Michael Sciffer, School Counsellor, Northern NSW

The More Than Thanks campaign calls for dual-qualified school counsellors and senior psychologists education to be paid at a new rate, linked to head teacher, assistant principal and deputy principal salary rates respectively.

Read more about what Michael, a school counsellor from rural NSW has to say about why he enjoys teaching, what needs to change, and why he believes teachers deserve More Than Thanks.

What is the best thing about being a teacher?

Some of the best aspects about being a teacher are the opportunity to share your passion for learning with other people, to support young people reach their potential in life and discover themselves. As a school counselor I have the opportunity to help young people through challenging events and situations to overcome and thrive. 

Are there things that need to change in your view?

Many things need to change. Addressing teacher shortages and addressing unfilled vacancies through attractive salaries and working conditions must urgently be addressed by the government.  

There’s also a definite shortage of school counsellors, the ratio is far too high and must change. The Gallop Inquiry recommended a minimum ratio of 1:500 be implemented. This is due to a lack of incentive to go into the position. 

What are the benefits of giving teachers more preparation time?

I have seen the intensity and number of students and families with mental health difficulties increase in my region, and I think the expectation on schools to manage those difficulties has certainly increased. 

There’s an expectation from the Department and the community that schools play a big role in supporting families and students, helping them to access services or the school itself to be the service centre to support them through difficulties.

I also believe we need time for teachers to take into account the advice they receive from school counsellors and other mental health experts to help cater for individual student needs. We also need time to work with families and students to get their advice and support and collaborate on the development of student learning and support plans. 

Why did you sign up for the More than thanks campaign?

I signed up for the More Than Thanks campaign because we are reaching a crisis point where the profession is no longer desirable enough to attract and retain people. Teachers don’t have the time and support they need to do their job well. We need change, supporting teachers directly supports our students.