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Invite-only university program to address teacher shortages

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When Elise Milner received an invitation, based on her academic performance, to join the National Exceptional Teaching for Disadvantaged Schools (NETDS) program, many of her colleagues had misconceptions about families whose children weren’t turning up for school.

“Many people have assumptions about who might be at fault or why it is happening, but those assumptions and stereotypes aren’t based on actual knowledge or education,” Milner said.

She  is now in the final year of the NETDS program within her Bachelor of Education Degree at ACU Brisbane and recently returned from a four-week placement at a school in a Torres Strait Islander community where she is planning to return later this year.

“As a teacher, you can’t work from a deficit perspective. Teachers need to focus on the student and understand that every child has skills and strengths to bring to the classroom, regardless of where they live or what their life situation may be,” she said.

Addressing teacher capacity in low SES schools
Prof Bruce Burnett who founded the NETDS program in 2008 together with Prof Jo Lampert said it was designed to address teacher capacity in low SES (socio economic status) schools and create outstanding outcomes for students in disadvantaged communities.

“We are now finding that the teachers who have graduated as part of the NETDS program are not only in high demand but they are getting recognised at the academic level from other scholars. These exceptional teachers are going to be our future leaders,” Burnett said.

International recognition for the Australian teacher training initiative
Australian professor Jo Lampert presented at a Presidential Session of the AERA (American Educational Research Association) conference in Toronto, Canada with more than 15,000 delegates from around the world.

As co-founder of the NETDS program, Prof Lampert offered insights into teacher education innovation, citing the program’s ability to recruit the best pre-service teachers to prepare them to work in the schools that need them most; schools servicing low socio-economic communities.

“Teacher redistribution is the result: 90% of the highest performing graduate teachers in participating universities now accept their first teaching positions in high poverty schools. Importantly, they stay in those schools,” she said.

Support from the Origin Foundation to take the program to scale
With funding from the Origin Foundation to take the program to scale, the program has been rolled out across four Australian states and is now offered at seven universities. It has produced more than 500 exceptional teachers and benefited more than 250 schools.

Head of the Origin Foundation, Sean Barrett said that effective teachers and quality teaching made the greatest difference to student learning outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged students.

“High achieving teacher graduates are almost twice as likely to be employed in affluent state or independent schools rather than disadvantaged schools that need them most.

The NETDS program is currently offered at ACU in Brisbane, New England University, University of Newcastle, University of Western Sydney, ACU in Sydney, Deacon University, Victoria University, ACU in Melbourne and the University of South Australia.

The NETDS has already received national recognition. The impact of NETDS on systemic change has been noted in the Australian Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report (TEMAG), and the “From Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Education Excellence in Australian Schools” (The Gonski Report).

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