Our union speaks about the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review

The IEU has raised the voices of our 75,000 members in the Federal Government’s review into Quality Initial Teacher Education (QITE), journalist Jessica Willis writes.

The review seeks to broadly address two key areas for engaging students into the teaching profession:

  • attracting and selecting high-quality candidates into the teaching profession, and
  • preparing ITE students to be effective teachers.

The final report was due to be delivered in October.

Our union’s position is that QITE cannot be supported in a situation where staff and schools are inundated with increasing, arbitrary workload requirements and struggling with inadequate resources.

New minister, new review
Earlier this year, newly appointed Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge used his maiden speech as minister to flag yet another review into the teaching profession, specifically into Initial Teacher Education (ITE).

In his speech, Tudge focussed on Australia’s “declining Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) outcomes in both absolute terms and relative to other countries” and identified quality ITE as one of the key areas of focus to return Australia to the top group of nations.

He asserted that ITE in Australia was not up to a high standard while also suggesting there would be a push for shorter ITE courses in programs.

Attracting and retaining teachers
IEUA Acting Federal Secretary Christine Cooper said our union strongly believes that programs and policies which are aimed at attracting and retaining a high-quality teaching workforce need to address a range of issues, including public perceptions of teaching as well as underlying industrial and professional issues.

“Firstly, any policy change needs to acknowledge there are significant issues around public perceptions of teaching perpetuated both by mainstream media as well as by governments.

“We need to respect and support teachers as the professionals they are and the important job they do for students and the school community.

“We also need to ensure our ITE courses are rigorous and of sufficient length to ensure students who graduate can meet the Graduate Professional Standards before commencing employment as teachers.

“Tertiary study is the appropriate form of teacher preparation, and our union is strongly opposed to any proposition to fund a small number of ‘fast-tracked’ teachers at the expense of high-quality teaching and learning and the future teacher workforce,” she said.

“Our union fully supports enabling career changes into teaching; however, not at the expense of producing highly qualified professional teachers.

“Finally, there must be an acknowledgment and mitigation of excessive workloads within the teaching profession, often concerning arbitrary data collection that is more for government accountability rather than the benefit of quality teaching and learning.

“The retention of quality teachers can only be ensured through greater provision of additional supports, especially for graduate teachers and those teachers working rurally and regionally,” she said.

Preparing students to be effective teachers
Cooper said that it is wrong to assume current teachers and ITE programs do not use evidence-based teaching practices.

“This is already the standard and the government should be looking at ways to further invest in the quality programs already in place, rather than shorter ITE courses that won’t prepare pre-service teachers for the classroom.

“This should include quality practicum experiences that develop pre-service teachers’ professional skills, abilities and confidence in responding to educational contexts,” she said.

Listen to teachers
Cooper said instead of engaging with IEU members on the issues impacting the profession, the Federal Government has once again sought to make political gain from education policies.

“Our union believes that to maintain the integrity of the teaching profession and further strengthen Australia’s education system, the government and its policy makers need to consult with and listen to teachers about the issues impacting the teaching profession,”she said.

“Both politicians and the public underestimate the intelligence, creativity and resilience required of teachers.

“This has to change: teachers are experts in their field and should be heard when it comes to issues affecting their professional practice,” she said.