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Unqualified teachers sent to classrooms, costing millions

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We need STEAM teachers and the High Achieving Teachers Program’ (HATP) is supposed to help with that, however the Australian Education Union has its concerns.

The AEU claims that the program would send unqualified candidates with no experience into Australian school classrooms to teach public school students, with the hope of earning their teaching credentials on the job.

Applicants for the government’s ‘High Achieving Teachers Program’ (HATP) would not need any type of tertiary qualification before entering the classroom, with tender documents only specifying professional or academic experience' gained outside of teaching. There would also be no minimum training requirements for candidates before they begin teaching.

The union thinks that it won’t go very far in meeting demand for STEAM teachers, claiming that tender documents show the HATP program would produce as few as 20 new teachers, who may not reach classrooms until 2022. In 2017 there were 281,948 teachers in Australian schools. Applications from interested parties to run the program closed last week.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham recently promoted private-sector ‘alternate pathways to teaching’ programs as a way of recruiting professionals, specialising in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), to boost school student enrolments in STEM subjects.

However AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said ‘alternate pathways’ programs were no substitute for training fully-qualified school teachers. She instead called for a concerted strategy to improve the recruitment and retention of teachers for all subjects.

“The ‘High Achieving Teachers Program’ shows once again that Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham doesn’t value the work of qualified teachers,” Haythorpe said. 

“Minister Birmingham thinks anybody can be a teacher, with no initial training, via one of these private-sector ‘alternate pathways to teaching’ programs. However nothing could be further from the truth. Teaching is a challenging profession requiring specialised training and experience.”

“Putting unqualified teachers in front of a class of students would have devastating consequences for a child’s education. It would mean missed opportunities which that student would lose forever,” Haythorpe said.  

“No student should be used as a teaching experiment by the Turnbull Government. What schools really need are fully-qualified teachers who properly understand how to assist students to achieve their potential.”

“‘Alternate pathways’ programs are just Turnbull Government teacher-training shortcuts which will do nothing to address teacher shortages.”

“Surveys show between 20% and 40% of those teaching mathematics are teaching out of field. Even the maximum number proposed by the HATP scheme will only be an increase of a fraction of one per cent in teacher numbers,” Haythorpe said. 

“Despite the millions of dollars being spent by the Turnbull Government on these ‘alternate pathways to teaching’, there is no guarantee that a single qualified teacher will emerge from the ‘High Achieving Teachers Program’.”

Haythorpe said results from another Turnbull-Government-funded ‘alternate pathway’, the Teach For Australia (TFA) program, proved the concept does not work. The TFA program recruits professionals from the private sector to teach in public schools. Ms Haythorpe said TFA has cost taxpayers $77 million so far, with only 124 teachers trained during the first five years of the program still working in schools.

“Minister Birmingham should learn the lesson from his first unqualified teachers program, Teach for Australia, which has proven to be a crushing $77 million failure,” Haythorpe said.  “TFA has failed to deliver any real boost in teacher numbers, with attrition rates high above the qualified workforce rate.”

“The Turnbull Government’s own evaluation of the TFA showed that one third of participants had left teaching only one year after becoming qualified teachers. Within three years more than half the participants had left teaching altogether."

She called on the Turnbull Government to replace the billions of dollars of funding it had 'stripped' from the public education budget.

“The best thing Min. Birmingham could do to help the teaching profession to improve student outcomes would be to restore the $1.9 billion he took from public school funding in 2018 and 2019," Ms Haythorpe said.

“We also need a concerted strategy to improve the recruitment and retention of teachers across all curriculum areas.”


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