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Prue Car and Chris Minns are winding back the Coalition’s local school’s policy.. Picture: NCA Newswire/Gaye Gerard

Deputy and assistant principals to return to teaching

More than 4000 NSW teachers who left the classroom to take administrative roles such as assistant and deputy principal will have to return to the classroom.

In one of the Minns government’s most significant school overhauls, the Coalition's Local Schools, Local Decisions policy will be unwound as part of a broader plan to rein in costs and plug critical classroom teacher shortages.

The non-teaching tasks schools have been performing will also be audited to determine which ones can be scrapped or reduced to free up more teaching hours, while recruitment of teachers to non-teaching executive roles will be paused.

The Department of Education will also re-inherit a greater share of the administrative burden that schools have been forced to carry.

Introduced in 2012, the policy led to billions of dollars being shifted from the Department of Education to schools, which were given greater autonomy to make their own decisions.

However, a review by the Minns government has found it instead led to an explosion of non-teaching executive roles as teachers were pulled out of the classroom to perform a growing list of new, administrative tasks.

As schools became “mini-departments”, the number of executive staff grew as they tackled support learning, HR, finance and other administrative duties outside of the classroom.

In the more than 10 years up to 2023, the government analysis shows the number of executive teachers – principals, deputy principals, assistant principals and head teachers – soared by more than 4000 to a total of 15,000, an almost 40 per cent increase.

Deputy and assistant principal positions grew the most over that time, rising by 85 per cent and 62 per cent respectively. As these positions grew, the number of classroom teachers flatlined and education outcomes went backwards.

The latest teacher vacancy figures show there remains a shortage of about 1800 staff – down from the 3000 or so at the height of the teaching crisis.

While some of the executive positions included some teaching hours, a government source said it varied from a day or two in front of a class to none.

About 77 per cent of public primary school deputy principals did not teach timetabled classes, with 40 per cent of high school deputies also having no teaching allocation.

Another 42 per cent of high school deputies only taught between half a day to a day every week.

The Minns government does not blame principals, with one source declaring they were left to their own devices with little direction and a growing burden of tasks.

Just how often executive teachers will have to teach is yet to be determined, but Education Minister Prue Car said the focus will be to support principals while encouraging the best teachers back into the classroom.

“The former government encouraged schools to use their funds to pay teachers to get out of the classroom at the same time as the state was heading into a teacher shortage crisis and educational outcomes were falling,” she said.

“It just doesn’t add up.

“Our focus is to get costs under control, teachers back in the classroom, lift standards and for head office to support our principals to carry on being the best educational leaders in their communities.”

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