Commentary of quality in Teacher Training has reached some prominence in recent times.
On the one hand Rob Stokes, Minister for Education in NSW has sought to lift the bar on the quality of Teacher Training in Universities. He has joined those who criticise those involved with Initial Teacher Education [ITE] of "packing lecture theatres with under-achievers studying to be teachers". The belief is that the Universities only allocate a modest proportion of the funding these students attract to their training and use a significant amount of the funds for other faculties and research.
When CaSPA has sought data on this from AITSL and other sources there has not been clear evidence provided one way or the other - parlty because Universities are relunctant to provide decisive data on selection and retention in ITE courses. Many CaSPA Principals would see the irony in this given the highgly detailled data they annually provide to systems and government on these very issues.
Against this view, the acting executive dean of education of the Australian Catholic University Elizabeth Labone [pictured above at a recent CaSPA Board Meeting in Darwin] argued that the reverse was in fact the case. Here is an extract of her opinion piece published in The Age.
Last week, NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes accused some universities of a "venal ploy" to generate income by packing lecture theatres with under-achievers studying to be teachers.The facts just don't support this.
Between 2010 and 2016, the number of students commencing Initial Teacher Education (ITE) courses at NSW universities dropped by more than 20 per cent. And the fall in enrolments comes at a time when demand for teachers is rising fast.By 2031, the number of school students in NSW is forecast to increase by 21 per cent that's an extra 164,000 students needing teachers.
In a report released last week, the Grattan Institute found that while the proportion of graduates in full-time work fell in many disciplines over the last decade, it grew in two fields: education and medicine. An education degree, Grattan concluded, led to "good-quality jobs".Certainly it would help to attract more high-achieving students to teaching in NSW if the prime employer of teachers the NSW government didn't keep putting more and more hurdles in their way.
Already there is a requirement for those entering ITE to have three "band 5" HSC results or equivalent. Then there is a comprehensive four-year degree, assessed practical classroom placements and a mandatory test in which aspiring teachers have to prove they are in the top 30 per cent of Australians for literacy and numeracy. Plus a new requirement to complete a final-year Teaching Performance Assessment to show graduates are "classroom ready".Now the NSW government is saying that future teachers will be refused employment at its schools if they come to the end of their degrees and don't have a credit average or above.
Having announced his "Teacher Success Profile" with no warning and no consultation, the minister complained that universities had called his office wanting to discuss the policy.Indeed, universities wanted to warn that it would have the exact opposite impact of what it purportedly intended: rather than encourage more high-achievers into teaching, it would scare even more away.
To be perfectly clear: universities are in complete agreement with the minister on the need to develop high-quality teachers for NSW. Measures to ensure they do that are already at an advance stage of implementation, based on nationally-agreed standards that followed a comprehensive review.The fruits of these reforms will be seen as today's aspiring students become tomorrow's teachers if they are not deterred by the government's latest intervention.