The Australian Education Union has rejected the Education Ministers’ announced feasibility study investigating a one-year education master’s degree as an attack on the qualifications of the teaching profession.
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Federal President, Correna Haythorpe said the AEU would never accept a move that undermined Australia’s teachers.
“It is less than a decade since Education Ministers agreed to a two-year Master’s degree, a move that was widely applauded as a measure that would enhance the qualifications of Australian teachers.
“We are at a loss to understand why Education Ministers would commission a study to shorten the time required to ensure teachers are fully prepared to enter the classroom.
“This announcement has been made without any consultation with the teaching profession through the AEU. Any changes to teaching qualifications must be made in consultation with the profession it impacts,” Ms Haythorpe said.
Australia has faced a teacher shortage in recent years, with federal education department modelling projecting a short fall of around 4000 secondary teachers in 2025. The challenges associated with COVID-19 restrictions and learning models, and teacher burnout, has seen many teachers leaving the profession. There has also been a decline in people coming into the profession.
The Australian Principals Federation says there is also a principal shortage, with deputy principals and senior teachers reluctant to apply for these roles as principals retire.
Ms Haythorpe believes, though, that fast-tracking qualifications, though, is not the answer.
“The National Teacher Workforce Shortage Action Plan, which was signed off by all states and territories and the Commonwealth, was developed in a consultative process and set out a clear agenda for addressing the workforce crisis. One-year Master’s degrees are not part of this plan.”
The Action Plan, which was handed down in December 2022 and endorsed by Federal Minister for Education Jason Clare, was established to address current and future workforce needs. Five priority areas are identified in the Action Plan, to address primary drivers of teacher shortages. These include improving teacher supply, strengthening initial teacher education, improving teacher retention, elevating the profession and better understanding future teacher workforce needs.
The Australian Government is investing $328 million to implement initiatives contained in the Action Plan. States and territories have agreed in-principle to contribute an additional $5 million to support a targeted national campaign to raise the status and value of the role of the teaching profession.
“It is ironic that Ministers committed to recommendations that were intended to alleviate workload and to attract and retain teachers and yet this decision will undermine the status and qualifications of the teaching profession.
“The workforce crisis will not be fixed by lowering the status and standards of our profession.” Ms Haythorpe said.
“Any reduction in ITE will have an impact on classroom readiness for graduate teachers. You cannot compress two years of ITE into 12 months and expect graduates to bring the same skills and standards to the classroom.
Fast-tracked teaching qualifications are already available in some states through the Teach for Australia program. The program accepts applications from people who hold a Bachelor degree in a discipline other than teaching. Successful applicants are placed in schools in low socioeconomic communities, and undertake a Master’s qualification while receiving on the job training. The trainee-teachers are paid a salary as a teacher while they undertake their placement, working to fill an immediate gap in the teaching network.
Working across schools in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, Teach for Australia partners with 300 schools. 75 percent of these are in regional, rural or remote communities.
“The AEU urges Education Ministers to refer back to the National Teacher Workforce Shortage Action Plan and instead of pushing policy that undermines qualifications and standards in ITE, it is time to invest in ITE and develop properly paid practical placements, and paid internships or studentships,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“As it stands, this announcement shows that Education Ministers have no interest in actually fixing the teacher shortage and are instead ducking their responsibility to fund ITE properly so that we have a fully trained and qualified teaching profession.”