Budget Eases Financial Pain for Trainee Teachers

Commonwealth Practicum Payments welcome.
May 15, 2024
Government eases financial burden attached to practicums.

Many trainee teachers face 'placement poverty' when giving up their own paid work to undertake mandatory placements as part of their degrees.

In response, the budget has provided wage payments for all student teachers undergoing teaching placements Australia-wide of $319.50 a week.

Commonwealth Practicum Payments (CPP), will ease the financial burden attached to long-term teacher placements and comes with debt relief to cap HECS/HELP student loan indexation rates.

Professor Michele Simons Dean of Education at Western Sydney University says the CPP is a welcome initiative.

"Government initiatives to support contributions to broaden participation for students from underrepresented groups and fully fund university enabling courses are very welcome.

"These initiatives will support the goal of ensuring that workforces such as those of teaching are truly representative of all the children and young people in our schools and early childhood education sections."

Professor Penny Van Bergen Head of the School of Education at the University of Wollongong, says the payment is a help but, "I would like to see these payments indexed to minimum wage, however, which is considerably higher at $882 per week vs $319 per week for placement. This is an excellent start, but there is more to be done to retain education students in our degree.

"Needs-based funding for under-represented students is a particularly welcome initiative in education. Initial teacher education cohorts are often less diverse than the communities they serve. However, universities, employers, parents, and students themselves all agree on the need for a diverse teaching workforce, who can genuinely meet the needs of their communities.

"Put simply, when students see people like themselves represented among their teachers, they know that school is a place they belong and can thrive. This representation within universities can only be achieved with investment and support."

The weekly payment for a placement in a school for professional experience where pre-service teachers spend approximately 600 unpaid hours is long overdue.

But Associate Professor Jane Hunter (University of Technology Sydney) thinks there is potential for two classes of students in universities to be created, those whose prac in their degree is funded and those that aren’t.

“It comes down to which sectors have the most acute shortages, and I would argue that right now, it’s teaching.

"We won’t have engineers, doctors, pharmacists, and IT people - who are in short supply in this country - unless we have sufficient teachers in our schools to ensure they are prepared for tertiary education in the high school years."

A boost in funding for public schools was conspicuously absent from the budget which failed to increase the Commonwealth share of the Schooling Resource Standard to 25%, despite widespread support.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said, “The public knows that there is deep inequity in how public schools are funded when compared with private schools in Australia. If the government can find $2.5 billion to overfund 40% of private schools they can find the money to meet their election commitment to end the underfunding of public schools. This commitment will only be realised when the Albanese Government puts the dollars on the table.

“Right now, only 1.3% of public schools are funded at 100% of the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), which is the minimum level governments agreed a decade ago was required to meet the needs of students.

“Public schools have had one year of dedicated capital funding since 2017, worth $216 million. For schools which have benefitted from this funding, it has meant new facilities such as toilets and outdoor learning areas.

“At the same time private schools have raked in $1.25 billion, some of which went to the richest schools in the nation. Private schools will now get an additional $1 billion over four years and public schools will get nothing.”

Image by Kelly Sikkema