The areas in which school enrolments are expected to double

Enrolments in NSW public schools will swell by 20 per cent in the next 15 years and much of the growth will be in 11 Sydney local government areas (LGAs), with student numbers in Cumberland and Bayside expected to more than double, independent modelling has found.

More than 10,000 extra teachers will be required to meet demand, according an analysis based on NSW Department of Education enrolment predictions by education economist Adam Rorris, a former manager of the national School Resourcing Taskforce.

The analysis comes after the Herald revealed NSW schools are facing a growing teacher shortage, which is most severe in rural and regional areas of the state but is also affecting areas of Sydney, leading to teachers working outside their expertise and problems filling jobs.

Several of the 11 LGAs with the biggest enrolment growth and teacher demand are home to some of the city’s most disadvantaged students, and include Canterbury Bankstown, Blackdown, Camden, Campbelltown, The Hills, Ryde, Parramatta, Penrith and Liverpool.

Much of the student growth will be over the next five years, enrolment projections released under freedom of information laws found: Cumberland’s public school numbers will grow by 103 per cent to almost 40,000 students by 2036, but two-thirds of that growth will be between 2020 and 2026.

In analysis commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation, Mr Rorris found five of those LGAs will each require more than 1000 extra teachers in the next 15 years, with Cumberland needing almost 1500. He said they would also be needed soon, given the disruption faced by those students in the pandemic.

“The size of enrolment increases within the coming years, combined with the impact of COVID-19, means NSW is a race to safeguard the learning and development of a generation of children in western Sydney,” Mr Rorris wrote in his report, titled Impact of Enrolment Growth on Demand for Teachers in Local Government Areas.

“The extended closure of classrooms in these areas combined with lower than average incomes for many household educational resources has pushed teaching and learning beyond all recognised limits in the Australian context.”

Mr Rorris’ modelling uses projected enrolment growth to 2036 and the 10-year average of student-teacher ratio across all NSW schools to predict the number of teachers that will be needed in each local government area.

However, a spokesman for the department said its own modelling, using different indicators, did not accord with Mr Rorris’ conclusions. “While the department is predicting an increase in the demand for teachers, its projections do not accord with those in the Rorris Report,” he said. He did not reveal those projections.

Angelo Gavrielatos, the president of the federation – which is about to begin wage negotiations with the NSW Department of Education – said Mr Rorris’ projections were based on available data and could not take existing teacher shortages into account.

“As it stands today, classes are being combined, students are given only minimal supervision and teachers are teaching outside their area of expertise in hundreds of schools across NSW due to the already existing teacher shortages,” he said.

“It is a matter of urgency, as this report confirms the crisis is only going to get worse, and even calls for intermediate measures to head off the projected staff numbers crunch in the future.”

The teacher shortage, detailed in internal NSW Department of Education documents, is due to a declining number of people choosing it as a career, a significant percentage of the workforce heading to retirement, and growing enrolment numbers.

It is being felt across Australia and across school sectors, particularly in areas of high demand such as maths, science and special education.

The department spokesman said it was developing a strategy to deliver a sustainable supply of quality teachers – including in key subjects and locations of need – over the next decade. The NSW budget has committed almost $125 million over four years to a teacher supply strategy.

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