Audio visual: ALEX PIKE

Joao Oliveira has lived on the coast his whole life. He grew up there, he has nearly finished his primary education degree at the University of Wollongong and he does not want to leave the city. As much as he might not want to, he might just have to – that is if he wants to land his dream job as a teacher.

“There is a lot of hesitation [about] whether it is possible to get work, especially in Wollongong where it is really popular to do it,” Joao said.

“People are looking to get away from Wollongong if they want a guaranteed job.”

The number of students preparing to teach in our schools is increasing. The University of Wollongong’s Faculty of Education alone has more than 2,200 students enrolled. And as Joao, along with many other graduates are discovering, it may not have been as easy as they thought to get an education job.

“It’s always competitive,” Joao says.

“A know a lot of people who are still doing casual teaching jobs two, three years out of their degree still looking for that full-time job.”

Joao and his fellow teaching graduates are not the only one noticing the trend. Dennis Long, Acting Organiser at the NSW’s Teachers Federation in Wollongong says it is something he is aware of.

“So much work goes into their training and there is so many expectations,” said Long.

“That first year putting it all together can be a very complicated one for people.”

Long says it is often a time where graduates start to feel moving away from coastal and metropolitan areas may be a good move for their career despite being worried about doing so.

“It can also involve [a] search of employment, moving community, going to a completely different town,” Long said.

“For many people from urban and coastal areas going to rural and remote areas can be very confronting.”

Long adds, it can be a surprisingly positive experience for new teachers.

“Many people who said they would never ever go to a country area have gone there and have loved it,” Long said.

“Lots of them stay for all of their career. Many of them find it really improves their professional standing, that it brings them skills and knowledge that they can then bring back to other communities.”

New graduates are not only turning to rural and regional Australia to find work, some are instead going overseas. Claire Garner from Smart Teachers, an organisation that helps place educators in jobs around the UK and other countries, says that they are finding people come to them after giving up on the local market.

“Our busiest time of year is around March, April when teachers have not gained employment in Australia and start to explore other options and one of the better options is to go to the UK,” Garner says.

“To be honest if you go over to the UK there is a great chance you will secure a job as a graduate teacher.”

Words: ANDREA HOGAN

Video: TARIK ELMERHEBE

The number of male teachers in primary schools is in steep decline with fewer than 20% of primary education teachers in Australia being male.

Maurie Hogan, a primary school educator with 38 years teaching experience says he has personally witnessed a growing trend with the lack of men in schools.

“In the last 11 years of my career I didn’t have a single male prac student come through my school,” said Mr. Hogan.

Industry professionals attribute the decline in male primary teachers to a number of reasons including feminine stereotypes being placed on primary teaching, a lack of interest and a growing fear of stigmas being placed on men who work with young children.

Jeremy Forshaw, a male teacher who has recent joined the industry believes that primary teaching doesn’t offer him as many opportunities as high school teaching.

“Primary teaching doesn’t allow you to focus on the topics you are passionate about, it’s a lot more basic and general and I think my skills are more applicable to teaching high school.”

Although this may be one reason men are steering clear of primary teaching some suggest it is the growing fear of stigmas attached to men who work with children that has affected teaching numbers.

Industry professionals, Mr. Forshaw and Mr. Hogan, believe that while such stigmas do exist and play a part in dissuading men to teach in primary education, it is not the only reason for such a dramatic decline.

The Australian Primary Principals Association (APAA) fears that the lack of male teachers in primary schools may impact the development of primary students.

“I think it’s a concern because young boys need good role models,” said APAA president Norm Hart in his recent interview with The Australian.

At the other end of the scale, female primary teachers are finding it difficult to secure jobs in an industry that wants men. Third year Art Education student Anna Boland believes women face a different set of obstacles.

“As a female teacher you aren’t afraid of being scrutinized about how you handle the students, if anything you’re more worried about how you will be treated as a woman in places like all boys schools.”

In order to overcome these issues industry members attend a child protection seminar yearly to retain their ability to teach in schools. The education scheme for future teachers also includes extensive briefings on what is considered appropriate behavior towards students.

Words: GERARD MCDONOUGH

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