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Monday, 8 March 1999
Page: 2432

Senator Allison asked the Minister representing the Minister tor Education, Training and Youth Affairs, upon notice, on 8 December 1998:

With reference to the Barbara Preston report for the Australian Council of Deans of Education dated 11 November 1998, which shows that from 1999 to 2004 there will be a severe shortage of teachers:

(1) Does the Minister accept those projections; if not why not; if so, how is the Federal Government planning to alleviate this shortfall.

(2) Do the department's projections indicate a shortfall of teachers in regional, rural and remote areas; if so, can details be provided.

(3) (a) What measures are being taken by each state government to encourage the recruitment of teachers; and (b) can details be provided.

(4) What inter-governmental mechanisms are in place to ensure that sufficient teacher graduates are available to meet enrolment demands.

(5) (a) Are teachers currently being offered any incentives to teach in country areas; (b) would the Minister consider dropping Higher Education contribution Scheme (HECS) fees for teachers and/or teachers who opt to commit to teaching in a rural area; and (c) would the Minister consider dropping up front and HECS fees for teachers returning to university.

(6) Have any studies been commissioned to determine why enrolments in teacher training have fallen; if so, can details be provided.

(7) Will medium-to long-term planning be implemented in teacher training programs in order to avoid destabilising structural changes such as those in the early nineties.

(8) Would the Minister consider dropping HECS fees for students who undertake studies in mathematics and science education.

(9) Have studies been commissioned to determine the availability or otherwise of teachers from overseas; if so can a copy be provided.

(10) What effect will the youth allowance legislation have on demand for teachers in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

(11) Was an agreement reached with the states on how this demand would be met; if so can copies of such agreements be provided.

Senator Ellison (Special Minister of State) —The Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The report by Barbara Preston for the Australian Council of Deans of Education Teacher supply and demand to 2004 (1998 update) itself acknowledges the difficulties in making projections of teacher supply and demand. On page 3 it states "What are provided are projections, based on expected future values for many of the relevant variables. The actual outcomes may be quite different—because of actions of stakeholders such as universities and school authorities, and because of the general uncertainty inherent in such labour market projections". This report is the fifth in a series dealing with teacher demand and these reports have demonstrated this inherent uncertainty by consistently overstating the future demand for teachers. The projections have also been challenged by the major employers of teachers, that is the States and Territories. The balance of evidence suggests that predictions of a widespread shortage of teachers are overstated.

(2) The Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs publication Skills in Australia—Trends and Shortages states that "Recruitment difficulties are more pronounced in some rural and remote locations". These projections are not broken down by individual region. A copy of this document has been provided separately for the honourable Senator.

(3) Such recruitment difficulties as exist are not common across all States and Territories and priorities for recruitment also vary across the States and Territories. These are matters for teacher employers and the Commonwealth does not hold information on any individual State and Territory initiatives to recruit teachers.

(4) The Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs has established arrangements to monitor teacher supply and demand and the Conference of Education Systems Chief Executive Officers has arranged for the first report on this to be prepared for the Council. The Council has also established a Teacher Recruitment Taskforce which is oversighting market research into and the development of a market strategy which can be adapted by individual states and Territories to suit local needs

(5) (a)The employment of teachers in country areas is the responsibility of State and Territory authorities responsible for schools. The Government believes that the States and Territories are best able to determine local work force needs and to design targeted programs which direct public subsidies to ensuring those needs are met. It is understood that some States and Territories are targeting recruitment for country areas but the Commonwealth does not hold details of State and Territory initiatives.

(b) With regard to the proposal that HECS charges should be reduced for teachers and/or teachers who opt to commit to teaching in a rural area, it should be emphasised that the Commonwealth already makes a significant contribution to the tuition of students enrolled in HECS liable places in higher education institutions including teachers. On average, students in publicly funded places contribute 37 per cent of the cost of their tuition. The Commonwealth pays the remainder. The Commonwealth also bears the cost of the interest rate subsidy which is provided through the interest free HECS loan and of unrepaid debt. The proposal would substantially increase the cost to the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth contribution is already substantial.

(c) As indicated in the response to part (b), the Commonwealth already makes a substantial contribution to the tuition costs of teachers.

(6) Available data show that initial teacher education enrolments have remained relatively stable since 1991.

(7) Strategic planning in disciplines is a matter for individual institutions. However, teacher education is discussed at Joint Planning Committee meetings with States and Territories and reviewed in the educational profiles meetings held each year with the universities

(8) As indicated in the response to Question 5 (b) students enrolled in a HECS liable place at a higher education institution, including those undertaking mathematics and science education, contribute only part of the cost of their tuition. The Commonwealth contributes the remainder. The proposal to drop HECS contributions for these students would substantially increase the cost to the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth's contribution is already substantial.

(9) The Commonwealth has not commissioned any studies to determine the availability of teachers from overseas.

(10) It is expected that some 8 200 young people may return to school on a national basis in 1999 as a result of the introduction of the Youth Allowance education and training requirements which will come into effect on 1 January l999. It is not possible to convert this to a number of teachers by dividing by the average pupil teacher ratio as some commentators have suggested because the flow will not be uniform across all schools. To assist schools to address the needs of these students the Commonwealth Government has introduced the $22.6 million Full Service Schools initiative. The initiative provides assistance to schools to undertake a range of activities including the employment of specialist teachers or counsellors and the provision of professional development for teachers and other staff.

(11) The Commonwealth has not sought to impose any conditions on or reach any agreements with the States as to the employment of teachers.