we are part way through the school year, and attempting to secure people."
"I understand there's a certain perception that Kingaroy is a long way away, that it's in the middle of nowhere.
"It's actually quite a central location and a great place for families, but that perception makes it quite difficult.
"It is a challenge when we are part way through the school year, and attempting to secure people."
Ms Bjelke-Petersen said those who opted for teaching positions outside major cities were often rewarded with career opportunities quickly, and were able to play a proactive role both in the school and the community.
Griffith University's School of Education and Professional Studies Dean and Head Professor Donna Pendergast said recent studies demonstrated an undersupply of teaching graduates would likely exacerbate the problem into the next decade.
"Teaching has a starting salary which is overall pretty fabulous," she said.
"But there is a need for more teachers in rural and remote places, there's always shortages in those areas, and it's more difficult to attract and retain them.
"Generally they do offer the chance for more opportunities within their roles but whether or not people are willing to trade those opportunities to live in those locations when they have other choices is the question.
"It often may come down to negotiating with individuals about what they want."
Ms Wise said ISQ was exploring new initiatives to help further attract and retain quality staff, such as researching sector workforce trends, pressure points and needs, and developing a range of workforce resources and tools.
"In the independent sector individual schools are responsible for the recruitment and employment of teachers, which presents a challenge for schools to resource and build networks to source talent," she said.
"However, the autonomous nature of independent schools also gives them greater flexibility to innovate and provide rewarding and stimulating work environments to staff."