Secular headlines have been screaming “Teacher shortage!” for some time now, but Christians may not be aware that a lack of teaching candidates is also affecting the growing church and independent school sector.
“We want to encourage all Christians who are at school to look at education as a worthy profession in terms of ministry opportunities,” says Merryn Clarksmith, the director of education and mission at the Anglican Schools Corporation (ASC).
The corporation is offering an internship program as one way of encouraging young people to consider teaching. “There is an overall shortage and when our focus is on providing quality Christian education, we need quality Christian educators to do that,” she says. “So, the purpose of the internship program is to look at raising up and attracting those [future educators].”
There are now 11 university students in the program, with four due to graduate this year.
“Students who are studying education can apply through the corporation for an internship, which sees them through their university years,” Miss Clarksmith says. “They work in a school two days a week and they have a mentor there who walks alongside them and looks for lots of different learning opportunities for the intern.
“Some of them work within learning support teams and some work across different faculties… depending on what their area of specialisation is. Our focus is to give them a rich and diverse learning experience that complements their university study.”
At the same time and in collaboration with the ASC, Anglican Youthworks is working on two strategies to help provide quality educators for the future.
The first pathway is through the Year 13 program. “It is so exciting to see this collaboration between two youth-focused diocesan organisations that advances the gospel mission of each,” says Youthworks CEO the Rev Canon Craig Roberts.
“Working with ASC CEO Peter Fowler was so encouraging – he had already seen the way Year 13 deepens the faith of school leavers and prepares them for a life of following Jesus. It didn’t take us long to solidify this partnership that makes it so easy for our best and brightest to consider a career in Christian teaching.”
The second initiative is through Youthworks College, which next year will open the Centre for Christian Education (CCE). College principal the Rev Mike Dicker compares the CCE to the existing parish program for childrens’ and youth ministers, applied in a school context.
“You can do your study before, during or after your teaching degree at university through the Centre for Christian Education,” Mr Dicker says. “In 2023, the main pathway we are focusing on is the ‘before’ pathway for students who are heading into a teaching vocation, to give them a good, solid theological foundation.”
The students will study 2.5 days at college each week and spend two days as an intern in a school, helping to integrate what they learn.
When considering the teacher shortage, Mr Dicker believes the gaps go beyond the lack of teacher numbers.
“There is a danger that we’re going to end up with a cloister of people that haven’t thoroughly engaged with the world around them,”
“What I think of as the strength of this program is that the student will receive good theological foundations at the centre and then they will go to a secular university and attend lectures where their ethical stances and views of the world will be challenged.
“In that environment, they will be able to bring their theology to bear on what they think and believe. This will make them really sharp as teachers. They then go back into schools equipped and ready to engage with those same ideas.”