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Gillard's school plan a costly failure

Just 14 participants have been placed in schools after two intakes.

Just 14 participants have been placed in schools after two intakes. Photo: Virginia Star

A $16 million federal Labor commitment to stem the shortage of maths and science teachers by fast-tracking bankers, accountants and engineers into classrooms has been an expensive failure with just 14 participants recruited.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the Teach Next scheme during the 2010 election, promising that Labor would recruit 450 mid-career professionals into teaching over four years.

Teach Next was supposed to play an important role in addressing teacher shortages in regional and hard to staff schools and reduce the number of teachers teaching outside their subject areas.

However just 14 participants have been placed in schools after two intakes and every state and territory except for Victoria and the ACT has either not participated at all in the scheme or pulled out.

A spokeswoman for Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett said it was disappointing a number of states had chosen not to offer vacancies, which had reduced the number of teachers taking part.

She said there would be just one more intake of up to 50 participants, following a national advertising campaign to encourage greater take-up.

Half of the promised funding – $8.1 million – had been redirected to Teach for Australia, a program that places high-achieving non-teaching graduates in disadvantaged schools.

Participants in Teach Next are parachuted into schools after six weeks' intensive training at Deakin University, eventually earning a postgraduate diploma of teaching after two years.

Grants of up to $10,000 are offered to contribute to course costs and assist with relocation.

''This is about bringing people into teaching from all walks of life,'' Ms Gillard said, when she announced the scheme at her old school in Adelaide, Unley High, during the 2010 election campaign.

''Teach Next will help reduce teacher shortages in crucial subject areas like maths and science and help create a teaching workforce with greater diversity.''

Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said he wasn't surprised that ''another part of the government's so-called education revolution has failed to deliver''.

''This is a government that is promising big in education, but their record is one of under-delivery, waste and mismanagement.

''How can they be trusted on anything they promise?''

Associate professor Damian Blake from the School of Education at Deakin University said Teach Next had attracted a lot of very highly qualified people.

The first intake of the program last year attracted 71 applications and the second intake had attracted 521 applications.

''Teach Next attracted the people we were hoping to get,'' Professor Blake said.

However he said the program had been stymied by different legislation and regulations in each state and territory.

Some jurisdictions did not allow people to teach in schools unless they were already fully qualified while others had requirements on teaching certain subjects. New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia had also pulled out in the second round.

A NSW education department spokesman said NSW had agreed to take 10 Teach Next recruits during the first year of the program, however, only two candidates were identified as eligible. ''The program was not viable for such a small candidature,'' he said.

Fairfax Media understands they were either not prepared to teach in the regional and hard-to-staff schools where they were needed or did not have the necessary background to teach in the areas of skill shortage.

Professor Blake said while the low numbers were disappointing, they were not the only measure of the success of the program.

He said the hurdles faced by Teach Next had started a national discussion about the difficulties of working across state boundaries and assisted universities to run similar programs for mid-career changers.

''If we are serious about moving to a more national approach to improving teacher quality, these are the conversations we have to have,'' Professor Blake said.

''I think Teach Next has been really important in doing that.''

jtopsfield@theage.com.au

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244 comments

  • $16m Costly Failure bellows the headline, yet the final line says "''If we are serious about moving to a more national approach to improving teacher quality, these are the conversations we have to have,'' Professor Blake said. ''I think Teach Next has been really important in doing that.''

    Yet elsewhere, collecting $120m in MRRT is considered a failure as a "piddling amount".

    So $16m is expensive and $120m is piddling. Riiiggghhhhttttt. If $120m is piddling, can I have it?

    Commenter
    Phil from Frankston
    Date and time
    February 14, 2013, 6:47AM
    • "$16m Costly Failure bellows the headline .."

      The word "Failure" should be built into a standard newspaper headline when reporting on the Gillard Government:

      - Gillard's School plan a costly failure
      - The mining tax an utter failure
      - Immigration policy a complete failure
      - Carbon Tax ... failure
      - NBN .. failure
      - Pokkies reform ... failure
      - Cash for clunkers ... failure
      - School halls .. .failure
      - Peter Slipper appointment ... failure
      - Starting a mini race riot .. .failure
      - Craig Thompson ... failure
      - on and on and on and on ... failure.

