SUBJECTS: Teacher Education Expert Panel, ACCC inquiry into child care prices, Hawthorn Football Club, NSW Labor preselection and the passing of Her Majesty
KIERAN GILBERT: The government has today unveiled the Vice Chancellor of Sydney University, Mark Scott, as the leader of a review into the development of our nation's teachers. He'll lead a panel of education experts tasked with analysing the way teachers are trained through universities. It will provide a series of recommendations on how to strengthen the performance of teachers to bring about better results for students. This panel was set up by the Education Minister, Jason Clare, who joins me live now. Minister, thanks so much for your time. This review by Mark Scott and his fellow experts looks like it's got a few different elements to it. One, the quality, but then there's the supply of teachers as well. There's a huge shortfall right now.
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: We've got a shortage of teachers right across the country. There's a couple of reasons for that. We've seen a drop in the number of people enrolling at university to become teachers. I think it's dropped by about 16% in the last ten years. And we don't have enough students at university actually completing their university degree and going on to become teachers. And thirdly, you've got a lot of experienced teachers who are feeling worn out and burnt out and leaving the profession early.
This review is focused on the second of those challenges, helping to make sure that you get more students at university complete their teaching degrees. So, to put it in perspective, about 70% of uni students finish their degrees, but only 50% of teaching students finish their teaching degrees.
GILBERT: Why is that?
CLARE: Some universities do it better than others. Some universities have got it as high as 70%, others as low as 30%. I want this panel to look at what some universities are doing right, and others are doing wrong.
GILBERT: Potentially, where teachers, students go into schools after two years and so they do a prac, for example, after two or three years. So that’s – I don't want to do that.
CLARE: That's a big part of it. I was back at my old high school earlier this week and the principal told me of her experience where she'd have students come into the classroom after three years at university and suddenly say, hang on a second, I don't want to do this. It takes a special type of person to want to be a school teacher. This is no easy job, it's a really difficult one. And so, a big part of what Mark wants to look at, and what I want Mark and the team to look at is how we make prac better. Medical schools and universities do a good job of that with internships, linked up with hospitals for doctors. We don't do as good a job with teachers and schools.
GILBERT: Do you think it needs to start sooner?
GILBERT: In a degree?
CLARE: Yeah, I do. I think when we had a roundtable with teachers and principals a couple of weeks ago, the one thing they said is, you need prac in year one and it needs to be more than just 30 students at the back of the classroom watching. So, an opportunity for longer periods of time in front of students and I guess a little bit more rigour, a little bit more methodology around the practical experience that teaching students get before they become teachers and enter the classroom for real.
GILBERT: Will this also aim to improve the quality of the teachers graduating?
CLARE: One of the things that came out of the roundtable was a comment by Derek Scott, the head of ACARA, who said that only twelve and a half percent of the time at university is spent teaching students how to teach kids to read. There's nothing much more important than learning to read. You need to learn to read to be able to learn other things. And so, it strikes me that this is another thing we need to look at here. The amount of time students get on the very practical elements of what it takes to be a great teacher, teaching kids to read, teaching maths as well as managing classroom behaviour and having the skills you need for a whole bunch of different kids that have got different needs in our classroom.
GILBERT: Yeah, that seems like the crucial foundation you're talking about there. Let's look at something else that you announced this week with the Treasurer, the ACCC review into childcare. What's the review going to tell you that we don't already know?
CLARE: So next week we'll introduce the legislation to implement the promise we made at the election to cut the cost of childcare. That's really important. That will cut the cost of childcare for more than 1 million Australian families. The first interview I did as Minister was with you, Kieran, and we talked about this – how expensive it is. Childcare has gone up by 41% just in the last eight years. And so, the legislation that we'll introduce next week is about cutting that cost for the average family on the average income, about $120,000 a year, that'll cut their costs by about $1,700 a year.
GILBERT: So why do you need another review then?
CLARE: Well, we need all the tools in our toolbox here. We also promised, along with this legislation, to get the consumer and competition watchdog onto the case to look at why have prices jumped by so much in such a short period of time? And what are the sort of price mechanisms that we can put in place to put downward pressure on prices?
GILBERT: We've seen others in the government, if we move on now to this Hawthorn story, the football club, some really disturbing allegations out of that external review. You must be pretty shocked by the claims as well.
CLARE: My heart sank when I saw that, as I'm sure everyone's did. There's no place for racism in sport, no place for racism anywhere. But I was glad to see the response from the AFL yesterday and in particular saw my friend, Tanya Hosch, who is leading the process of putting together the panel to conduct this investigation. If there's anybody that I trust to be able to get to the bottom of that, it's someone of Tanya's calibre.
GILBERT: On another matter, we've seen in your neck of the woods in Sydney at the State level, it's not Federal, it's a sort of State spat about a preselection; Tania Mihailuk having a crack at the Mayor of Bankstown, Khal Asfour. What do you make of those claims?
CLARE: It's a matter for the State branch of The Labor Party. The leader of The Labor Party in New South Wales, Chris Minns, commented on that yesterday. I'm not going to add to those comments. He said that he'll investigate the claims. I think Khal Asfour’s referred the matter to ICAC as well, and that's appropriate.
GILBERT: Few months out from the election, it's not what Chris Minns would be hoping for, this sort of behaviour.
CLARE: Well, six months to go. And as we know, all elections are tough and hard to win, but they're all winnable. We've all got to work very hard, focus on the policies that are going to help to change the lives of Australians right around the country. The stuff we're talking about today is the bread and butter of politics, making sure that we've got enough teachers to teach our kids, cutting the cost of childcare, that stops a lot of Australian families, in particular a lot of Australian women, from getting back to work.
GILBERT: Finally, we have this service today in the Federal Parliament to mark the end of - or nearing the end of this morning period. There'll be condolences tomorrow in the Parliament. What did you make of the way the nation has responded and through that service today, paying its respects to Her Majesty?
CLARE: I thought it was very respectful and very dignified. Most of us remember, grew up with Queen Elizabeth. Very few of us would be old enough to remember her father or to have heard his voice. She's the only monarch to have ever visited Australia. And for people our age, mate, she, I guess, reminds us a bit of our grandmother. Just didn't come over on the weekend for lunch.
Think about this, Winston Churchill was born in 1874. Liz Truss was born in 1975, 101 years apart, and both of them were her Prime Ministers. So, this extraordinary breadth of time and in all of the commentary that we've seen on Sky and right across the nation over the course of the last almost two weeks, one word rings out and that's service. And in this building, we like to think of ourselves as believing in the power of service and serving others. We see that in many different shapes and forms through nurses and teachers and truck drivers and supermarket workers, through the pandemic. What the Queen did was dedicate her life to service and we should be honouring that. And that's what we've done today.
GILBERT: Do you think the Prime Minister has got his tone right, sort of leading the nation through this period? He's copped a bit of flak on the edges of the debate, I guess, about Republic urging him to go hard on that and others maybe criticising other points that he's made.
CLARE: I think the Prime Minister's remarks today were bang-on, so were the Opposition leader’s and so certainly were the Governor General's remarks as well. All of those comments, I think, are really on the fringe of politics. Most Australians today would think that we have done what we should, which is treat the passing of the Queen with respect and dignity.
GILBERT: Minister, I appreciate your time, as always. Thanks.
CLARE: Thank you.