Ministers back major overhaul to teacher training

Ministers back major overhaul to teacher training

Federal, State, and Territory education ministers have today agreed in principle to overhaul Australia’s teaching degrees in a bid to improve teacher quality and fix worsening staff shortages in the nation’s schools.

The announcement follows the release of a report from the Teacher Education Expert Panel, led by Professor Mark Scott, which noted that too many beginning teachers feel unequipped for the challenges they faced in the classroom on starting their teaching careers.

The report highlighted the need to improve the training beginning teachers receive at university, adding that a 10 percentage point uplift in ITE retention rates would result in nearly 3,000 additional graduates each year.

To achieve this, Ministers have agreed to “immediately” develop national practical teaching guidelines and amend accreditation standards and procedures by the end of the year, as well as ensure core content is embedded in all ITE programs before the end of 2025.

Universities, which will receive funding to implement the core subjects into their courses, will be monitored for progress by a ‘Teacher Education Quality Assurance Board’ that Professor Scott said will have “real teeth” to enforce changes.

He said universities who fail to equip teachers with the skills they need to manage a classroom can “lose accreditation and the right to offer initial teacher education programs.”

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said the reforms are about making sure all beginner teachers begin their first day feeling confident, prepared, and supported.

“A lot of teachers tell me they did not feel like they were prepared for the classroom when they finished university. That their university course didn’t prepare them well enough to teach things like literacy and numeracy and manage classroom behaviour, and that prac wasn’t up to scratch,” he said.

“This report is about fixing that. If we get this right, more student teachers will complete their degrees and more teachers will stay in the profession.”

Professor Scott AO said preparing beginning teachers to confidently and successfully step into the classroom relies on quality initial teacher education.

“Teachers have the biggest impact on student learning in the classroom. We want to make sure that all beginning teachers learn and can apply the teaching practices which work best,” he 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. The recommendations will make a crucial contribution to addressing workforce shortages.”

Australian Catholic University (ACU) Executive Dean of Education and Arts Professor Mary Ryan welcomed the report’s focus on four core content learning areas for ITE students – the brain and learning, effective pedagogical practices, classroom management, and responsive teaching – which she noted are reflected in ACU’s evidence-based teaching programs.

“Preservice teachers need to know how diverse students learn and how to meet their needs, have the deep knowledge and practical skillset to teach, support and assess them, and have the confidence to create and maintain learning-rich, safe, culturally responsive and engaging classroom environments – something our ITE students learn in real and simulated environments,” she said.

“But teachers are lifelong learners, which is why we provide professional learning and micro-credentials in key areas including phonics, reading, and STEM, and have made significant investments in research and evidence-based instruction through our new Australian Centre for the Advancement of Literacy and, in future, our STEM Centre of Education Excellence.”

However, Professor Ryan urged caution in using a “six-year dropout rate” as an indicator of the quality of an ITE program, given students were taking longer to finish their degrees due to factors including family responsibilities, difficulties attending mandatory school placements, and cost of living pressures.

“We are seeing more ITE students study part-time. A four-year degree can take eight or more years to complete. That doesn’t mean they’ve left the system; it means they need more support to finish earlier,” she said.

Professor Ryan said it was also important to recognise current indicators of sector best practice and preservice teacher quality such as the ACU-designed Graduate Teacher Performance Assessment, which is moderated against 18 Australian universities to assure classroom readiness.

“Our graduates cannot teach until they pass this rigorous assessment.”