19 October 2014

High class sizes and teacher workloads are the two main concerns revealed by the most recent Staff in Australia’s Schools (SiAS) Report, the AEU said today.

The report also found young teachers were concerned that their training is not fully preparing them to deal with the diversity of Australian schools.

AEU Federal President, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the figures showed that class sizes in Australia were too big and that would affect the quality of education students received.

“This is the first time the SIAS survey has asked about class sizes, and we have discovered that class sizes in Australian primary schools are at an average of 24.5 students.

“But what is more concerning is that we have a situation where 40 per cent of Primary School classes have 26 or more students – this is far too high and makes it hard to provide students with the individual attention that they need and parents expect.”

“Quality of schooling is affected by the size of classes and the amount of support available for teachers. Australia still has work to do to get class sizes down and improve outcomes for students.

“This figure backs up previous research which has shown that Australian teachers are working longer hours than the OECD average, doing more administrative tasks, and that our class sizes are bigger than the OECD average, and far bigger than some high-performing systems such as Finland.”

“It is clear that our school system is under-resourced and that needs-based Gonski funding is necessary to ensure more support and resources for students.”

The survey also shows that teacher workloads are increasing – with Primary School teachers spending 47.9 hours per week on all school-related activities, up from 45.8 hours in 2010. Secondary School teachers worked 47.6 hours, up from 46 hours in 2010.

The workload is even greater for principals and deputy principals who are working 56 hours a week in Primary Schools and 59 in Secondary Schools.

“These workloads should be a concern for administrators. While the survey shows the majority of teachers are happy in the profession, those considering leaving give high workloads as their main reason,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“Young teachers also report their teacher training is not adequately preparing them for some aspects of modern teaching. They cite teaching students with disability, teaching Indigenous students, dealing with students with difficult behaviour and working with parents as areas their teacher training has not prepared them for.”

“We believe that all teaching degrees should be two-year post-graduate degrees to ensure that teachers are properly-trained before they enter the classroom.

The SIAS report also found that schools in both the public and private sectors reported shortages of teachers trained in specific subject areas, with 62% of secondary schools saying they had some shortages.

“It is concerning that some principals said they responded to this by reducing subjects offered at their schools, or by requiring teachers to teach outside their subject areas,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“It has been obvious for some time that we have shortages of teachers in languages, maths and science and we need some real workforce planning around these issues.”

Breakdown of primary school class sizes by State (SIAS Report p.54)










Average Primary School class size









Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291