Australian Scholarships Group National Excellence in Teaching Awards

  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training

I am pleased to be here today to help recognise and thank the hard-working teachers who dedicate themselves to educating Australian students.

It’s partly personal for me, because my mother recently retired from a four decade-long teaching career and her retirement dinner is this evening.

I have seen first-hand the dedication required from our school teachers. I’ve seen up close how hard a day at work standing in front of a classroom of kids can be, but also the joy that successful teachers bring us.

You, the nominees in this room – and thousands more teachers across the country – are all directly contributing to the future strength of our nation by providing the highest-quality education that we can to our young people.

Research has shown that the most significant in-school factor influencing student achievement is the quality of teaching.

Well-trained and knowledgeable teachers are the foundation of a high quality education system and our nation, it is important we promote excellence in teaching and educational leadership.

Quality teachers teaching a robust and relevant curriculum at schools where there is appropriate school autonomy and where parents are engaged with their children’s education, is as good a formula for a good education as we know.

I would like to take this opportunity today to update you briefly on the Government’s most recent commitment in the area of quality teaching – one of these key pillars of our agenda.

While the Commonwealth does not administer schools, and does not seek to, we are the prime funder of teacher education.

In 2014, the Commonwealth provided $600 million in funding for around 80,000 students studying to become qualified teachers.

The quality of teaching in our schools starts with the training of graduates entering our classrooms.

To ensure teachers are graduating with the skills needed in today’s classroom, the Minister for Education and Training Christopher Pyne commissioned the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group Report, Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers.

The report, was launched only last month, provides an excellent blueprint for the reform of initial teacher education. But it also shows there is a need to develop and improve teacher education in Australia, the content our universities are teaching, the way universities are delivering courses, and the standards graduates must meek in order to obtain professional accreditation.

The group, led by ACU vice-chancellor Professor Greg Craven, provided the Government with recommendations that are practical and achievable. These recommendations have the potential to make a real impact on the quality of teaching and student outcomes in this country.

The Government is committed to tackling the long-standing teacher education issues identified in the report. And this is an area, as I mentioned, that the Commonwealth directly funds through universities.

We will focus on the most significant issues that need to be addressed to improve the training of teachers both now and in future years.

Just as our own challenges and tactics and techniques evolve, so do the tools that we use. It is only appropriate that we consider and examine the skills we are equipping our teachers with.

The minister has charged the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership with undertaking this work, starting with an overhaul of course accreditation.

We will also take immediate action in five additional key areas:
o stronger quality assurance of teacher courses;
o rigorous selection for entry to teacher education;
o improved and structured practical experience for teaching students;
o robust assessment of graduates to ensure classroom readiness, and
o improved national research and workforce planning

As well as identifying priorities, the Government also took the time to release a detailed response to each of the Advisory Group’s 38 recommendations.

I share Minister Pyne’s confidence that, through these actions, we will achieve real change and improvement in the training of Australia’s teachers and contribute to improving student outcomes.

According to the OECD, Australia, of all the countries teachers, was the one where teacher quality had the most important impact on student outcomes.

This OECD research indicated that eight out of every 10 reasons why a student did well or poorly, could be attributed to teacher quality. One out of 10 was their socio-economic status and the other one was all other factors combined.

Ensuring that Australian teachers are the world’s best is one of the most important things we can do for our students and the nominees in this room are leading the way in this regard.

If I could go back to where I started, my personal experience of my mother and also her brother being a teacher, we have asked our schools and our teachers to do so many different things over the last two or three decades. A classroom is unrecognisable now from what it was when most of our parents left the classroom 20 or 30 years before they bring in their first child as a student.

The skills that we ask teachers to have now are very different to what a lot of teachers were originally trained in. And just as our teacher education process needs to change, it needs to reflect the fact that you change – both the way you relate to the curriculum, how you deliver it and, indeed, the very challenge you are expecting of our society, government and parents.

With that particular passion I’ve seen, knowing that the magic of a classroom between teacher and student is the key that drives student outcomes, I congratulate everyone nominated here today.

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