Education Minister reveals his blueprint at APPA National Conference - Education Matters Magazine
All Topics, Australian Primary Principal's Association, Australian Primary Principals Association, Latest News, Policy and Reform

Education Minister reveals his blueprint at APPA National Conference

Federal Minister for Education Mr Jason Clare addressed the 2023 APPA National Conference in Hobart to provide an update on plans to tackle workforce shortages, teacher training and a major reform agenda.

Federal Education Minister Mr Jason Clare has only been in the top job a little over a year, but isn’t shying away from the sector’s biggest challenges, if a recent address at the Australian Principals Association (APPA) National Conference is anything to go by. His plan to address workforce shortages and teacher training, through to the things that keep him up at night, were discussed in a live broadcast to delegates at Hobart’s Hotel Grand Chancellor in Tasmania.

The event, which took place 30 July to 2 August 2023, was also an opportunity for the sector to become familiar with new APPA President, Ms Angela Falkenberg, who most recently served as President of the South Australian Primary Principals Association. Taking over from Mr Malcom Elliott, she comes to the role with a wealth of education experience and is an advocate for resilience, optimism and self-care, describing herself as a “rational optimist”.

The conference included a strong line up of education leaders.

In his wide-ranging speech, presented via video link from Canberra where parliament was sitting on the day of the APPA National Conference, Clare tackled workforce pressures upfront. He reaffirmed the importance of teachers by pointing out that children don’t recall much from their childhood, but often remember “that special teacher”.

“That says something doesn’t it? About 20 years ago New York City ran a recruitment campaign. They wanted more people to become a teacher. The message was really simple: ‘You remember your first-grade teacher’s name. Who will remember yours?’. Simple and powerful. Powerful because it’s true,” he said.

With this in mind, he said the profession can expect to see a new campaign later in 2023 that has been designed by teachers and will tell the story of educators in every state and territory, and the students whose lives they changed.

“It’s not the solution to the teacher shortage crisis but it’s important to remind us as a country about how important you are and hopefully encourage a few people thinking of being a lawyer or a banker to dream bigger and better.”

Clare also provided an update on the rollout of the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan that includes $40,000 scholarships to attract people to the profession.

“One of the things that principals told me last year when we were going through the draft plan was that these scholarships were bonded,” he said. “There was a quid pro quo. You got the money, but you had to make a commitment too. A commitment to teach for a number of years and that will happen here too.”

According to Clare, a major part of the plan is improving teacher training at university, so that it adequately prepared teachers for the real-life classroom. If implemented well, he hopes the measures will help turn the tide against current figures showing only 50 percent of those who start a teaching degree finish it, while 20 percent of those that finish end up leaving the profession in the first three years.

“Just imagine if we could shift that dial? If most students completed, if fewer left after a few years in the classroom, if they felt better prepared? That’s what these reforms are about.”

Clare recently met with state and territory education ministers who agreed to some major changes to what students are taught at university and how we can improve the practical experience they get. The reforms include:

  • Ensuring all university courses focus on the fundamental things students need to know such as how children learn, how to teach reading and and maths, manage classroom behaviour and work with children with complex needs.
  • A Quality Assurance Board will ensure all universities improve prac with national guidelines and better coordination, as well as professional recognition of the teachers who mentor and support initial teacher education (ITE) students
  • Making it easier for people to take up teaching mid-career.
Australian Explorer James Castrission was a keynote speaker, most famous for the longest polar expedition without assistance, and for paddling 3318km across the Tasman Sea.

Clare also discussed what worries him, notably the education gap in Australia. He highlighted that 15 years ago, the gap in reading skills of eight-year-olds from poor families compared to those from wealthy families was about a year, but this was now two. Often, the gap only gets bigger – and now the country is seeing a drop in the percentage of students finishing high school, mainly among poor kids and in public schools.

These trends are the impetus for the National School Reform Agreement.

“As a federal government we have made a commitment to work with the states and territories to get every school on a path to full and fair funding,” he said.

“What’s also important is what it’s spent on, and the difference that it makes. This next agreement is a real chance to tackle some of the biggest and toughest challenges you face every day. To make sure we invest this money in the sorts of things that will really help the children I just spoke about to catch up and keep up and finish school.

“That’s what the review into a Better and Fairer Education System led by Dr Lisa O’Brien is all about. It will recommend what we tie funding to in the next National Schools Reform Agreement. Soon the national NAPLAN results come out and I expect they will show there are more students who need additional support. We have done this deliberately, we have raised the bar on purpose to identify the students who need additional support. The job of the next National Schools Reform Agreement is to help provide that support. To build a better education system and a fairer one that funds the things that will help these students to catch up, keep up and finish school.”

In his closing remarks to the delegates at the APPA National Conference, Clare thanked former APPA President Mr Elliott and congratulated Ms Falkenberg on taking the reins.

“Malcolm has been an endless source of great advice in my first year in the job and I am really looking forward to working with you Angela,” he concluded.

Send this to a friend