Amid fierce debate about insufficient pay and warnings of further worker shortages, teachers are calling for more to be done to address the hidden costs incurred by those in the profession.
Teachers, like other frontline professionals, are required to pay yearly fees to be able to legally work. But for those leaving university, this extra cost can prove to be the last straw following unpaid placements and other costs associated with years of study.
One graduate teacher in South Australia has revealed her frustrations after being forced to pay a bunch of fees to be able to be registered for work in the new year.
"As someone who has just come off the back of four years of uni student wages, nearly $500 is a lot of money to me and it required a transfer out of my already dwindled savings account," Nicola Markovic told Yahoo News Australia.
All up, Nicola paid $465 worth of fees which were made up of:
$195 application fee
$25 for the criminal screening as part of the application
$245 for two years of registration.
She had to pay two years' registration — one to get her up to the automatic January 31 renewal, and a full year after that.
The Teachers Registration Board (TRB) in South Australia states that as an independent board, they receive no funding from the government and are funded through the collection of registration fees.
Meredith Peace, Australian Education Union Victorian Branch President, told Yahoo the government must do more to address the hidden costs teachers pay in every state and territory if they want to ensure all students have a qualified teacher in front of their classroom.
"Given the current teacher shortage crisis, [they] must do all they can to make teaching an attractive option for students by supporting them through their study as well as ensuring vital support in the early years of their careers," Meredith said.
Hidden costs the last straw for new grad teachers
Markovic says that while the fees are reasonable to some degree, it's the lack of clarity around what they are, and exactly how much they will be, that gave her a "shock".
What's more, the young teacher said she hit breaking point after finding out she needed to pay for two years of registration instead of one.
"[It] seems as though it is designed to make people who earn the least amount of money, pay the most amount of money, in order to start earning money".
Despite the fees, Markovic says she does "not regret" her decision to become a teacher as she gets to do what she loves.
Are teacher registration fees similar in other states?
Every state and territory has different fees and guidelines for their teachers and education staff. Teaching registration fees for each jurisdiction are listed below and do not include extras, such as Working with Children or criminal history checks.
NSW: an annual fee of $100 for teaching accreditation must be paid to the NSW Education Standards Authority.
Victoria: new teachers pay $152.88 to the Victorian Institute of Teaching for one year of registration. Annual renewals cost $114.40 each year if paid before September 30.
Queensland: graduates pay between $167.85 and $183.80 for their initial year of registration to the Queensland College of Teachers. Yearly renewals cost $100.70.
Western Australia: new teachers pay between $140 and $178 to the Teacher Registration Board of Western Australia. A $95 fee must be paid annually after that; $56 is also required for registration renewals and is separate from the annual fee.
Tasmania: the Teachers Registration Board Tasmania charges $169.29 for annual registration.
Northern Territory: the annual fee to be paid to the Teacher Registration Board of the Northern Territory is $101. New teachers must pay an additional $54 for their first application.
How does this compare to other frontline professions?
Most frontline professions require registrations and Markovic called on others to share their own yearly registration fees to see how they compare.
Paramedics and nurses came out in droves to reveal their hefty payments, with one nurse responding that she pays $180 every year. "All the fees are so rough, especially after all that unpaid placement," she said.
A newly graduated paramedic shared their frustration with large starting costs, explaining that he just paid $450 for Australian Health Practitioner Registration. "Then I believe it goes down to around $200 a year, but to get a job you have to do medical testing which can be between $500-$1000 [depending on] state/company".
Calls for better support for teachers
On December 15, 2022 a National Teacher Workforce Action Plan was agreed on, setting out a pathway to addressing the government-recognised issue of national teacher workforce shortages.
In October of this year, every state and territory all over the country was still struggling with shortages. According to the NSW Government, nearly 10,000 lessons are happening without a teacher every day in public schools across the state due to a gap in casual teachers alone.
Teacher and staff vacancies for public schools in Victoria hit record numbers in August this year, with 2,255 positions advertised on the Education Department’s vacancies website at the time. "Many pre-service teachers are forced to complete their studies part-time, defer or even drop out due to the financial stress this creates," Meredith said.
"Actions [the government] must include expanding the paid placement program, providing scholarships for students completing primary and secondary teaching qualifications, and ensuring all first-year teachers are funded to provide time to work with their mentor".
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