Article release

Unsupported teachers ‘slipping through the cracks’

*Press release produced and distributed by our partners at MCERA, Australia*

Early career teachers in Australia in casual or temporary employment are more likely to miss out on receiving professional support, leading to lower work satisfaction and higher likelihood of leaving the profession.

Lead author of a new study published in Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Dr Nick Kelly of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), said that early career teachers in casual or insecure employment were most likely to report missing out on formal support such as mentoring, orientation programs and reduced workload.

The study showed that an absence of support was associated with lower job satisfaction, as well as teachers’ satisfaction with their relationships with other teachers and professional opportunities.

Teachers with low satisfaction in these areas were more likely to express an intention to leave the profession, which has been shown to predict a higher chance of actually leaving.

The study is the first to investigate on a national level which Australian teachers are effectively “unsupported” and missing out on all forms of support during their first five years in the profession.

“Too many beginning teachers are slipping through the cracks and missing out on professional support,” said Dr Kelly. “We have many good teachers leaving the profession before they’ve established themselves, and ensuring that all teachers receive quality support regardless of their employment status is a good way to start addressing that.”

Dr Kelly’s study, co-authored with Associate Professor Cheryl Sim and Dr Michael Ireland, considered five kinds of support for beginning teachers: mentoring programs, orientation programs, structured opportunity for reflection, reduction in workload, and follow-up from their place of study.

It was based on nationally representative data from the Staff in Australia’s Schools survey covering 1,863 early career teachers across Australia in 2007 and, and 2,477 in 2010.

In 2007, about one in six beginning teachers were unsupported. This portion dropped to one in ten by 2010, suggesting some improvement. The portion of beginning teachers in insecure employment who received no support also dropped, from 23% in 2007 to 16% in 2010.

But Dr Kelly warns this is no cause for complacency, given a shift towards temporary and casual work for beginning teachers. “Many, and in some states most, beginning teachers are in casual or temporary employment”, he said. “We need to do a better job of targeting these teachers for formal support to stop them from slipping through the cracks.”

“One way to address early career teacher attrition would be to improve the base-level of support available to all teachers and to place more of a focus on professional wellbeing.”