Minister Birmingham must take action to lift entry standards for teaching degrees

19 January 2016

The AEU has welcomed reports today that the Victorian Government is considering following NSW’s lead and introducing minimum academic standards for beginning teachers, in an attempt to lift entry scores for teaching degrees.

NSW has already introduced a requirement for all new teachers in public schools to have Band-5 ATAR scores (80 per cent or higher) in three subjects, including English.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said any action to lift entry standards for teaching courses was welcome, but that Education Minister Simon Birmingham needed to take the lead on the issue.

“We have NSW and potentially Victoria taking action. The Federal Government’s hand-picked education adviser, AITSL chair Professor John Hattie, has also called for minimum entry scores to teaching degrees to lift standards.

“Yet Minister Birmingham is happy to preside over a flawed system that lets universities enrol as many students in teaching courses as they want regardless of their ATAR scores,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“He needs to introduce proper workforce planning and minimum entry standards for teaching courses.

“Top performing school systems such as Singapore recruit their teachers from the top 30 per cent of school graduates, and we should be looking to do the same.

“We have seen a decade of decline in ATAR scores for teaching courses, with no action to address this from the Federal Government.

“Latest figures from Victoria show that the average ATAR of a student entering a teaching course in 2016 is 57.35 this year, down from 63.4 in 2013.

“Attracting the best entrants to teaching courses is a crucial first step in ensuring our children get the best education possible. We cannot expect young people who struggled at school to become high performing teachers within a few years.

“Academic ability is not the only thing that makes a good teacher but it is clear that attracting the most academically able students into teaching will lift the quality of our school system.

“We know that students admitted with low ATARs are less likely to continue with their course and there is a clear correlation between ATAR scores and success at university.

“Previous Education Minister Christopher Pyne did nothing to address the decline in academic standards for entrants to teacher training – even saying that teachers could be great “regardless of ATAR scores”.

“The current system is producing a surplus of graduates who can’t find work, while we have shortages of qualified maths and science teachers.

Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291