Money is one way to attract high achievers to teaching but it’s not the only way, job satisfaction and fulfillment can be just as effective.
The just-released Grattan Institute report, Attracting High Achievers to Teaching, offers a range of recommended reforms which, if adopted, could potentially double the proportion of high achievers who choose teaching as a career within the next decade. The package would carry an estimated $1.6 billion annual price tag.
“I’m concerned that we’re not really sure where to set the dollar figures required. For example, one of the report’s recommendations is offering scholarships but States have been doing $10k+ scholarships for decades, in various forms. Meanwhile, the talent profile of teachers has declined, as the report illustrates," says Teach for Australia’s founder and CEO Melodie Potts-Rosevear.
“What we’ve learned is that just speaking to the ‘numbers’, whilst important, isn’t enough. Teach For Australia aims instead to inspire program participants to see how their existing career ambitions can sit alongside taking action towards education equity,”
“I’m also concerned that we’re not really sure where to set the dollar figures required. For example, one of the report’s recommendations is offering scholarships but States have been doing $10k+ scholarships for decades, in various forms. Meanwhile, the talent profile of teachers has declined, as the report illustrates.”
“What we’ve learned is that just speaking to the ‘numbers’, whilst important, isn’t enough. Teach For Australia aims instead to inspire program participants to see how their existing career ambitions can sit alongside taking action towards education equity.”
The Grattan Institute’s report makes the case that high achievers rarely see teaching as an attractive option, claiming that demand from high achievers has steadily declined over the past four decades. Potts-Rosevear said that Teach For Australia had managed to buck that trend, suggesting the work of Teach For Australia provided something for policy makers to learn from and highlight.
“We’ve seen over 11,000 applications in the last 10 years for our highly selective program. We know from our own market research that the opportunity to make a difference – if marketed appropriately, and backed up by a robust program design – will attract exceptional individuals,” she said in response to the report’s recommendations.
"Our program is highly selective, accepting only the top 8% of applicants to become teachers (known as Associates as they go through the program). 44% are eligible to teach STEM subjects – fields where Australia suffers a critical shortage of qualified teachers – and nearly half of Associates hold an advanced university degree including 6 per cent with Doctorate degrees and 11 per cent with Master's degrees. We know that high achievers make huge impacts in the classroom and in the communities where they live and work.
“At the same time, we know that to be most effective, high achievers need to connect with the work and that is why we are also increasing our focus on diversity and inclusion within our cohort. We have increased the number of first-in-family graduates into our program. We ensure everyone has leadership qualities, resilience, energy, and a desire to work on reducing educational inequity.”
The report recommends a three-part reform package to meet its goal to double the number of high achievers choosing teaching within the next 10 years. It cites research that shows bright young people are open to becoming teachers, but that changes such as better pay and more speciality roles are needed to convince them to choose the classroom. Potts-Rosevear said however that these proposed new positions, with their higher levels of responsibility and boosted pay may not be enough to address a number of real issues affecting teacher careers.
“Whilst I applaud the Grattan report’s proposal to see new levels of instructional leaders created within our school system, I’m concerned that it could create an unhelpful cycle of centre-driven role creation and promotion. Without ensuring effective school leadership, people management structures and culture change happening alongside, there’s a real risk of promoting and frustrating high achievers simultaneously. Sadly, there’s no silver bullet.”