As you all know, over the years, there have been many reviews looking at initial teacher education and many more recommendations on how to improve the quality of teachers entering our classrooms.
With the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) report, for the first time, we have made real progress in implementing a major report on improving initial teacher education. We have come a long way and I want to acknowledge the work done to date by all of the people in this room, as well as those unable to be here today.
The Australian Government initiated TEMAG, and tasked AITSL with leading implementation of the reforms recommended by the expert advisory group, because we know how critical initial teacher education is to the future teaching workforce, students and our nation.
Because of this commitment, you are here in this room today discussing implementation challenges and future action so that there will be an improvement in the quality of teachers that will be working in our classrooms for years to come.
The TEMAG report is driving real change and I understand you have been given an update by Lisa this morning.
Of course achieving that change has been challenging. That is to be expected with a reform agenda which is ambitious in its pursuit of quality and in its timeframes.
But more needs to be done to realise the full intent of the
TEMAG reforms and to raise the quality of courses across the board. In some places we have seen timeframes slip, I know that some providers are struggling to give effect to the requirement for a final teaching performance assessment, that some stakeholders are overwhelmed by the scale of the change, and that even finding and securing a placement for your students to undertake their professional experience remains challenging.
This is why we are here today considering how we can address some of those challenges – the provision of high quality professional experience for all initial teacher education students, and developing strong partnerships between schools and universities.
While those facing challenges work to meet the new standards, and others are working to embed the new arrangements, we need to keep in mind that each year 18,000 people graduate with the right to be registered as a teacher.
We need to ensure that each of those graduates, regardless of where they studied or where they did their professional experience, is ready to enter the classroom and have a positive impact on the lives of their young students.
We must not lose focus on the change we want to see in our classrooms and the ultimate reasons for doing so.
It is very important to get this right, I can assure you that Minister Birmingham, and the Government are committed to doing so.
The Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools points to other challenges that will need to be overcome if we are to build an education system for the future.
There’s no doubt Australia has some of the world’s best teachers and school leaders, and they work hard to help students achieve outcomes that are the envy of many other countries.
But it is also clear that while school funding has been growing year after year – and will continue to grow under the Turnbull Government to new record levels over the next ten years – student educational outcomes haven’t been keeping pace.
Compared to other high performing OECD countries like Finland, Korea and New Zealand, Australia spends more on schooling yet our results have remained relatively static, and in some areas have actually declined.
The review to achieve educational excellence in Australian schools made wide-ranging recommendations aimed at preparing Australia’s education system to face a rapidly changing world with innovative and continuous improvements.
Importantly, the review panel acknowledged the importance of initial teacher education in the education system, and acknowledged the ‘significant national progress made towards meeting the TEMAG reforms’.
The Panel reinforced the need for continued effort and commitment to lift the quality of teacher education.
The Panel also acknowledged that the strength and quality of our teacher workforce is a critical consideration in terms of making a positive and ongoing impact inside the classroom, in terms of supporting better student educational outcomes.
This is one of the fundamentals of education – unless we get good teachers into the classroom, all the money in the world won't get us the outcomes we need.
So the report encourages things like more professional collaboration, observation, feedback and mentoring among teachers; which can only be beneficial.
To support teachers to do the best job they can, the development of an online and on-demand student learning assessment tool was also recommended to assist teachers to assess the current strengths and areas of development of their students and tailor their future teaching to meet identified needs.
The Review also pointed to quality school leadership as being second only to quality teaching as having a major impact on educational outcomes – underlining the importance of empowering principals to be leaders and the role this plays in contributing to the learning growth of all teachers and students in a school.
The Government is considering Mr Gonski and the panel’s recommendations and findings which will inform a new national schools agreement between the Commonwealth and the states and territories. Implementation of reforms will be a condition of funding for states and territories.
The Government, through my colleague Senator Birmingham, the Minister for Education and Training, has already started working with Education Ministers to progress this.
The COAG Education Council in fact met last Friday and made, I understand, some solid progress towards reaching a national school reform agreement for consideration at COAG by the Prime Minister, premiers and first ministers, later this year.
I expect the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) will continue to support this work, facilitating conversations to further embed the TEMAG reforms and promote ongoing efforts to raise the quality of initial teacher education preparation.
I know you all thought the first TEMAG forum was a useful way to come together for greater cooperation.
We have collectively accomplished a great deal and yet we cannot be complacent. There are still significant challenges – such as implementing teaching performance assessments – and we need to do more if we want to fully embed the important work of the last three years.
I trust you will all continue to give this goal your utmost effort and not lose sight of the ultimate outcomes the TEMAG reforms are intended to achieve.
The Government firmly believes that a high quality school education is an essential foundation stone for all children.
Students should have the skills and know-how to achieve whatever they want out of life.
And they should be given every opportunity to succeed in school and for that to be a platform to further success – be that through university, or in building a valuable career through their local VET provider or via an apprenticeship, or through giving back to the community through public service or volunteering.
Having highly skilled and effective teachers in our classrooms, working with our children is absolutely essential if we’re to drive these outcomes for our school students.
We should be working towards making sure that every child experiences consistently good teaching, every day.
And we should be working to ensure that our teachers are better prepared to enter the classroom.
So initial teacher education is absolutely critical to helping develop the future teaching workforce that our students and our nation needs.
Thank you for your time this morning and I wish you every success for today’s forum.