More support for graduate teachers in Victoria’s southwest
A first of its kind graduate teacher support program aims to stem the tide of early career educators abandoning the profession due to stress and burnout.
Deakin University academics have partnered with Victorian southwest community education initiative Beyond the Bell to present a series of personal development seminars aimed at fostering the skills and confidence of primary and secondary school teachers starting out in their careers.
It comes as the nation faces a crippling teacher shortage, with one in five Victorian teachers leaving the profession soon after graduating. Figures show up to half of Australian teaching graduates are believed to leave the job within the first five years of their career.
Research for Educational Impact (REDI) Director Professor Julianne Moss said the six-part free-of-charge Graduate Teachers Professional Learning Program, which hosts seminars online and face-to-face at Deakin’s Warrnambool campus, is open to graduates in their first to fourth year of teaching from all universities who are working at schools in Victoria’s southwest.
The sessions, which take part as two programs designed for graduates in either their first and second year of teaching or their third and fourth year, focus on professional practice, identity, and wellbeing. They also provide networking opportunities to help participants build peer support networks.
“High workloads, long hours, negotiating tough parent-teacher relationships and administrative burdens have combined to make the profession a difficult operating environment for even seasoned education staff,” Professor Moss said.
“We know that retaining teachers, particularly graduate educators with their entire careers ahead of them, is an important part of addressing these serious staff shortages. Local principals have told us further personal development is needed to equip new staff with the skills and confidence they need to remain in the job, and our six-part program aims to provide them with that support.”
A 2021 Youth Conversations Research Report by Deakin’s School of Education laid the foundations for the current program. It analysed a Beyond the Bell survey of young people aged 12 to 19 in Victoria’s Great South Coast and found many felt the quality of school programs was inconsistent across the region, with some saying teachers were too overstretched to provide them with the support they needed.
Deakin Warrnambool Campus Director Alistair McCosh said he was pleased to see the graduate learning program offered onsite as well as online and he hoped it would lead to the development of similar programs and resources offered nationally.
“This first of a kind program has been championed by Deakin in partnership with Beyond the Bell to support quality education in the southwest,” Mr McCosh said.
“The aim of this project is to assist our schools in retaining our graduate teachers to become long term teachers in our region and supporting our young people to succeed in their education.”
Beyond the Bell, which works to increase student engagement in schools in Victoria’s Great South Coast region, contributed $83,311 to launch the seminar series.
The first two seminars were held online on May 10 and 11 with 17 teaching graduates in attendance. The next sessions will be held on site in Warrnambool on May 31 and June 1, with interested teaching graduates currently working in the southwest region invited to attend.
Beyond the Bell Executive Officer Davina Forth said dwindling teacher numbers was a concerning issue that had wider ramifications for students’ education.
“Research has shown there is a high rate of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years of entering a school setting. Some estimates are as high as 30 to 50 per cent,” Ms Forth said.
“The flow on effect from these rates directly impacts the outcome of our young people’s educational journey. Supporting our graduate teachers to consolidate their personal teaching practice during these years is paramount to retaining teachers and improving student outcomes.”