Saturday, June 18, 2011

Retaining specialist teachers during half cohort changeover

Retaining specialist teachers when the half cohort reaches senior school is another challenge for state schools across WA.  Small schools will reach critical numbers where staff/student ratios will fall below that required to run core subjects.  Where year 11/12 student levels drop below 150, it is difficult to create a staffing profile in low SES schools that allows for students to access a range of stage 3 courses and also importantly for teachers to have access to these classes to ensure career progression.

A simplistic scenario for a maths team in a small school.

15% of a cohort is capable of completing stage 3 courses.

15% of 150 is about 23.  Assume all students are in a maths course.

17 in 3AB MAT combined year 11/12 (1 class)
6 in stage 3 3CD MAT year 12 (1 class)
3 in 3AB MAS combined year 11/12 (1 class)
3 in 3CD MAS year 12 (1 class)

To run these courses requires .8 FTE.

Assume all remaining students complete a maths course

62 in 1BC/CD MAT year 11/12 (3 classes)
42 in 2AB/2CD year 11/12 (2 classes)
22 in 2CD/3AB year 11/12 (1 class)

To run these courses requires 1.2 FTE (assumes 1DE/2AB does not run)

3 year 10 classes ~ 90 students

To run this requires .6 FTE.

Total 2.6 FTE (if MAS classes are allowed to run 2.2 otherwise)

This requires loss of a senior school teacher (.6 to be made up by teachers teaching out of area) or a senior school teacher teaching .4 in lower school.

This leaves schools in a precarious position of having limited capacity to overlap in cases of sickness or unexpected absence, limits subject knowledge into the hands of relative few and places load on senior teachers with regard to curriculum requirements such as small group moderation, curriculum monitoring, student preparation for exams and subject guidance.

I think to some degree risk management of increasing dependence of some schools on relatively few staff is an issue that requires urgent attention.  Where schools decide to drop MAS subjects, the ability for the school to direct students at earlier stages in preparation for these subjects diminishes as teachers may be unaware of the curriculum links to MAS courses.

When the half cohort passes through and senior school numbers again rise(and we now face the case of multiple half cohorts due to the lack of a decision to move year 7 to high school), we will also face the issue of a need for teachers in senior school, but will lack the numbers of experienced teachers to fill the roles due to teachers in the system lacking opportunity to teach upper school classes during half cohort years.

It is concerning.

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