While there are many competing views on what school curricula should cover, and some passionate voices discussing the efficacy of standardised tests such as NAPLAN, the meat in the education sandwich is often teachers. Many work much longer hours than we realise, dealing with challenging issues and have to keep up with changing requirements while continually developing their skills. So, what are teachers paid in this country?
Education System Structure
The Australian education system is carved up in several ways.
In simple terms, we can divide the system based on the age of pupils. There are kindergartens and pre-schools that care and educate three and four olds.
There's there's primary school which caters for kids between the ages of five and about 12.
High schools take kids in preparation for either the workforce or further study.
Then there are vocational colleges, universities and other institutions.
Looking at the primary and secondary school systems, they are also divided. There are government operated schools and so-called "private schools". The private system is also split in two, with Roman Catholic operated schools and all the others bundled together as independent schools.
That's important to understand as each segment has its own rules when it comes to salaries and work conditions. And there are other variations as well.
For example, when I worked as a teacher in the 1990s, I worked at a community school where the school day ran from 1:30PM to 6:00PM. And, because of the needs of the community that school served, there were a number of days when I wasn't required because of religious observances that the pupils were required to adhere to.
Teacher Salaries Are Location Dependent
Each state also operates under its own rules when it comes to primary and secondary education. So, salaries vary for equivalent positions from state to state.
For example, a teacher working in the Victorian state education system can expect to earn $66,396 if they start out this year, rising to $109,301 when they reach leading teacher stage, which can take several years of experience and professional development.
But in Western Australia, a graduate teacher starting out picks up $69,137, jumping to $75,760 after a satisfactory first 12 months.
Queensland sits between those numbers while teachers in New South Wales are paid less than their Victorian counterparts. Teachers in South Australia are paid at similar levels to those in New South Wales. Things are a little more complex in Tasmania depending on the number of years a teacher is trained but salaries are within a few percent of the other states.
In each state, a teacher with a decade or so of experience and good practice can hit a salary level of between $105,000 and $110,000 before having to consider a shift into a management position, where they would teach less, but potentially earn higher wages.
Independnet And Catholic Schools
Independent and Catholic schools have similar system of pay scales based on experience. But those are negotiated under collective bargaining agreements and each school has some freedom.
So, while the salaries may be broadly similar to government-run schools, many independent schools pay above the government scales in order to attract better staff. And there is sometimes room for individuals to negotiate.