Making quality teachers takes more than marks

Personal qualities – not just Year 12 results – are crucial in shaping the best teachers, Catholic Education Melbourne Executive Director Stephen Elder says.

And the Victorian Government’s Excellence in Teacher Education reforms’ focus on Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores result risks both a shortage of teachers and larger class sizes.

‘We all want quality teaching,’ Mr Elder says, ‘but this requires looking at more in would-be teachers than their ATAR results.

‘Resilience, personality and a passion to pursue a career in education are more important qualities than a high ATAR score or university results.’

The Andrews Labor Government has announced that it would introduce a minimum of a 70 ATAR for entry into undergraduate teaching courses from 2019.

‘Nerds don’t necessarily make good teachers,’ Mr Elder said. ‘Social and emotional intelligence are vital too.

‘This was specifically recognised in last year’s Teacher Ministerial Advisory Group review of teacher training, which pointedly failed to recommend a minimum ATAR for entry into teaching courses.

‘Instead, it recognised that there is a continuum of learning for teachers that extends beyond their final year of school and university that stretches into the classroom and beyond.

‘Its key proposals focused on integration of theory and practice, strengthening quality assurance, ensuring classroom readiness for graduates teachers and improved teacher effectiveness and workforce planning for those already at the chalk face.’

Mr Elder said the state government’s newly-announced focus on ATAR results also ignored the Australian Council for Education Research’s (ACER) submission to the 2012 Senate inquiry into teacher quality and advice from the Australian Council of Deans of Education.

'ACER described a focus on entry scores to teaching courses as “a blunt approach” and “well short of international best practice”,’ Mr Elder said, ‘while the Australian Council of Deans of Education observed in their submission to the TMAG review “Nearly 70 per cent of students enter into teacher education programs after completing another degree or through another pathway”.’

Mr Elder said the Andrews Government’s approach would struggle if it did not address the perception of the teaching profession with a plan to address teacher salaries.

‘There is also the issue of teacher earnings, a disincentive for many to enter the profession,’ said Mr Elder.

‘Despite relatively high starting salaries in education, this quickly tops out after ten years in the profession.

‘Put simply, better salaries will attract students with higher ATAR scores.’ 

Mr Elder warned teacher shortages were already looming.

‘Bureau of Statistics figures show that Victoria will need to educate almost 55,000 more primary school students by 2020, already creating a threat of teacher shortages that will lead to larger class sizes.

‘Today’s announcement risks exacerbating this.’

Mr Elder said he was keen to see further details of the ATAR announcement.

‘As the second largest employer of teachers in the state, Catholic Education Melbourne looks forward to having a discussion with the government to understand what they’re trying to achieve with these changes.’

Further information contact Christian Kerr, Media Adviser on 0402 977 352 or 9267 4411.

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