      Yep ... lock it in Ed ... "FAILURE"

      Commenter
      Henry
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 8:42AM
    • I agree with you Phil from Frankston, this is another example of screaming biased headlines that set peoples' opinions before they've even read the article. This has nothing to do with government failure, no matter what liklik and others shout with disgusted attitudes.

      The problem: there is a shortage of teachers in specialist areas across Australia. The requirement: get trained teachers, skilled in their subject areas, into the classroom as soon as possible.

      This could be done by training new teachers. However teachers trained in a state, say NSW, will stay in that state and not move. Secondly we can't get the best people to teach anymore because we just don't value teaching and teachers and no-one wants to do it.

      The Teach Next trial was a way to try to get people from outside the community to join the ranks of the teaching profession with some (small amount) of teacher training. Teachers at the time were saying that the program wouldn't work, that these people couldn't be skilled up to become teachers in such a short time frame. As usual everybody outside the teaching profession thinks they know more about teaching than teachers do.

      So what happened had nothing to do with the government and had more to do with the very things teachers were saying. Skilled people working in business and industry don't want to teach. Some of those who did apply weren't deemed suitable, some weren't deemed knowledgable enough in their skill area. Some found teaching too difficult and some didn't want to go the places where there was need eg country areas or "tough" schools.

      This is a human problem, not a government one, and maybe we should listen to what teachers are saying - they are the experts in their profession after all.

      Commenter
      Gemini
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 8:47AM
    • Phil, $126 million is piddling when the previous estimate for the collections of the mining tax in the year was $2 billion. And the estimates before that were between $10-$12billion. Add to that the amounts anticipated to be collected have spent in the budget ......

      Commenter
      Carstendog
      Location
      Here
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 8:51AM
    • A Labor government waste $16m through incompetence and mismanagement? Who would have thought!

      But who cares when you're not spending your own money - nobody actually works to earn taxpayer money - it just grows on trees.

      And it's not like the $16m could have been handy elsewhere like in hospitals or anything.

      Commenter
      Gatsby
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 9:02AM
    • Phil: this was my exact thinking too.

      Commenter
      djpoh
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 9:04AM
    • $120 is piddly compared to the $4billion they were estimating.

      and $12million is expensive when you're only paying for 14 teachers!

      Commenter
      Apples and Oranges
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 9:05AM
    • Phil 120 million is a piddling amount when the government already spent 2 billion
      before receiving it. Open you eyes because you will be opening your wallet to cover it.
      Julia's education revolution is still going great guns I see. And where are Australian children ranked now?
      As much as I would like to blame Julia lets be honest she is not in the class room where I would guess the problem lies. About time the unions let the teachers be teachers and butted out.

      Commenter
      J Walker
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 9:06AM
    • Hi Phil,

      If you ignore the context, all those zero sound great.

      How does this sound instead. If I promised you $100 then told you all you will get is $12 would you say that I successfully delivered on my promise?

      Or, If I promised to find jobs for 100 teachers in disadvantaged schools but could only find jobs for 14, after spending half the money, would you call that successful delivery of a program?

      A failure is a failure. If people don't want to see that then they doomed to repeat there mistakes.

      Commenter
      Ben
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 9:33AM
    • @Apples and Oranges --- And every other idiot with te same level of stupidity......

      If the Gov were not forced in to a revised version of the tax, by the Mining giants, SUPPORTED BY ABBOTT, the figure would have been closer to the $4 billion estimate. Your Lord Abbott managed to save Gina and Clive and the others a whopping $3.8 billion that YOU idiots would have got in benifits. nAnd, you are too stupid to realise this! Scariest thing is that you morons actually have a right to vote!

      Commenter
      TommyP
      Date and time
      February 14, 2013, 9:59AM

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