Q and A: Minister for Education, Hon. Blair Boyer on the state of education in South Australia


We recently wrote to the Minister for Education, Training and Skills, the Hon Blair Boyer MP to ask him about the state's current teacher shortage crisis, reducing teacher admin time and much more. 

In August we had the pleasure of welcoming South Australia's Premier, Peter Malinauskas to our head office in Parkside. 

The Premier joined us for a special meeting of Branch Council where we were able to highlight the current teacher shortage crisis and provide him with a comprehensive overview of the extensive workload pressures faced by public educators in our state.

Following the meeting, delegates who attended submitted a series of questions to the Premier's Minister for Education, Training and Skills, the Hon. Blair Boyer.

Here are his responses:

Do you commit to ensuring that students in SA are all educated by fully qualified and registered teachers?

Teacher supply and retention is a significant priority currently, both for our education system and across the nation.

In August 2022, I attended a national roundtable on teacher supply with my counterparts from interstate, as well as a range of teachers, school leaders and other education experts to discuss and prioritise actions to address this issue. At this meeting, Ministers committed to developing a National Teacher Workforce Action Plan, focusing on:

1. Elevating the profession
2. Improving teacher supply
3. Strengthening initial teacher education
4. Maximising the time to teach
5. Better understanding future teacher work

A national working group with membership comprising senior officials (including Professor Martin Westwell, Chief Executive, Department for Education) and peak education bodies is preparing a report outlining priorities for immediate action, which will be released for consultation in October. It is anticipated that priorities will include immediate actions to build on a wide range of initiatives and incentives to boost teacher supply, including internship models.

There are a range of models to consider which support quality preparation of teachers through access to employment-based pathways, providing on-the-job practical experience with appropriate support, while also securing supply by enabling the growing number of pre-service teachers who have financial responsibilities to 'earn while they learn'.

Will you commit to reducing our administrative burden and giving us enough work time to plan high quality lessons in collaboration with our colleagues?

I am committed to working with the AEU, alongside the Department for Education, to meaningfully address workloads.

As referred to above, at the national roundtable on teacher supply, Education Ministers agreed to developing a National Teacher Workforce Action Plan that will include a focus on maximising time to teach.

The national working group report outlining priorities for immediate action will include actions to free up teachers' time and enable them to focus on teaching.

Do you commit to prioritising support for our students with additional needs so that they have the necessary tools to be successful?

In 2021, preschools and schools were allocated $320m to support students with disability.

The Malinauskas Government made a commitment to simplifying the process for seeking funding to support children with disability/functional needs. A pilot began during term 3 in 22 schools to give sites greater autonomy to self-allocate category 1 and 2 Inclusive Education Support Program (IESP) funding.

In addition, the Malinauskas Government has committed to:

1. An additional $50m over four years to employ 100 new mental health and learning support specialists
2. The introduction of autism inclusion teachers in every primary school from the start of term 1, 2023. These specialised teachers will be responsible for building their own capacity and understanding in autism, and then sharing and demonstrating this practice with their colleagues

What is your commitment to ensuring that teacher judgement as to the level of support needed for students will be respected and supports put in place? And that all children who require an assessment will have that done in a timely manner and at no cost to families?

Labor is committed to making access to support simpler. Across SA schools are piloting a new process for allocating category 1 and 2 Inclusive Education Support Program (IESP) funding during terms 3 and 4, 2022.

I know there are wait times to access support, which I have asked the Department for Education to prioritise reducing.

Is the Premier aware of issues preventing adequate disability recognition and support in public schools? Including inequitable funding between the public and private sector?

The Malinauskas Labor Government made an election commitment to negotiate a fairer National School Reform Agreement. I look forward to discussing our priorities with the AEU ahead of negotiations commencing next year.


Do you commit to advocating for a funding reform, which includes supporting schools access to NDIS funds to meet the needs of students with a disability?

Our government is committed to continuing to ensure that our schools are resourced to support the functional needs of students related to their education. I am happy to advocate for our schools in any area that is needed.

Is there some way to recognise the complexity and difficulty of teachers in low category schools (Category 3 or lower)? Funding for more NIT so they have more planning time, a pay bump based on Category level etc?

The department and I are open to considering ideas put forward to better support staff and recognise the complexity of the work many educators in SA face.

You may be aware that the government is implementing a workforce strategy, which is being developed across four chapters, each focusing on a specific workforce cohort. Chapter 2, the Educational Leaders and Teachers Workforce Plan was published in June 2022. It contains a number of initiatives to increase the supply of teachers and support them throughout their careers, in a contextualised way, to optimise retention.

Chapter 2 commits to undertaking research into different school and preschool settings to explore how differentiated employment arrangements, supports and structures might enable people to thrive in whichever setting they work and learn in. These findings will inform differentiated responses.

Can some effort be given to PR for public schools, particularly disadvantaged schools? Historically the media has been negative, and at times antagonistic, towards low SES schools and communities.

Our Communications Directorate, including the Media Unit, continues to support all public schools and preschools by promoting positive news stories on education.sa.gov.au and social media channels. The Media Unit regularly pitches positive stories to media outlets. The Communications Unit also provides support and advice to schools regarding how to make the most of their own social media channels.

I am open to additional ways in which schools can be supported to tell their stories, and have asked my media adviser to discuss with the department how schools can be better supported to do this.


How is the Labor government going to support educators in a real way? By helping us deal with the growing issues of behaviour within the classroom and the widening range of abilities within classes?

I take extremely seriously the need to support staff to address behavioural issues. In December, I am hosting a roundtable on violence in schools, and will shortly send out invites to attendees, including the AEU. I look forward to the contribution of the AEU and other experts at this event.

Behaviour support coaches and special educators in Student Support Services are available to support schools, and I am proud that our government has committed to an additional 100 FTE in mental health and learning support specialists.

We're piloting a school-wide positive behaviour for learning framework in 40 schools, commencing with 15 schools in term 4, 2022 and 25 schools in term 1, 2023. Positive behaviour for learning is an evidence-based framework that has been shown to improve student behaviour and academic outcomes, reduce exclusionary discipline and improve staff wellbeing. The three-year program includes staff training, implementation support, development of resources and funding for schools.

Practice guides and fact sheets have been produced and will continue to be developed based on the identified needs reported by educators and support services.


Many educators have witnessed a rise in challenging behaviour from some students. When all avenues of support are exhausted and suspension and expulsion are all that's left we find many caregivers struggling to manage with children at home. Could there be some provisions made for case workers to be available to liaise between the school and the home to support these families?

Thank you for the suggestion. I have asked the department to consider if there are opportunities for greater support in this area. School staff currently work with the student, parents and others - such as behaviour support coaches and external professionals - as required to make arrangements for any exclusionary period.

The role of the enrolled school in monitoring student progress is critical to maintaining relationships between the student, family and school, and best prepares for the student's reconnection to the school after suspension or exclusion. The department's behaviour support policy requires that responses to behavioural concerns are tailored to the specific needs of the child or young person. This means that not all children and young people receive the same response.

However, I am conscious that this can create challenges for staff, and so I'm considering what further supports can be put in place to assist with this challenge. Schools are supported by legal provisions in the Education and Children's Services Act 2019 to share information to promote the safety and wellbeing of a student or a group of students.