Following protests that kicked off in 2021, public teachers across New South Wales are continuing to strike in response to "unsustainable workloads" caused by statewide staff shortages, as well as an outdated 2.5% cap on wage growth — which has kept teaching wages stagnant, compared to other professions.
The salary cap has been in place for over 10 years, but teachers and principals are seeking a salary increase of between 5%–7.5% annually. In response, NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, previously told Sky News Australia that he found the strike "disappointing."
On Reddit, Aussie teachers everywhere have been discussing the strike — sharing their insights into why it's happening, as well as clearing up exactly what they're paid.
Here, we've collated some of the most interesting responses:
"I left teaching at the end of last term after 16 years of teaching. One of the things that really sticks out to me about the state of teaching right now is the amount of teachers choosing to drop down to part time. In fact, it's getting so bad that some schools are now refusing part-time teaching staff, because it's a nightmare for timetabling and student outcomes."
"Of course, the underlying issues that are causing the exodus away from full-time teaching aren't being looked at by the governing departments; rather, they're just throwing in new grads in the hope that a few swim rather than sink."
"I'm a state high school teacher in QLD, finishing my fifth year of rural and transferring to metropolitan. Pay is good. Super and salary sacrificing is good. I like that I can structure my life around a pretty consistent schedule. I love teaching. But workload is killing me."
"It's not even the classroom stuff (drafting, grading, reporting, the differentiating for students of varying ability); it's the mountains of administrative paperwork that go with it. Teaching and learning plans a term in advance, with all resources created and loaded to a one drive account for possible home learning, records of every adjustment made to every worksheet, assessment, and activity for each kid recorded in OneSchool."
"The real issues will only be masked temporarily by better pay. My summary of the real issues is this: Kids are much harder to teach these days. The work environment between teachers and support staff is very toxic. Layers upon layers of 'new' stuff have been introduced to waste teachers' time on the job."
"Eventually we will have no teachers because who in their right mind wants to pay for a degree and then wind up in that environment."
"How sad is it that the people who play a huge role in the development of our youth have to strike in order to be fairly paid by our government. After having to redesign teaching methods due to COVID-19 and all the other implications that came with it, it's a disgrace they still have to do this."
"Pay isn't even the problem though — it's workload. My contract says 30 hours a week, but I've easily cleared that by Wednesday because of admin. What I wouldn't give for a PA, just so I could do my job."
"It amazes me how many Aussies don't understand how little public school teachers are paid. The government is absolutely going to say, 'Oh no, look at this money sum we just regurgitated; see, they're just complaining for no reason' — when that number includes private teachers, special education teachers, and other higher-paying staff positions."
"I can say this outright: As a school cleaner, I get more money and less stress than my mum, a teacher. She also doesn't get paid for her lunch break, but is expected to go on playground duty during that time, and doesn't get paid for before/after school activities."
"In addition to the excessive admin workload, one of the biggest issues with attracting and retaining high-quality teachers is the top end of the scale."
"After five years, the scale in NSW tops out at around $107K. So a five-year teacher, who is essentially still mastering their craft, is paid the same as a 20-plus-year expert. An all round 10%–15% won't hurt attracting new talent, but they really need to stretch the scale out at the top end, or find a way to reward high-quality teachers properly."
"I earn $110K. My problem isn't really how much I'm paid. It's a combination of the following:"
"It's the ridiculous amount of work that has nothing to directly do with teaching and learning. It's the changes in policies that require teachers to support a wider array of students in the same class. The dark age level of understanding when it comes to managing teachers' time. Schools have no idea how to measure workload, let alone attempt to manage it.
The fact that parents and the system often require teachers to parent students. It's the push to keep kids out of trades and apprenticeships before they finish year 12 and then ignoring that this may be an issue. It's when schools take teachers away from their administrational lines to provide cover for classes due to no redundant staffing."
"I earn $78K and I'm a second year teacher in Western Australia. Pay is not the problem; it is workload. Too much admin for the role. Either pay has to increase to cover all of this unpaid labour, or the labour has to decrease."
"Anytime I see someone say, 'Teachers get 12 weeks off a year,' I immediately know their experience with teachers is entirely from the perspective of a student. If I worked the same amount of hours a teacher worked as a labourer, I'd be making six figures."
"Ask any kind of a teacher where they spent after-school hours, their weekends, and their school holidays. We'd be at school by 7 in the morning, and leave for home around 6 at night. Weekends were either programming at home or at the school, holidays spent at school, setting up classes, building curriculum for the term, professional development courses, and research. If your office job is underpaid and overworked with excessive unpaid hours, join your union and document everything."
Are you a teacher in Australia, or have an opinion on the state of our public schooling? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below — just remember to be kind and considerate when you do.
Reddit responses have been edited for length/clarity.