HUNDREDS of millions of dollars in federal government funding is being spent on trainee teachers who have little chance of getting a job.
As universities pump out increasing numbers of teaching graduates, the new crop are joining more than 44,000 trained teachers in NSW on a waiting list for a permanent position. Last year, only half of 16,000 trainees who graduated across Australia had permanent employment four months later.
Stephen Dinham, a professor of education at the University of Melbourne, has accused universities and colleges of using teaching courses as a ‘‘cash cow’’, exploiting the federal government’s decision to remove a cap on university places.
Professor Dinham said Commonwealth-supported places for primary school teachers should be limited to address the oversupply.
‘‘It is quite unethical to let people train in a profession they are not going to be employed in,’’ he said.
Most weeks, Ashleigh Garven, of Wallsend, asks herself whether she took the right career path.
Her search for a full-time job as a teacher has continued for almost six years since completing a bachelor of arts and bachelor of teaching at the University of Newcastle.
‘‘I’m fully accredited and good at my job. I have special education codes [experience] as well as mainstream-trained but it’s very difficult to get a job in Newcastle,’’ Ms Garven said.
‘I love teaching, but I hate the fact that I’m almost 30, I have a child, I have a mortgage and I’m still a casual teacher.’Ashleigh Garven, of Wallsend
Professor Dinham said the pool of teaching graduates, particularly for primary and early childhood was growing with the addition of non-traditional colleges getting into the teacher-training business.
Better workforce planning was needed, he said, rather than allowing universities free rein to decide how many people they trained.
There are teacher shortages – in isolated areas around NSW and for secondary maths and science classes – and Professor Dinham said resources should be switched to fill those vacancies.
In NSW last year, 6966 students graduated as teachers but only 2200 permanent jobs were listed in government schools. About 1000 of those jobs were advertised, which meant graduates had to compete with more experienced colleagues.
The Education Department gives priority to graduates, with more than 400 getting a permanent job last year, but only those on a scholarship are guaranteed work.
More than 44,000 trained teachers in NSW are on a waiting list for a permanent job. Most of them – 25,374 – are waiting for a full-time job in a primary school; 18,888 are looking for work at a high school.
Melbourne University professor of education John Hattie said that of 30,457 students who studied to be a teacher last year, just over half – 16,650 – completed their qualification. Once they entered the workforce, only 50per cent secured a full-time job as a teacher in a school within four months of graduating.
Ms Garven said that after six years trying to find a permanent job, she was now ‘‘considering my options’’.
‘‘I can’t rely on casual work as a teacher with a baby and a mortgage,’’ she said.
She gets anxious on the mornings she is not pre-booked for work and is not on a temporary contract.
‘‘It affects so many aspects of your life,’’ she said. ‘‘But that’s the system when you are a casual teacher.’’
Both the Australian Council of Deans of Education and University of Sydney professor of teaching education Robyn Ewing said waiting list figures overestimated the number of new graduates unable to find a permanent job.
‘‘Our experience is that the oversupply isn’t nearly as high as that list would suggest,’’ Professor Ewing said. ‘‘In terms of our graduates who are able to be flexible about where they are working, they are teaching,’’ she said.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne said that under the government’s reforms ‘‘increased competition and the need to attract students will mean universities will focus on courses that have a clear career path for graduates’’.
‘‘Giving students the power to pick and choose a degree in a more competitive and dynamic environment will mean universities in partnership with industry may offer degrees with guaranteed jobs at the end of them,’’ he said.
The government spends almost $40,000 on students completing a four-year undergraduate teaching qualification. The Australian Productivity Commission’ s latest report for 2012 shows the government spent about $450million on teacher training.
Latest available national figures show that more than 1500 students gain entry to teacher education courses around the country with an ATAR of less than 50.