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Teachers galore? A brief analysis of the 'Oversupply of Teachers' in NSW

By James Deehan - posted Monday, 27 October 2014

Recent media reports would have us believe that Australia is experiencing an "oversupply of teachers". At first glance, the statistics support this assumption. Figure 1 illustrates the dramatic rise of teacher graduates over the past decade.

Figure 1: NSW University Teaching Graduates (2002-2013)


The case becomes even more compelling when emotive arguments are wrought from the professional struggles of those qualified to teach. It is firsthand, personal stories such as these that compel us to consider broader education issues so deeply. Teachers at all levels want to see their students succeed. Much of my professional motivation stems from a desire to see the talented pre-service teachers whom I work with be afforded the opportunity to channel their passion in classrooms.

The purpose of this article is not to provide answers. Nor will it attempt to disprove the viewpoints of other analysts. Instead, it will highlight the complexity of the issues with the NSW teaching workforce. We cannot be caught up in the dichotomies of 'good and bad' or 'oversupplied and undersupplied'. This article will explore the composition of the NSW teaching workforce from different perspectives. There are two primary areas of analysis: the age demographics of the NSW workforce and the geographical distribution of the NSW DEC Employment List.

The Age Demographics of the NSW Workforce

For several years, the NSW workforce has been on the cusp of a 'changing of the guard'. The 'baby boomers', who have served as the foundation of the NSW teaching workforce for decades, are progressing toward retirement age. As of 2012, there were approximately 49,000 teachers employed permanently in DET schools across NSW. Nearly half of these teachers (47.8% or 23,422) were aged 50 years or older (NSW DEC, 2012). From 2007 to 2017, there will be a significant decrease in the proportion of teachers over 50. Unpredicted early retirements and a continued drop beyond 2017 into 2018 could lead to a sharper decline in the 'baby boomer' generation. Younger teachers will be called upon to fill this void. Departmental projections indicate that the number of permanent jobs in NSW DEC schools held by people over 50 could drop by 6019 in 2017 .Should such predictions hold true, our surplus teachers may be called upon to fill a void.

Population growth is another factor that needs to be considered when examining our teaching workforce. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) NSW had a population of approximately 7.25 million in 2012. Table 1 provides a conservative estimate of teaching numbers in relation to projected population growth in NSW. General population growth alone could create 1 666 new permanent DEC teaching jobs by 2017.

Table 1: Growth Projections in NSW


*Projection from the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources (2004)

** Projection based on the trends outlined by the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources

Retirements and population growth could account for 7865 available permanent teaching positions in NSW by 2017/2018.

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About the Author

James Deehan is a doctoral candidate and primary science lecturer at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst.

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All articles by James Deehan

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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