Studying to become a high school teacher in Victoria will be free as the government tries to stem workforce shortages.
Up to $93.2 million will go towards scholarships to support teaching students throughout 2024 and 2025, with the final payments made if they work in state-run schools for two years after they graduate.
The program is similar to one running for nursing students that started in 2023.
It is for permanent residents and Australian citizens who live and are studying in Victoria and for secondary school qualified teachers, where shortages are most acute, Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“This is a practical way in which we can make a teaching degree and teaching in state schools an even more attractive job – but more than a job, a career a calling, a mission in your life,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
The government expects about 4000 graduates each year will take up the program.
The total scholarship for students will match the fees charged by the Australian government for commonwealth supported places – $18,000 for a four-year undergraduate program or $9000 for two years of postgraduate study.
A similar program exists in NSW, where secondary and specialist teaching students are eligible for up to $7500 a year at university and $6000 after being appointed to a government-run school.
The Victorian announcement was part of a wider $229.8 million package to grow school workforces.
Other aspects include $95.7 million to expand a retention program that helps developing graduate teachers in government schools with extra preparation time, mentoring and other professional support.
There is also $27 million to continue an incentives program of up to $50,000 to teachers from Victoria, interstate and overseas to take up rural, remote and otherwise hard-to-staff positions in government schools.
The Australian Education Union says there is almost 1400 teaching vacancies in Victorian government schools and more than 600 vacancies for other staff including support workers, librarians and administrators.
The union’s Victorian branch deputy president Justin Mullaly said it was a step in the right direction but doubled down on calls to give existing teachers, education support staff and principals retention payments to keep them in the profession.
“Right now, school staff are stretched covering gaps because of teacher shortages, they are going above and beyond to ensure students have access to the learning programs they need,” Mr Mullaly said.
“This effort is taking a toll causing too many to become burnt out, take extended leave, or leave the profession altogether.”
Victorian opposition leader John Pesutto described the package as a bandaid solution to a crisis and said the money wouldn’t go far enough.
He said it was a missed opportunity to address wider issues as the announcement did not include incentives for primary school teachers.
“More needs to be done. It’s clear that there are system wide issues in our education system and this is a very small amount,” Mr Pesutto said.
The funding announced on Tuesday was not part of May’s state budget.