‘We all want the best teachers we can get for our kids.’
This was the sentiment expressed by Charles Sturt University (CSU) Executive Dean of Education
, Professor Toni Downes, as she welcomed the announcement by NSW Minister for Education and Communities, The Hon. Adrian Piccoli, that the Government will focus on enhancing teacher quality in NSW schools.
“The big question for rural and regional communities, however, is whether the reforms proposed by the Minister will actually deliver the outcomes parents want for their kids, and whether we will be able to ensure that rural and regional schools have enough good teachers in the future,” Professor Downes said.
“While supporting the commitment to teacher quality, Charles Sturt University remains concerned about the Government’s focus on ‘entry requirements’.
“What the research tells us is that students in rural and regional areas who are admitted to university on the recommendation of their school principal, for example, perform to the same high-quality standard as students who enrol in university solely on the basis of the HSC.
“Being from a rural area, the Minister knows that many of the best and brightest in rural and regional areas won’t achieve the same HSC marks as city kids.
“This isn’t because they are less capable, but because they don’t have access to the same subjects and facilities due to the historic neglect of rural and regional schools.
“As a result, we know that raising the entry bar will have a disproportionately negative impact on school leavers from rural and regional areas who want to become teachers.
“Research shows that around 75 per cent of teachers in western NSW schools are originally from a rural or regional area. Locking rural school leavers out of the opportunity to become teachers will potentially lead to serious teacher shortages in rural areas in the longer term.
“If we aren’t going to trust the judgment of school principals about the capabilities of their students, then the government needs to make a really big investment in expanding subjects and facilities to ensure rural and regional kids have the same chance as city kids to perform well in the HSC, and to become teachers under the proposed entry requirements.”
Professor Downes also noted that the statistics released by the NSW Board of Studies showing that 70 per cent of school leavers who want to become teachers will be locked out of an undergraduate pathway to their chosen career by the NSW Government contradicts the national standards for teacher education, which allow students to demonstrate equivalence, and to meet these high standards at the end of their study, not before they even begin.
“There will be a lot of really passionate and capable school leavers in the future who will no longer be able to enrol in a NSW university to study to become a teacher.
“There remain some big questions about how the government will attract new students to study teaching to replace those it plans to lock out.
“Such students are currently planning to study in disciplines like dentistry, pharmacy, architecture, law and engineering, so there will need to be a big change in the pay and conditions of teachers to compete for these high performing students.”
Professor Downes said she looks forward to seeing details from the Minister as to how these important reforms will be funded.
“We will continue to work with the Government to ensure we get sensible solutions that guarantee that rural and regional communities continue to have access to sustainable and quality education for their kids,” Professor Downes said.