New research shows the urgent need for the full funding of South Australian public schools with three quarters affected byteacher shortages and alarming declines reported in student and teacher wellbeing.

The AEU’s 2024 State of our Schools survey results are beingreleased in Adelaide today at an activation highlighting the 508 public schools in South Australia which are currently underfunded.

508 stakes will be planted in the ground of Adelaide’s Pinky Flat Parklands to represent the unacceptable reality that SA public schools are underfunded by $337 million this year.

The survey of 1,787 South Australian public school principals, teachers and support staff was conducted in March and April. Among the results:

• 76% of principals reported teacher shortages at their school in the last year and 86% said it had become harder to fill vacant positions.
• Over 98% of principals had to combine classes at some point in the last year due to the shortages and one third said they had run classes without a teacher.
• Less than 1 in 10 principals said their school is well-resourced.
• Over 70% of principals and two thirds of teachers reported a decline or significant decline in student wellbeing in the past year. Nine out of 10 teachers reported a decline or significant decline in teacher wellbeing and morale in the last 18 months.
• Only one in five principals believe the level of counsellor support at their school is adequate.
• The working hours of teachers have increased to 49 hours a week, on average. Only 18% are now committed to teaching until retirement, down from 23% last year.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said all South Australian public schools are funded below the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), which is the minimum level governments agreed a decade ago was required to meet the needs of students.

“The challenges in schools have never been greater – more diversity and complexity in student need, increasing wellbeing and mental health issues and acute shortages of teachers due to unsustainable workloads,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Our principals, teachers and support staff are doing an extraordinary job, but they are being asked to do too much with too little and there just aren’t enough of them.

“Fully funding public schools is the only way to ensure every child gets the support they need to succeed, and we can recruit and retain sufficient numbers of teachers. There needs to be additional teachers and counsellors in schools, along with more support staff and specialist staff such as speech therapists.”

The AEU research comes after an inquiry, ordered by Education Ministers, warned in December that the underfunding of public schools is “undermining other reform efforts with real implications for student educational and wellbeing outcomes, teacher attraction and retention”. The Expert Panel that conducted the inquiry said the need for full funding was “urgent and critical” and a prerequisite for student learning and wellbeing improvement.

In the AEU survey, SA principals said students with disabilitiesor learning difficulties and those who have fallen behind in literacy or numeracy would benefit most if public schools were fully funded.

Teachers had additional support for students with disability or behavioural issues and more time within their paid hours for lesson planning, assessment and reporting at the top of their list of changes that would most assist them to improve student outcomes.

Ms Haythorpe said a new agreement between the SA Government and the Federal Government that delivers full funding must be signed this year.

“SA public schools are underfunded by $337 million this year while SA private schools are overfunded by $64.2 million,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This is despite the fact public schools educate twice the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and over three times the proportion of First Nations students.

“Principals, teachers, parents, unions, community members and the SA Government all believe the Commonwealth should lift its SRS share from the current 20% to 25%.

“The SA Government claims it is funding 75% of the SRS but that is artificially inflated by 4% via the inclusion of non-school spending, such as capital depreciation, which must be removed as part of the new agreement.

“The challenges are too great and the cost of inaction too high for governments to continue to fail on public school funding.”

AEU South Australia President Jennie-Marie Gorman said urgent attention was needed from the government to address the needs of South Australian students.

“Funding for, and access to, student support is a significant problem in SA schools. Wait times for assessments can be years meaning some students are spending half of their early years without the appropriate learning support. We need to hold both the state and federal governments to account to achieve 100% SRS funding in real terms for our students.”

/Public Release. View in full here.