ATTRACTING quality candidates to teaching is about much more than boosting the minimum ATAR score for university courses, central Victorian sources say.
A school principal, a 2017 graduate, a prominent Bendigonian, and the head of the Australian Education Union’s Victorian branch suggested additional areas of focus for political parties seeking to ensure the next generations of Australians were being taught by the most skilled teachers available.
They included increased support for graduate teachers and improving work conditions, such as pay.
Each of the sources interviewed acknowledged the importance of the national debate sparked by federal Labor’s calls on universities at the weekend to boost the entry threshold for studies in education.
Complex issue. This on its own doesn’t improve the quality of graduate teachers, ensure that supply equals demand or raise the prestige of teaching. And there are some teacher shortage areas (eg Technology, Languages) where a standard uni course is not the answer. https://t.co/kjy31bfnnB— Dale Pearce (@DalePearce3) January 6, 2019
Bendigo Senior Secondary College principal Dale Pearce said prospective teachers ideally would possess a high degree of academic ability and high capacity in other areas critical to teaching.
While he thought raising the ATAR benchmark was a worthwhile step, Mr Pearce said strategies to address shortages of teachers in specific geographic and subject areas were also important.
“It is quite a complex issue, I think,” he said.
AEU Victoria branch president Meredith Peace said the education department needed to keep a close eye on attracting and retaining teachers in rural and regional areas, as well as ensuring there were enough teachers to meet the needs of the state’s growing population.
She said the discussion about minimum entry standards for teaching courses was just one part of the equation: “I think it is an important one, but there are a lot of other issues, too”.
Bendigo early childhood teacher Ashleigh Hunter said making education a higher paying career with more support for graduates would help make the profession more attractive.
“I know many people from my graduating class that received a B average grade or above that can’t get a graduate position with a school because schools want them to have experience, which is very difficult when you have just completed university,” she said.
“The job market for teachers is incredibly competitive in a town like Bendigo, which has a university. Most of us move into CRT teaching, which is not guaranteed work, just to get some experience up.”
While she said she was was supportive of a benchmark for those seeking to become teachers, she questioned how effective raising the minimum ATAR score would be in improving graduate outcomes.
“As I began my course there were 65 students studying the same degree as me, only 32 graduated,” Miss Hunter said.
“I think that shows university is difficult to get through and an extra five points on your ATAR isn’t going to help that when some of the drop outs had higher ATARs than myself.”
Jonathan Ridnell believed a teacher’s abilities to enthuse and engage children in the learning process were among the most important qualities – traits he regularly has opportunities to observe in his work at Discovery Centre Bendigo.
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