KIERAN GILBERT: Welcome back to the program. Teachers are at the heart of a new campaign to boost dire staffing shortfalls in classrooms around the nation. The videos in the ad, the ad campaign, they spotlight the lasting impact that educators can have on their students. They include this heart-warming anecdote from Queensland teacher Mirakai Kentwell about helping one of her students who was blind.
MIRAKAI KENTWELL: Doing our athletics carnival, doing a relay race and he was using his cane and he decided to hold my hand. We started running and another one of my teaching friends had brought their class down and his group of students started saying a chant for him. It was like, "Tay, Tay, he's our man. If he can't do it, no one can" or something. And everyone around us just started chanting this song that was so specific to him. So, my memento is me holding his hand.
GILBERT: Let's bring in the Education Minister - the Education Minister Jason Clare is with us live. You told people before you watch, you'd get a box of tissues ready. I can see why. They're tear jerkers, aren't they, Jason?
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: I cried when I saw that ad, mate. Who wouldn't want to be that teacher in that moment that had that opportunity to have that experience with that little boy? It really is the most important job in the world, and we don't have enough teachers. That's just the truth of it. This campaign is about talking to the community about why you should become a teacher. Pay is an issue, workload is an issue, respect is an issue as well. The fact is that a lot of teachers will tell you they don't feel like they're valued by our local community. We need to change that. That's what this campaign is about.
GILBERT: And you're going to run the ads on a digital, mainly digital platform, but on buses, bus stops and so on as well, because you're targeting a younger demographic. But for our viewers who might want to get online, have a look at the ads, where can they find them? Because I highly recommend checking them out, because these eight individual stories, they're all very powerful in their own way.
CLARE: Go to www.BeThatTeacher.gov.au, you can see all of the ads. But there's also an opportunity there for people to nominate a teacher who changed their life, or for teachers to tell the stories of what other teachers have done. Because even though these are eight ads with eight teachers, one from each State and Territory, the truth is they represent more than 300,000 teachers right across the country. And this is an opportunity for us all to tell the story of the teacher that changed our life.
If we think about it, we can remember that teacher who made a difference in our life. We don't remember much from when we're little, but we do remember our teachers. And I remember 20 years ago seeing a campaign that was run in New York City, and it was this very simple ad in a subway train that said, "You remember your first-grade teacher's name, who will remember yours?” And it was that that's inspired this campaign to make people think, whether they're young and just finishing school to become a teacher, or whether they're older, about a change in careers.
GILBERT: So, you saw it years ago in New York and now bringing it to our education system and our teachers. Have you got a sense of hope that this can make a difference, get more people in there? Because you touched on it earlier but that sense of respect and elevating the profession to where it should be is so important.
CLARE: We've seen about a 12 per cent drop, Kieran, over the last ten years in the number of people enrolling to become teachers. We've seen that bounce back a bit this year. Early signs are that it's up about 2.5 per cent. And this campaign is designed to move and inspire people to want to be a teacher. But it's just the start. Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll open applications for scholarships worth up to $40,000 each to encourage some of our best and brightest to want to be a teacher.
But we've also got to change the course at university to make sure that teachers have got the skills they need from day one. A lot of teachers tell me that when they first entered the classroom, they didn't feel like they were ready or prepared, that the prac wasn't up to scratch, that the course didn't give them the skills they need to teach children to read and write and do maths. So, we're fixing that as well. And next year is a big year because next year is the year that we strike a new National Schools Reform Agreement, which is about making sure that we fund our schools fairly and that we tie that funding to the sort of things that are going to help our kids who fall behind to catch up and to keep up and get more kids finishing high school.
GILBERT: If our viewers go on to that Be That Teacher website, you'll see another ad of a young teacher who taught a young girl in a wheelchair, told her - encouraged her to get into swimming, ends up being a Paralympian. Wonderful story, but you could only choose eight. On my understanding when Clemenger put this to you, you had thousands of entries, applications, people saying, "Look, choose this teacher, choose my teacher."
CLARE: You're absolutely right. And hats off to Clemenger. Advertising agencies don't often get a rap, but these are, I don't want to put the kibosh on them, I think award winning ads. They really tell the story about why being a teacher is the most important job in the world. We had hundreds and hundreds of teachers, I think it was more than 800 applied to be in the ads in the first week. An impossible job to pick eight teachers to represent more than 300,000. But that ad from the South Australian teacher was another one that made me cry. It's just a great example. You'll see footage of a young person swimming in the Paralympics and then you rewind time and find out that it all began with her teacher, who told this girl in a wheelchair, “why don't you try swimming?” A great example among many of how a teacher can change someone's life forever.
GILBERT: Yeah, well, it's fantastic campaign and it's not often we get to say, as you say, rap an ad agency, but good on them for doing what they did. And it's a great idea. All the best with it, Minister. Thanks for your time.
CLARE: Brilliant. Thanks, mate.