ACT News

License article

ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations says not to blame teachers for education system shortcomings

A move to force new teachers to pass literacy and numeracy testing has won broad support in the ACT, but the territory's key parent group fears a national review of teacher education is unfairly blaming educators for the sector's shortcomings.

Teachers would need to be in the top 30 per cent of the country for literacy and numeracy if the federal government adopts the review's recommendations to improve teacher quality.

It also calls for practical training to be formalised for all teaching degrees and primary school teachers to be equipped with a subject specialisation, prioritising maths, science and languages.

ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations spokesperson Vivienne Pearce supported the recommendations but said better resourcing and funding for public schools was the secret to attracting high-quality teachers.

"[The council] has previously said we should have reasonable wages and conditions because we want to attract the best of the best into teaching," she said.

"In places like Finland. it's extremely competitive being a teacher; it has status. And what's worried the P&C council for some time is the apparently low status of teachers [in Australia].


"We don't want to blame teaches for a problem we've created by making the teaching profession less attractive, and that goes to resourcing of our public schools."

Australian Education Union ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler said teacher education courses had become cash cows for universities because they were cheap to teach.

"There are some universities who have been obsessed with getting bums on seats," he said.

"The disturbing trend in this country is typified by the fact that we now have more teachers in Australia who have entered with an ATAR of 30 to 50 than with ATARs of 90 and above."

Mr Fowler said the review had failed to address the problems of a deregulated university environment and the absence of sound workforce planning to ensure there weren't too many graduates for the number of positions available, particularly in primary teaching.

He welcomed moves for the practical component of teacher education courses to be strengthened but said the report had been unwilling to discuss national regulation of courses to oversee the varied quality and priorities.

Ms Pearce also backed the increased focus on practicum teaching, saying it was essential teachers had a chance to test their interpersonal skills in the classroom and supported specialised subjects for primary teachers.

"I certainly think there is problem in our schools across Australia with the quantity of students studying maths and science and, the more high-quality teachers you have, the more likely you are to have students study in that area," she said.

"If you have boring teacher, that often turns you off a subject."

ACT Education Minister Joy Burch seized on the report's findings, saying it outlined the "same high expectations" the territory government had and backed the territory's move to introduce literacy and numeracy testing for teachers recruited in the ACT this year.

"We have great teachers in ACT public schools and our student results show this," she said.

"It is time to build on all our success and raise the bar even higher." 

Ms Pearce said the ACT was lucky to have professional levels of teaching, but there was always room for improvement.

"I see lot of teachers doing work out of hours to go to training courses, whether it be to help kids with disabilities or find out how to teach migrant kids … they seem to be pretty good and enthusiastic about improving themselves even when they come out of uni," she said.

"It's an ongoing process to keep your professional skills up."