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Home > News > Professional Issues > Professional Issues Volume 14 > Unsupported teachers slipping through the cracks

Unsupported teachers slipping through the cracks


unsupported_teachers.jpgIssue snapshot:

  • Study first to investigate which teachers are unsupported during their first five years in the profession.
  • Teachers are leaving the profession before they are establishing themselves in their career.
  • Quality support regardless of employment status would address attrition rates.


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, according to a Queensland study.


The study showed early career teachers were most likely to report missing out on formal support such as mentoring, orientation programs and reduced workload, resulting in lower job satisfaction and lower satisfaction with professional opportunities and relationships with other teachers.


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 forms of support during their first five years in the profession.


What is the issue?

Lead author of the study, Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Dr Nick Kelly, said too many beginning teachers were slipping through the cracks and missing out on professional support.


“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 said.


The study, based on national data from the Staff in Australia’s Schools survey of early career teachers in 2007 and 2010, 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.

In 2007, about one in six beginning teachers was unsupported.


This proportion dropped to one in 10 by 2010, suggesting some improvement.


The proportion of beginning teachers in insecure employment who received no support also dropped, from 23 per cent in 2007 to 16 per cent in 2010.


How will this impact on teachers?

However, Dr Kelly warns this was no cause for complacency, given a shift towards temporary and casual work for beginning teachers.


“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.”


While many early career teachers are initially appointed to teaching positions on fixed-term contracts or employed casually, our union supports employees being appointed to continuing employment.

There are instances where a fixed-term appointment is appropriate; however, these appointments must be due to an “identifiable short-term need”.

Where an identifiable short-term need does not exist employees have a valid case to move from fixed-term to continuing employment.

Supporting these research findings, our union has established a benchmark for quality mentoring by creating a network of members with an active interest in accessing and providing quality mentoring experiences via a union-supported mentoring programme.

The mentoring programme will pair beginning teachers with less than five years teaching experience with experienced teacher mentors to provide a further layer of access to quality professional mentoring already in schools.

Further information on registering for the programme before 31 October will soon be made available on our website.

Members who believe that they have been appointed on a fixed-term contract without the presence of an identifiable short-term need should contact our union on FREECALL 1800 177 938.


Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.