The shortage of teachers and the worrying lack of future supply will see students enter the classroom as paraprofessionals.
The Australian Catholic University (ACU) and the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) will work together to see teacher education students employed in NSW Catholic schools to address the growing shortage of teachers and provide paid, in-the-classroom experience.
The plan is part of a long-term strategy to place highly trained, workplace-ready graduates into Australian Catholic schools and early childhood education centres.
Paraprofessionals are being employed as Education or Learning Support Officers, joining the workforce in NSW Catholic schools and other states and territories across Australia are expected to join the program as part of a national roll out.
Teacher education students, who have already undertaken substantial in-school professional experience, will be directly involved in supporting teachers in the classroom and those working remotely.
The paraprofessionals will be employed up to four days per week with in-school mentoring and support from ACU. This flexibility ensures they have time to complete their university studies and to meet the requirements of their final professional experience so they can graduate and join the workforce.
St Clare’s Catholic High School, Hassall Grove (Western Sydney) has employed five ACU pre-service teachers as paraprofessionals.
Australian Catholic University (ACU) Vice-Chancellor and President Zlatko Skrbis says, “As the largest provider of teachers in the country we have a responsibility to the teaching profession, in times of uncertainty and challenge, to assist in any way we can. Our preservice teachers engage in rigorous teacher education programs and have already spent a significant amount of time in schools where they are mentored by high-quality teachers. We see this as an opportunity to add breadth and depth to their experience whilst helping the profession meet current workforce needs and prepare adequately for upcoming demand.”
School Principal Kevin Jones, St Clare’s Catholic College, Hassall Grove said the student teachers would be, “Supporting teachers and students in the classroom including marking and providing feedback to students, collecting evidence of learning, creating resources, supervising practical lessons, personalising learning materials and digitising resources for student needs and playground supervision."
He says this doesn’t mean students will be taught by yet-to-be qualified teachers because they are engaging in a paraprofessional capacity in a support role for teachers and this is an opportunity for pre-service teachers to be mentored by professional teachers in the classroom.