Minister targets inadequate teachers to improve classroom standards

THE NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, is planning to make bold changes to the way school teachers are trained, supported in the job, and managed out of it to lift teacher quality and improve learning outcomes.

Mr Piccoli wants to look at how underperforming teachers can be removed from classrooms as one element of a comprehensive review of how best to improve the quality of teaching in all schools in NSW.

''You've got to have a transparent, fair and fast process for removing teachers if you want to guard your standards,'' he said.

The minister and his director-general, Michele Bruniges, are clearly frustrated at the present process for removing under-performing teachers. Mr Piccoli said it was important for the profession's integrity.

He hopes to work with Catholic and independent schools, universities and teacher unions on the review process.

While it is still a discussion paper built around a series of provocative questions, the review's outline highlights a number of incendiary issues. In the minister's sights are universities that are churning out too many graduates and whose staff may lack recent teaching experience, and mid-career teachers who perhaps should be forced to continue learning to keep their jobs.

''We're eager to make bold changes even if we upset individuals or organisations along the way,'' Mr Piccoli said.

''This really is the key to education reform. Nothing is off the table.''

The review signals the possibility of a minimum university entry score for aspiring teachers and perhaps offering education only as a postgraduate course. It highlights concerns that some students enter university to become teachers with a tertiary admission ranking as low as 40.

At present 5500 teachers a year graduate from NSW universities but the Education Department employs only 300-500 new graduates in permanent positions.

The review will consider placing a limit on the number of university student teaching placements it offers each year to encourage universities to cut their numbers.

The review will focus on better supporting graduates - many of whom work, without clear supervision, as casuals in schools and classrooms - when they enter the profession.

Existing teachers are also to be questioned about their learning and whether they should have to demonstrate that they have kept their skills, knowledge and teaching practice up to date to be able to continue teaching.

The review paper was welcomed by Peter Aubusson, the president of the NSW Council of

Deans of Education, and Maurie Mulheron, the president of the NSW Teachers Federation.

Associate Professor Aubusson conceded that universities needed to look at the tertiary admission rankings of teaching entrants and said it was vital to manage better the transition of graduates into the profession.

Mr Mulheron said it was in the interests of the profession to protect standards but he warned that while disputes about staffing and resources remained unresolved, the minister would struggle to win the goodwill of the profession.

The executive director of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Sydney, Dan White, said schools in Sydney had invested in training for teacher mentors to support new graduates.

''We believe 99 per cent of teachers are very competent and capable practitioners but it is critically important there are standards that manage under-performance and that principals and employing authorities have courageous conversations to ensure there is a quality teacher in front of every classroom,'' Dr White said.

Correction: The original version of this story should have said the NSW Education Department employs 300-500, not 3500, new graduates in permanent positions each year.

The story Minister targets inadequate teachers to improve classroom standards first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop