A strong initial teacher education experience is critical to establishing the groundwork for a long and successful teaching career, yet many final-year students are struggling to fulfill the requirements of their fourth-year professional experience. Current staffing shortages will be exacerbated if 2021 final-year students are not encouraged and supported.
Concerns around fourth-year Initial Teacher Education (ITE) students being able to undertake their final practicum were raised at the IEU August Council meeting.
The IEU has also been made aware from student members that a number of universities have been seeking to defer their professional experience placements.
While we understand this might be an appropriate course of action for non-graduating cohorts, the union believes it is essential that final-year students are given every opportunity to complete their courses on schedule.
Universities can be flexible
The union met with the Council of Deans of Education and was informed that each university has the capacity to exercise a degree of flexibility which should allow for students to meet the final practicum requirements.
The union has also been advising its members that schools should continue to accept practicum placements even though classes are operating online. From discussions with our colleagues at the NSW Teachers Federation, we are aware that practicums are still being conducted online in government schools.
Let them Zoom!
While it is understandable teachers might be reluctant to accept the responsibility of supervising a prac student while teaching online, the fundamentals of preparing and presenting an engaging lesson remain the same.
Experienced members who regularly undertake supervising teacher roles should make it known to their school leadership team that they are willing and confident to accept ITE students who, it is fair to say, might even be more at home in the online environment than they are.
Professional experience negotiations
The IEU and the Teachers Federation have had several meetings with the Council of Deans to negotiate the next Professional Experience Supervision Agreement.
The union has pressed the point that the daily rate is well below what it should be given the increasing demands and expectations placed on supervising teachers. Matters could be improved if all parties convened a round table with the intention of enhancing the practicum.
The union believes it is time to make industrial improvements to both the professional placement process and the accreditation pathway of a beginning teacher and the federal government has the levers to attract and retain teachers.
What should the Prac look like?
Such improvements would involve a significant increase in the time release and remuneration for professional experience supervising teachers.
It would also entail graduate teachers being allocated a maximum of 0.8 of a full-time teaching load until they achieve their Proficient teacher status, while their mentors would also receive time release to work with them.
We need to draw a line in the sand with the endless round of reviews in education. The teaching profession knows what needs to be done and these improvements need to be built into their industrial agreements.
With planning for 2022 well under way, it’s imperative that the 2021 cohort enter the teaching workforce supply line.