Australian Catholic University Executive Dean of Education and Arts Professor Mary Ryan has welcomed the national spotlight on ITE programs to help address systemic issues facing the sector.
“We are facing unprecedented challenges in the teaching profession, and we welcome the focus on initial teacher education courses as part of a holistic approach to overcoming these complexities,” she said.
Professor Ryan said a call from NSW Education Minister Prue Car to increase the amount of time preservice teachers spent in classrooms while studying was welcome and historically supported by ACU.
“ACU is the largest educator of teachers in Australia, and we have to work exceptionally hard to secure placements for our preservice teachers,” she said.
“We would whole heartedly welcome professional experience reform and a package of support to help schools host and mentor preservice teachers so they can spend more time in the classroom and experience a variety of placements including in regional and rural settings.”
Professor Ryan, who is also the President of the NSW Council of Deans of Education, said issues including the costs to ITE providers in paying university and school-based placement supervisors and improved digital solutions to support professional placements also needed to be addressed.
She said while ACU provided flexible ITE pathways including internship programs, accelerated early childhood courses, opportunities to work as paraprofessionals in the classroom, and an earn and learn partnership with Teach for Australia, preservice teachers also needed more financial support to finish their degrees.
“Preservice teachers often struggle to make ends meet while on school placements and are also increasingly having to study part-time due to factors such as cost-of-living pressures and family responsibilities,” she said.
“This trend is seeing students take longer to finish their degrees, which is unfortunately sometimes inaccurately construed as high ITE attrition rates. We would certainly welcome more support in this area.”
Professor Ryan said while there was always room for improvement in ITE, she was confident in the skills and knowledge of ACU teaching graduates.
“Preservice teachers cannot graduate without meeting rigorous teaching performance assessments such as the ACU-designed Graduate Teacher Performance Assessment, which is moderated against 18 Australian universities to assure classroom readiness,” she said.
“Initial teacher education is however – as its name states – initial. Graduates need intensive mentoring within schools and ongoing professional development to establish their practice and build their knowledge and skills to meet the needs of their students and progress against the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.”
Professor Ryan said ACU’s recently announced Australian Centre for the Advancement of Literacy (ACAL) and STEM Centre of Education Excellence would provide such ongoing professional learning for teachers in the key areas of literacy and numeracy.
“ACU is committed to not only graduating classroom-ready teachers but to supporting them throughout their careers as lifelong learners,” she said.
This article originally appeared as a media release from the ACU.