A new Grattan Institute report is calling for new roles for Australia’s top teachers to help transform Australian schools and assist students to gain an additional 18 months of learning by the time they turn 15.
According to the report Top teachers: sharing expertise to improve teaching, by lead author Peter Goss, Grattan Institute School Education Program Director, and Julie Sonnemann, Grattan Institute School Education Fellow, as performance of Australian students declines in international testing such as PISA in reading, science and maths, the education sector is failing to use its best teachers to improve teaching across all schools.
The Top Teachers report states, “Australia is not using its best teachers well. This report describes a new career path for top teachers that would make them responsible for leading professional learning and improving the teaching of the whole workforce.”
The results of a Grattan Institute survey of 750 teachers and principals, conducted for the report, shows that top teachers are often given ‘add-on’ coaching roles with inadequate time, training or support to do it effectively.
“It shows that teachers value learning from instructional leaders in theory, but in practice their teaching doesn’t change. Instructional leader roles are not subject-specific enough, and the people in them don’t get enough time to do their job effectively. Teachers tell us instructional leader advice is inconsistent over time, and that the best teachers are not promoted into the positions. Principals report that program funding chops and changes, making it difficult to embed real change,” states the Top Teachers report.
The report calls for two new roles for Australia’s top teachers, giving them dedicated ‘day jobs’ to improving teaching across all schools. Both roles would focus on specific subjects such as maths, science and English.
This model would create 20,000 Instructional Specialists in schools (with salaries of $140k per year on 3-5 year contracts), and 2500 Master Teachers working across schools (with salaries of $180k per year, on 5 year contracts) by 2032, at a cost of $560 per government school student per year.
Master Teachers, who are the top 1 per cent of the profession, would have no formal classroom load but would be the overall pedagogical leaders in their subjects, working across a network of schools in their region. They would help identify teacher needs and coordinate training.
These Master Teachers would guide the Instructional Specialists (limited to 8 per cent of the workforce), who would split their time between classroom teaching and instructional leadership.
Instructional Specialists would work in their own schools to support and guide other teachers.
Under this model, every teacher in all primary and secondary schools would receive at least one hour a week with Instructional Specialists in their subject area.
The report states that this blueprint would cost less than the planned increases to government schools funding through the Gonski 2.0 model, with non-government schools to fund the model using existing resources.
According to Dr Goss, “Australia’s schools must do better.”
Ms Sonnemann adds, “The Gonski 2.0 report recommended better career paths and better professional learning for teachers. Our Top teachers report shows how to do both in one go.”