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Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia


Teacher Shortages: The Elephant in the Room

A consortium of professional bodies in mathematics and statistics is calling for Commonwealth and State action to break Australia’s acute out of field teaching problems in mathematics.

Reports available here



1. Two in every 5 maths teachers aren’t maths trained
2. 75% of Australian Year 7-10 students experience these ‘out of field’ teachers
3. These committed teachers need support and up-skilling
4. Governments have this problem covered

Key points in a new review:

Australian schools face a chronic shortage of qualified mathematics teachers with 40% of mathematics classes taught by ‘out of field’ teachers

Current State and Federal Government plans to address teacher supply and skills shortages are inadequate, leaving Australians and our economy without the necessary skills for innovation and productivity improvements

International evidence highlights the success of retraining programs to upskill qualified teachers and, if adopted, to improve mathematics outcomes for Australian students

The teacher shortages brought on by Covid and increased secondary enrolments have grabbed the headlines all but swamping the chronic problems in mathematics classrooms, where a massive 40% of teachers are ‘out of field’. A new review highlights the inadequacy of Commonwealth and State governments’ attempts to fix the disastrous and endemic shortage of mathematics teachers.

The review, “Analysis of out-of-field secondary mathematics teacher upskilling initiatives in Australia”, shows that while some States do have upskilling programs planned or underway, their scale is completely inadequate. For example, the Victorian government offered 75 places in 2022 and NSW up to 50 in 2023. At a national level there is no coordination of programs, course requirements or incentives.

The Albanese government has released a National Teacher Workforce Action Plan which contains a range of initiatives including improving teacher supply and retention. We

commend the Plan but believe that it must include upskilling initiatives for these committed out of field teachers.

“With a secondary teacher workforce of nearly 150,000 and mathematics making up around 17% of the curriculum, the size of the problem is enormous”, says Professor Tim Marchant, Director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute. “Mathematics is vital to Australia’s future, both for individuals and the economy. That future is jeopardised by a failure to manage the mathematics teacher workforce”, he added.

“There has been a disastrous undersupply of new secondary mathematics teachers for decades with out of field teaching the only choice for many school principals” says Merrilyn Goos, Adjunct Professor of Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Professor Marchant agrees: “Governments will have to increase upskilling of out of field teachers at the same time they seek new graduates.”

The review also highlights the very considerable long-term successes in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom where thousands of teachers have successfully retrained.

“Ireland’s national approach to upskilling out-of-field teachers of mathematics is funded by the government and delivered by a consortium of higher education institutions” says Professor Goos, recently returned from Ireland where she led the program. “Formal certification as a qualified teacher of mathematics is a powerful incentive encouraging participation”, she adds.

This study was sponsored by a consortium of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI), the Australian Mathematical Society (AustMS), the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA), the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia (MERGA) and the Actuaries Institute.

The review was authored by Michelle Barker, Merrilyn Goos and Mary Coupland. Details of the consortium’s position and recommendations can be found in the accompanying policy document, “Out-of-field teaching of secondary school mathematics in Australia”

For interview:
Professor Tim Marchant, Director, Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute

Professor Merrilyn Goos, School of Education and Tertiary Access, University of the Sunshine Coast

To arrange interviews or for more information please contact:

Sarah Ramantanis

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