The NSW Teachers Federation is in a stalemate with the NSW government over wages and conditions. The government is offering a rise of 2.5 per cent – its public sector wage cap – but the union wants between five and 7.5 per cent.
The review was commissioned by the Education Minister to improve teacher quality. It recommended the Commonwealth wield its financial power to force schools to teach phonics and dictate which university education faculties would be allowed to take the most teaching students.
Universities would also have to prepare students better for managing classroom behavior, teaching children with disabilities and engaging with parents, under recommendations from a major review of teacher training.
Teacher training faculties would be given a performance rating and rewarded for high scores, while also having to publicly report the proportion of academic staff who have “substantial recent experience” teaching in schools as part of an effort to emphasize practical skills rather than theory.
New money should also be made available to reward schools, school systems and universities that use “best practice”, particularly when teaching reading.
The review recommends the postgraduate qualification be reduced to one year and short courses be made available so students could explore teaching without committing to a full degree.
There is agreement across the education sector, including from unions, that newly graduated teachers are often ill-prepared for the job. Research has shown teacher quality has the most influence on a child’s learning outside their family.
Most submissions from stakeholders also raised concerns about teacher salaries and workload, saying potential candidates were put off the profession by paperwork, red tape, and low salary growth over the course of a career.
As well as more flexible pay structures offering greater career progression, the review recommends a national campaign to improve the perception of the profession. Teachers should also be given more national honors to increase their status and a “patron of education” should be appointed to advocate for them.
Teaching graduates told the review they struggled with managing students in their classroom and dealing with parents. “One of the biggest fears faced by ITE [initial teacher education] students were meeting with families and carers, ”the report said.
It also said teaching degrees should be subject to a performance rating system, and those that scored highly should be rewarded. An expert group would also advise on how to allocate government-funded teaching places to universities.
The head of the NSW Teachers Federation, Angelo Gavrielatos, said the findings of the national review support NSW government research that salaries and workload were putting people off choosing teachers.
“Blinding people to the realities of teaching through PR campaigns is not the answer to growing shortages,” he said. “That can only be achieved by tackling the real problem: workloads are too high and salaries are too low.”
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