The NSW Department of Education has responded below to a letter to the editor published in last Tuesday’s Courier in relation to concerns raised about staffing issues at Narrabri High School:

Narrabri High School is committed to providing quality public education through a range of opportunities with an emphasis on respect, involvement, success and engagement.

From time to time there will be teacher vacancies at a school, and the recruitment of staff to regional NSW presents a problem for any profession, not just teaching.

Despite the challenges, it would be wrong to suggest that there is a “chronic teacher shortage” in NSW, the current vacancy rate representing less than two per cent of our overall workforce. At Narrabri High, we are actively recruiting for three vacancies – two are currently on offer to candidates and one is due to be advertised shortly.

The principal is being supported by senior school recruitment officers to manage any vacancies that arise, exploring a range of options to fill them as soon as possible. Six other permanent vacancies have been filled so far this year.

To date, NSW Education filled around 3700 teaching positions in 2021.

The number of current permanent teacher vacancies in NSW public schools represents approximately 1.85 per cent of overall teaching roles.

Given we have 74,000 teachers, this is a very low vacancy rate for an organisation of our size.

In North West NSW, there are approximately 167 teacher vacancies, which represents around two per cent of the overall workforce in the region. So, the North West is not adversely impacted by teacher vacancies compared to the rest of the state. NSW already has the most comprehensive incentives scheme in Australia, and subject to eligibility, teachers in rural and remote locations can access a suite of financial and non-financial incentives, including:
· A rural teacher incentive of up to $30,000.
· Up to 90 per cent rental subsidy.
· Locality and cost of living allowances.
· An annual ‘retention benefit’ of $5000 for up to 10 years.
· An annual ‘experienced teacher’ bonus of $10,000 for up to five years · Recruitment bonus of $10,000 (if applicable).
· A 10-week trial placement before permanent appointment.
· Up to four additional professional. development days and five additional personal leave days.
· Sponsorship for professional development.
· Scholarships.
· Priority transfer after two to five years.

The department is currently conducting a review into these incentives to determine how they can be strengthened.

P&C acknowledges issue of shortages

The Narrabri High School P&C acknowledges the very real issue of teacher shortages and minimal supervision in our local high school as described in Denis Harvey’s letter to the editor in The Courier on Tuesday, August 24.

The P&C has been working quietly behind the scenes for a few years now, writing to the Department of Education and speaking to local members and people of influence to make them aware of the increasing issue of teacher shortages.

One such letter was written in December 2019, to the secretary of the Department of Education with the goal of having Narrabri High School added to the Incentive Schools Program. This would have brought Narrabri High School in line with schools in Wee Waa and Moree and allow them to offer similar incentives to attract teachers. Unfortunately we were told at the time this was not possible.

Since that time we have had ongoing teacher shortages and a lack of a casual pool of teachers which this year in particular has led to an unacceptable level of minimal supervision at the school. The P&C and parents, such as Denis, have increased efforts to raise these issues so that progress can be made and that we do not continue to find ourselves in a situation where staff are under increasing pressure and students miss out on opportunities.

Just recently we have written to the Minister for Education outlining our concerns, and the Minister has responded, identifying a number of areas that the department is working on including a review of the Rural and Remote Incentives Scheme for teachers.

We are keen to see the situation progressed as soon as possible so that there is real and positive change for the students and staff at Narrabri High School.

I would like to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of our teachers, support staff and the students. We have a great community and so many talented people, we just want the students to have the greatest opportunity to maximise their potential.

Sarah Bennett, Secretary, Narrabri High School P&C

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