Better, 'classroom-ready' teachers the ultimate goal, says UWS

School students in lecture 

The University of Western Sydney has welcomed the release of the Australian Government's Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) report on teacher education.

The University's School of Education supports the reforms recommended in the report, which it says will strengthen the quality of teacher education in Australia and help prepare new teachers to be 'classroom ready'.

The UWS School of Education has one of the largest initial teacher education programs in NSW, with students entering the UWS masters-level teaching program only after successfully completing a relevant undergraduate degree.

Professor Michele Simons, Dean of the School of Education, says the report's focus on evidence-based teacher education strongly aligns with UWS's own approach to its teacher education programs.

Professor Simons says the School particularly welcomes the recommendations to assess graduate teachers' literacy and numeracy skills; to work more effectively with schools and systems in the development of new teachers; and to establish specialisations among primary school teachers in areas such as science, technology and mathematics, and languages.

"It is encouraging to see the report place such a strong emphasis on the integration of theory and practice when it comes to preparing teachers for the classroom, and also ensuring that initial teacher education actually meets the needs of the schools," says Professor Simons.

"At UWS we firmly integrate theory and practice into all our teacher-education programs, and we work closely with the NSW Department of Education and Communities to manage our professional placements to ensure it is an enriching and rewarding experience for both the pre-service teacher and the school."

Professor Simons says primary school teachers specialising in critical areas like science, maths and languages is also a positive initiative to flow from the report, and one where UWS is already ahead of the curve. 

"We are launching our own graduate certificate in primary mathematics education later this year, giving students the chance to specialise in primary-level mathematics while they concurrently study their masters degree," says Professor Simons.

Professor Simons says the key to the future success of our school system is a not only a workforce of highly-skilled and highly-prepared teachers, but one that reflects the diverse backgrounds of the students in schools and early childhood education.

"UWS is located in the heart of one of the most culturally-diverse regions in Australia," says Professor Simons.

"As a university with great cultural diversity in our pre-service teacher population, we know that many of our students already bring extensive language skills to their studies.

"The report's emphasis on languages means UWS is well-placed to respond to this particular recommendation, and will give us opportunity to formally recognise and build upon these highly-valuable skills that already exist among many of our teaching students."

Professor Simons says the report's recommendations to strengthen the national assessment of teacher education programs and establish a national regulator to oversee the accreditation process are critical to ensuring consistent teacher-education standards across the country.

She says it will also give teachers greater flexibility in their careers.

"One of the greatest challenges we face nationally in teacher education is managing the supply of teachers into the school system," says Professor Simons.

"We are constantly telling our aspiring teachers that their qualifications can unlock amazing opportunities to work anywhere in Australia, particularly interstate or in regional and rural where teachers are in short supply.

"A strengthened national accreditation process is not only critical to improving teacher quality in Australia, it will also help enhance graduates' employment prospects and ensure that teachers can work in any part of the country."

Professor Simons says the School looks forward to working with both State and Federal Governments and the various professional bodies to implement the report's findings and recommendations.


17 February 2015

Media contact: Amanda Whibley, Manager Media and Public Relations