The highly anticipated report of the “Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools” was released by the Federal Government yesterday. Known as “Gonski 2.0”, the report identifies findings and recommendations for school performance and enhanced student outcomes.
Teach For Australia welcomes the focus on attracting and retaining quality teachers where they are needed most, supporting the professional development of school leaders and identifying education innovations that show evidence of effectiveness. The associated findings and recommendations align with the approach and mission of Teach For Australia, to contribute to an Australia where all children, regardless of background, attain an excellent education.
“At the heart of improving Australia’s education system is getting more great teachers into classrooms where they are most needed, and supporting and developing them as leaders,” says Melodie Potts Rosevear, CEO and Founder of Teach For Australia. “International evidence is clear; improving teacher quality is the most powerful option we have to improve the outcomes for our children.”
Teach For Australia’s submission to the review in November aligned with many of the Report’s findings, highlighting the need for a school leadership agenda, attraction of high quality candidates into teaching and better support for new teachers.
The report highlights the difficulties of attracting teachers, particularly at “’hard-to-fill schools’, such as those in rural and remote and low socio-economic status areas”.
Principals report that this challenge is augmented in “critical subject areas” such as science and mathematics, where a lack of qualified teachers from these disciplines can result in students being taught by out-of-field teachers.
Teach For Australia helps to fill teaching vacancies in these “hard-to-fill” positions, partnering exclusively with schools serving low socioeconomic communities – almost half of which are in regional, rural and remote communities. Almost half of all Leadership Development Program participants (known as Associates) are eligible to teach science and mathematics subjects. Teach for Australia is attractive to STEM professionals as an employment-based pathway, reducing opportunity costs of traditional teacher education, which is a barrier for people with high earning potential.
The report endorses alternative pathways into teaching as an option to address the issue of teacher shortages, as “they can make a pathway into teaching realistic and appealing to a wider range of candidates, and bring new or specific skills into the teaching profession.”
The report also highlights the importance of the retention of high-quality teachers, listing “the creation of conditions to enable and encourage more professional collaboration, observation, feedback and mentoring amongst teachers” as a key recommendation.
Integral to the Teach for Australia Leadership Development and Teach To Lead programs is a comprehensive support network, established so that Associates and Fellows can thrive in often challenging school environments. All Associates have a ‘Teaching and Leadership Adviser’ to act as a dedicated teacher coach, providing frequent and tailored teaching and wellbeing support, along with an in-school Mentor who offers additional contextual support.
The report describes the urgent need to increase the number of teachers with adequate qualifications to apply and be successful in school leadership positions.
Developing leadership behaviours is a focus of Teach For Australia’s programs. In many instances, this has resulted in Associates having an accelerated path into formalised leadership roles. Over one-third of all Teach For Australia Alumni who are currently teaching are in leadership positions.
The report also highlights the importance of professional development for individuals already leading schools.
“Targeted preparation and support is essential” for school leaders – particularly considering that only one-in-five complete principal and instructional leadership training prior to being appointed to the role .
It was with this in mind that Teach For Australia began the Teach To Lead program in 2016, as a professional development program for leaders of schools serving low socioeconomic communities. Teach To Lead develops the skills and mindsets leaders need in schools facing the greatest challenges, such as strategic planning and effective team building.
Teach For Australia particularly welcomes the importance placed in the report of challenging the status quo by recognising novel approaches. As stated in the report, “An education system that innovates is “supported by data, research and evidence” to enable the identification and scaling of what works.
Teach For Australia is an example of how innovative approaches work. Since 2008, we have received over 9,000 applications and placed 674 Associates in 156 schools across VIC, WA, ACT, TAS and NT, impacting over 175,000 students.
In 2017, the Australian Government released an independent evaluation of Teach For Australia’s Leadership Development Program, which found that the program is “an innovative model which may have lessons for wider initial teacher education.”
“Innovation is needed to transform the status of the teaching profession,” Melodie Potts Rosevear says. “Teach For Australia urges State Governments to welcome the findings of this report, in particular around the benefits of alternative pathways into teaching, such as Teach For Australia. We hope that the findings of this report will encourage our expansion into regions where we don’t yet operate, so that we can continue to help all children, regardless of background, attain an excellent education.”