Victoria

Government considers plan for teachers to make the grade

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Aspiring teachers who receive poor VCE results could be barred from Victorian classrooms under a proposal being considered by the state government.

It comes as new data reveals that the ATARs needed for the state's largest and most popular teaching courses have dropped by about 15 points since 2009.

The average ATAR of students embarking on Victorian teaching courses was 57.35 this year, down from 63.4 in 2013, according to the latest data from the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre.

A spokesman for Education Minister James Merlino confirmed that the state government was considering a similar model to New South Wales, where future teachers are sourced from the top 30 per cent of school leavers.

In an effort to attract more high-achieving students to the profession, NSW has set minimum academic standards for entry into undergraduate teaching degrees.

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From this year, NSW teaching students who do not receive more than 80 per cent in at least three subjects, including English, do not get jobs when they graduate.

"It is no secret that the Andrews Labor government has been looking at ways to improve the quality of teaching in both our existing workforce and our graduate teachers," Mr Merlino's spokesman said.

In 2009, the largest Victorian teaching courses required an ATAR of about 75, but by 2016 a score of 60 was typically enough to secure a first-round place.

Federation University, which previously required an ATAR of just 34.80 for one of its education courses, stopped publishing its clearly-in ATAR requirements for its courses this year. Victoria University and La Trobe have also stopped publishing their data for most teaching courses. 

Last year, Victoria University's prep-12 education course had a clearly-in ATAR of 56, while La Trobe University's Melbourne primary teaching course needed 62 and its Bendigo campus education course had a 50.4 cut-off. 

Federation University acting vice-chancellor John Blair said he did not believe that ATARs were always a good indication of a student's success completing a degree.

"Direct entry, mature-age and international students, and students who come through VET pathways make up a large proportion of the Australian university intake," he said.

But Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership chair John Hattie said one of the best measures of success for aspiring teachers was their high school achievement.

"An ATAR is a percentile. If you're a teacher who received an ATAR of around 57 that means around 40-50 per cent of your students are brighter than you on any one day. That is a worry."

He said the federal government's literacy and numeracy test – which education students must pass from July in order to be registered as teachers – was a step in the right direction.

Australian Education Union federal president Correna Haythorpe said minimum entry marks were needed to ensure the best and brightest teachers were selected.

She said countries with high-performing education systems had high standards for entry into teaching courses. "We are gravely concerned about any decline to entrance requirements."

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the compulsory literacy and numeracy tests would guarantee that future teachers were in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy.

"This measure, along with new requirements for subject specialisations for primary teachers and increasing the rigour of the accreditation process for all courses, should give parents and the community confidence that all future teaching graduates must be of a high standard in order to graduate."

An agonising wait ended on Monday for 57,208 students who received undergraduate course offers. Victorian universities made offers to 55,412 students, down 2.7 per cent, while TAFE offers slid by 7.6 per cent.

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