The Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) report into initial teacher education has indicated that the ATAR scores required for entry into teaching courses around Australia has dropped.
Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the research further strengthens the case for minimum entry scores for teaching courses and has called for Education Minister Simon Birmingham to take action.
“Education Minister Simon Birmingham must follow the example of the NSW Government and put clear minimum entry standards in place for undergraduate teaching degrees, a measure which has the support of AITSL chair Professor John Hattie,” she said in a statement.
The NSW government has implemented rules requiring all beginning teachers to have ATAR scores of over 80 in three subjects, including English, before they can be employed in schools.
The AITSL report shows that entrants to undergraduate teaching courses have lower ATARs than the average university student with:
• Double the proportion of students with ATARs between 30 and 50 (6% compared to 3% average for other courses)
• 41% with ATAR 70 or less compared to 25% for other courses
• 30% with ATAR of 81 and over compared to 53% for other courses
• 9% with ATAR of 91 plus compared to 27% for other courses
The report also revealed that the retention rate for students moving from first to second year has also fallen from 77 per cent in 2011 to 72 per cent in 2012, and students admitted with low ATARs are less likely to continue with their course.
“Entry scores for teaching degrees have dropped steadily over the last decade, and we have now reached a point where they are significantly lower than for other courses,” Haythorpe continued.
“It is also clear from the data that universities are using other pathways to allow students with low ATAR scores to enter teaching courses. The report shows that 18.5% of those coming through another pathway have an ATAR of between 30 and 50.”
Haythorpe said while those students may have other qualities that will make them good teachers, it is a concern that other pathways are being used to lower academic entry standards even further.
“We cannot expect young people who struggled at school to become high performing teachers within a few years,” she said. “If we want to have high quality teachers in our schools we need to select the best graduates for teaching courses, ensure that courses are rigorous, and give beginning teachers support and professional development when they begin in the classroom.
“The current system is producing too many graduates who are unable to find work, yet we still have shortages of teachers in the crucial areas of maths, science and languages.
“We need minimum entry standards for teaching degrees because as long as universities can enrol unlimited numbers of students in teaching degrees, this issue will remain.”