Testing Teachers: The Documentary

All children have the capacity to learn and succeed.

Too often though, destiny is determined by the postcode you’re born in.

In Australia, children from low income households are almost three years behind students from high income households. Fortunately, it is possible for students to catch up. Quality teaching and school leadership are critical contributors to breaking the cycle of disadvantage.

This April on SBS, Testing Teachers will follow the experience of six Teach For Australia teachers in their first years of teaching as they confront Australia’s education gap head on.

Follow the action.

01. The documentary series.

“Testing Teachers provides a snapshot of a national problem that needs national attention.”

Melodie Potts Rosevear, Teach For Australia Founder and CEO

A new SBS three-part documentary series will explore the wide and varied challenges facing students, teachers and schools in low socioeconomic communities.

Follow Emmanuel, Fiona, Kitty, Sasha, Stephanie and Will who teach across three schools in outer metropolitan and remote Australia. The documentary captures their experiences across 12 months of completing our two-year teacher training and leadership program.

There will be challenges but each teacher is supported by experienced colleagues, professionals and others who you’ll meet along the way. The teachers are also equipped with key competencies, such as resilience and a commitment to making a difference in children’s lives.

We thank participating students, parents, teachers, principals and communities for inspiring people to stand up and take action.

Also Check out
Where are they now?

Find out what the teachers are doing one year on.

Read more
Our response: episode three

Read our response to the final episode of Testing Teachers.

Read more
Our response: episode two

Read our response to the second episode of Testing Teachers.

Read more
How Associates are supported

Hear Felicity discuss her work supporting the teachers at Southern River College.

Listen here
Our response: episode one

Read our response to the first episode of Testing Teachers.

Read more
SMH review Testing Teachers

“But it’s the people, their journeys… that will keep us coming back for more.”

Read more
The Australian

“…required viewing for anybody considering a career in the classroom.”

Read more
Meet Stephanie

The Western Australian meets Stephanie ahead of Testing Teachers.

Read more
Show peers into classrooms

Read the latest interview with Kitty ahead of Testing Teachers going to air.

Read more
Meet Will

The Australian spoke to Will ahead of Testing Teachers.

Read more
02. What is educational disadvantage?

“The broader goal of education is to give all students the opportunity to choose a life that they can succeed in. At the moment, not all students have this choice.”

Mitchell Institute, 2015

In Australia today, the postcode you’re born in can radically impact your entire future.

Watch this animation for a snapshot of educational disadvantage in Australia:

Children who are from low socioeconomic backgrounds, are Indigenous Australians, from a rural or remote community or from a refugee or asylum seeker background are more likely to face additional barriers that impact on what they can achieve at school and in life.

  • Indigenous Australian students are, on average, six times more likely to be below national literacy and numeracy standards than non-Indigenous Australian students across all year levels.
  • Students from rural or remote communities are less likely to attend school and university than their metropolitan peers.
  • Many students from a refugee or asylum seeker background are placed in a grade level based on chronological age that does not match their educational attainment level, resulting in many students leaving school without the basic literacy skills required to realise their potential as an adult in society.

Without addressing the barriers these students face, the gap in academic achievement often grows over the course of their education.

This is educational disadvantage and we must tackle it.

03. How can we tackle it?

“Recognising, valuing and enhancing the teachers and school leaders with high levels of expertise makes the difference. It’s what works best.”

Hattie, 2015

Despite the barriers that children from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds face, it is possible for them to catch up. Quality teaching and school leadership are key.

In Australia, students taught by the highest performing teachers have been found to learn as much in six months as what the lowest performing teachers accomplish in a year (Leigh, 2010).

We need high-quality teachers in classrooms and strong individuals leading our schools who are dedicated to supporting students to succeed.

To support teachers and leaders, as a country we need to:

  • value teaching as a profession;
  • ensure new teachers work in a supportive environment;
  • support student learning in a way that we know works; and
  • develop teachers as leaders.

With a good education, an individual’s employment opportunities can improve, so too their health and wellbeing. For Australia, improving teacher effectiveness could cause economic growth to increase by AU$90 billion by 2050.

04. What can you do?
Every day, people dedicate their lives to confront educational disadvantage. Still, too many children do not have the opportunity to reach their potential. Addressing educational disadvantage is a shared responsibility and everyone can play a role.
Stills: Kelly Gardner & David Dare Parker