Universities will be held accountable for quality of teacher training

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

“Our teachers are awesome and they do one of the most important jobs in the world. But ask a lot of teachers and they’ll tell you they didn’t really feel prepared from day one.”

When Federal Education Minister Jason Clare spoke to media earlier this morning to explain the reasons behind the major reforms to teaching training, he was quick to praise those who work at the frontline of the education sector.

But as well as respect and recognition, many believe that what teachers need urgently is better training.

Yesterday’s in principle decision by Federal, State and Territory education ministers to overhaul Australia’s teaching degrees will aim to deliver that, with changes to the sector that will help ensure student teachers experience a more practical approach to their tertiary education, as well as a commitment to ongoing support. The proposed overhaul is a move that Minister Clare believes will have a positive impact on the quality of teachers working in the sector, and address worsening teacher shortages across the nation.

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The announcement on 6 July follows the release of report from the Teacher Education Expert Panel – an advisory panel chaired by Professor Mark Scott AO and established by the Australian Government to improve initial teacher education (ITE) to boost graduation rates and ensure graduating teachers are better prepared for the classroom.

The report includes 14 recommendations that are designed to:

  • strengthen ITE programs to deliver confident, effective beginning teachers (recommendations 1-3)
  • draw a stronger link between performance and funding of initial teacher education (recommendations 4-7)
  • improve practical teaching experience (recommendations 8-11)
  • enhance postgraduate initial teacher education programs for mid-career entrants (recommendations 12-14).

By offering more practical training that helps teachers feel better equipped to manage the daily rigours and responsibilities of the classroom, a hoped-for 10 percentage point uplift in ITE retention rates will result in nearly 3,000 additional graduates each year.

To reach that goal, Ministers have agreed to “immediately” design national practical teaching guidelines, as well as amend accreditation standards and procedures by the end of 2023, with core content entrenched in all ITE programs by the end of 2025.

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Quality assurance will hold universities accountable

Professor Scott said the establishment of a ‘Teacher Education Quality Assurance Board’ to monitor progress of the funding universities will receive to implement the core subjects in their teacher training courses will be an important part of the overhaul. The board, he said, will have  “real teeth” to ensure changes are enforced.

Universities that are not able to equip teachers with the relevant skills needed to manage a classroom risk losing accreditation “and the right to offer initial teacher education programs”, Professor Scott said.

“The panel’s recommendations will support beginning teachers to successfully transition into the profession and will make them more likely to stay in teaching,” said Professor Scott. “The recommendations will make a crucial contribution to addressing workforce shortages.”

Overhaul will address the urgent need for greater teacher retention

With only 50 per cent of students who start a teaching degree finishing it and 20 per cent of graduate teachers currently leaving the industry within three years of entering the profession, the overhaul has a lot riding it, with Minister Clare outlining the goal to see more teachers maintaining their connection to the education sector.

“If we make reforms to the way we do teacher training and we provide teaching students with better practical experience, then more will complete their degree and stay on for years – and provide an invaluable education to children right across the country,” Minister Clare said.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live