A plan to overhaul teacher’s pay and conditions has been labelled a “bureaucratic extravaganza” which focuses on the wrong areas and will not fix the endemic staff shortages.

Under a NSW Department of Education scheme lead by Professor John Hattie, from the University of Melbourne, some of the state’s 70,000 teachers could earn higher salaries based on performance in the classroom, although only one in 10 is likely to achieve the mark.

But, Dr Katherine Bates, an education lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney, said the plan would not solve the main problems schools currently face, describing it as a “bureaucratic extravaganza”.

“It’s not creating better teachers or better outcomes, and it’s certainly not attracting teachers to the profession,” she told Central News.

“Providing people more money when they don’t have enough time in the day to do the additional workload is not solving the problem of a teacher shortage, and it’s not solving the problem of teacher burnout.

“What we need to do is provide the resources to teachers to enable them to do their job in the real world with real time.”  

Hattie plans to visit NSW public schools with policy experts and consult with teachers and principals about giving the highest-performing teachers greater financial benefits.

He told The Sydney Morning Herald that as teaching is not an “attractive profession”, they want to “develop and recognise excellence in [their] system”.

Figures on how much teachers will earn are still yet to be discussed but it is likely the pay will be more than $126,500, which is currently an assistant principal salary.

It’s not creating better teachers or better outcomes, and it’s certainly not attracting teachers to the profession.

But critics claim the grading system risks teachers wanting to work at high performing schools, increasing the divide for lower performing schools where the best teachers are needed the most.

“We need the best teachers in the schools that need the best teachers, not because they’re going to be attracted to different schools for performance outcomes,” said Bates.

“This top-down external data collecting can be messy morally because who’s going to say what the performance is? Who’s going to say what type of person you are?

“What criteria is used in creating another level of accountability for teachers regarding their performance? If only based on student grades, it may widen the inequity in schools with teachers preferring to go to high resources schools, leaving less resourced and more complex schools at risk of increased teacher shortages – where we need the best teachers.

“It may not result in improving outcomes and teacher quality but add another level of external accountability that risks another expensive bureaucratic nightmare. Monetary rewards might also create issues around incentivising teachers to work harder, but will it necessarily mean they produce better quality? So, simply providing extra cash doesn’t necessarily translate into positive complex dynamics for solutions.

“It’s not creating better teachers or better outcomes, and it’s certainly not attracting teachers to the profession.”

First-year graduates in teaching earn more than people in law and psychology on their post-graduate year, earning up to $73,737, according to the Salary Guide of 2020, Hayes Australia and New Zealand.

“The start-up graduate level isn’t really a monetary issue, it’s the growth level along their career journey,” said Bates.

“We don’t want grade performance; we want growth performance.”


Despite the comparisons, teaching is considered a less attractive profession that has been marked in recent years by walk-outs and protests due to low wages and inadequate working conditions.

Earlier this month the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation, along with hundreds of public-school teachers, protested the potential wage cuts being imposed by the state Liberal government through the Industrial Relations Commission.

“Teachers are exhausted, the workload is insane,” said Bates. “We’ve got secondary teachers teaching outside their specialisation and art teachers teaching maths for year 11 and 12.

“We need to be supporting teachers holistically and treating them as experts.”

Main Image: CDC/Unsplash.