Secret ATAR report reveals urgent need to boost teacher training standards

18 September 2018

A secret report showing that students with low ATAR scores are being recruited into Initial Teacher Education (ITE) is of grave concern and reveals the urgent need to implement minimum entry requirements for teaching degrees in Australia.

According to media reports, the confidential report revealed that some prospective teaching students had an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) that was as low as zero to 19 — far below the Federal Government's official data. The report was reportedly ordered to be destroyed by the University of Sydney.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that reports of low ATAR standards for university teaching courses were troubling.

“We are gravely concerned that the University of Sydney reportedly ordered this report to be destroyed,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“We need high-quality teaching and learning programs in our schools. This is a matter of public interest and the report should be in the public domain.”

According to the report, in NSW and the ACT in 2015, students who scored in the bottom 50 per cent of school leavers made up half of all those offered places in teaching degrees.

Ms Haythorpe said that Australian universities should follow the lead of high performing school systems such as those in Singapore and Finland set a high bar for University entrants into teaching courses.

“Universities have opened their Initial Teaching Education programs to students with low ATARS,” Ms Haythorpe said. “However 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.”

Ms Haythorpe said that low university entry scores for teaching degrees was a growing issue.

“Entry scores for teaching degrees have dropped steadily over the last decade, and are now significantly lower than for other courses,” Ms Haythorpe said. “Figures from Victoria show that the average ATAR of a student entering a teaching course in 2016 was 57.35, down from 63.4 in 2013.”

Ms Haythorpe said teacher training standards had to be raised by setting minimum entry requirements across the nation and by making teaching a post-graduate degree.

“We must address the drop in ATAR scores for undergraduate teaching courses by setting minimum entry requirements and in the long term making teaching a two-year post graduate degree - then you know people who enter the course have already passed an undergraduate degree,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“NSW has put clear minimum entry standards for teaching students in place, while Victoria will have a minimum ATAR benchmark of 70 for teaching courses from 2019. This trend should be followed by all states and territories.”

“We want to have confidence that when teaching students finish their Initial Teacher Education course they are well prepared to meet the graduate standard.”

“This means they need to spend their time at university developing and understanding the curriculum and their skills to teach students, not focusing on personal remedial programs such as literacy and numeracy support,” Ms Haythorpe said.