It is universally acknowledged that education is the key to our
country's future prosperity. Australian governments, educators and families all
want an education system that supports children to be successful. Practical and
concrete solutions are needed to improve our education system and maximise our
investment in schools. The committee intends that the recommendations in this
report will contribute to this worthy goal.
The evidence outlined in Chapter 3 of this report demonstrates that the
education outcomes for Indigenous students, poorer students, students with a
disability and students in rural, remote and regional areas are not good
enough. The committee rejects the suggestion that such students are destined to
poor educational outcomes because of their demographic background. Indeed,
witnesses and submitters provided strong examples where disadvantaged students
achieved excellent outcomes through strategic support, parental engagement and
quality teaching. Recommendations two and four look at how to help disadvantaged
students; recommendation five is about ensuring incentive arrangements for
hard-to-staff positions in schools are appropriate.
It is critical that all parents believe that their child will do their
best at school, experience success and move onto trade training or university.
Schools must work to assist parents in this important role, and government
programs should be expanded to support parents to support their children
(recommendations three and eight). Appropriate funding and programs should be
in place to support those children with special needs to reach their full
potential in a safe and appropriate environment (recommendation nine).
School autonomy was considered by some submitters and witnesses as the
answer to many educational challenges faced by schools. In particular, independent
schools appearing before the committee credited their success to school
autonomy. The committee was particularly impressed by early indications of
success in public schools that have trialled the independent model. The
committee believes that there is merit in conducting a close examination of student
achievement in these schools (recommendation ten).
Student behaviour in the classroom is also an important contributor to
student learning outcomes. It is of paramount importance that teachers are
equipped to effectively manage behaviour and are supported by parents and
school administration (recommendations six and seven). Students must also take
responsibility for their own behaviour and come to school with a desire to
learn. Quality teaching can also impact student behaviour: teachers who are
able to engage students with the subject matter will often find that students
Quality teaching graduates will result in quality teachers. Teacher
selection, training and registration can be improved (recommendations 1, 11, 12
and 22). A number of recent announcements by the federal government, and state
and territory governments, are directed at this area. The committee closely
examined current recruitment practices and concluded that teacher selection processes
should be robust and targeted to ensure that selected applicants possess the
requisite academic skills and personal attributes necessary to become quality
teachers (recommendation eleven). Teacher training courses can also be
improved, particularly training in mathematics and literacy for primary school
teachers and practical training for all pre-service teachers (recommendation 14
The committee was surprised to hear of the number of teaching graduates
who find it difficult to secure employment. To prevent an over-supply of
teachers and to ensure that only the most competent teachers are registered,
thought must also be given to capping registration places and introducing
robust selection processes (recommendation 13). Prospective students should
also be advised prior to enrolling in teaching training of disciplines that
are in demand and disciplines where there is over supply (recommendation 16).
Effective professional learning is crucial to developing a quality
teaching workforce. Teachers require ongoing professional learning and support
to respond to a changing education environment, respond to student learning
needs, and improve personal performance. In-school activities like mentoring,
collaboration, classroom observation and feedback are relatively inexpensive
forms of professional learning that require an investment of time rather than
resources. While there is inevitably a cost associated with reducing teacher
workloads to facilitate in-school activities, the committee believes these
types of collaborative activities have significant value (recommendation 20 and
Many qualified teachers leave the profession every year, particularly
early career teachers and teachers who have reached the top of the salary
scale. New teachers need to be better supported while experienced and highly
accomplished teachers should be rewarded (recommendations 17 and 19). The
committee was surprised to learn that exit interviews are not conducted with
departing teachers and current data on why teachers leave the profession is
scant (recommendation 18).
Large numbers of teachers in Australian high schools are teaching
subjects they are not qualified to teach. This is particularly pronounced in
rural, regional and remote areas. The committee commends efforts currently made
to support these teachers, however the necessary long term solution is to
encourage more applicants to study these subjects, and provide pathways for
existing teachers to become qualified in these areas (recommendation 22).
Incentive-based payments may also be useful to attract qualified teachers to
work in hard to staff positions.
Many factors can promote student achievement: parental engagement,
parent and teacher expectations, effective behaviour management, teacher
quality, ongoing professional learning, appropriate support for students with
special needs and school autonomy. The nature of education policy means that
responsibility for these solutions is shared between the Commonwealth, state
and territory governments and the Catholic and independent school sectors.
Universities, employers, parents and students also have important roles to
play. The committee urges policymakers to consider the recommendations and
issues discussed in this report.
Senator Chris Back
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