QTU President's comment:  20 Dec 2016

Invest in the things that matter

QTU President Kevin Bates joined
Gonski supporters from around Australia outside last Friday’s Education Council meeting

State and territory education ministers unanimously decried the failure by the federal government to agenda discussion on schools funding at last Friday’s Education Council meeting. As states face a $3.8 billion shortfall in needs-based funding, it must have come as a shock for them to learn through the media that the Turnbull government was about to throw another $20 million at the underperforming Teach for Australia (TFA) program.

Copied from a failed policy in the United States, independent research has shown that TFA is a costly and ineffective alternative to proper teacher training. Graduates from the program each require an investment of almost $130,000, 13 times the cost of standard teacher training courses. 50% of TFA graduates exit the teaching profession within three years compared to 10% of beginning teachers overall. Very few TFA graduates who remain in schools continue to work in the most disadvantaged schools the program is designed to serve.

Teaching is a complex and complicated profession. The QTU has been an advocate for high standards of training and of personal character in our profession for more than 40 years. The QTU led the campaign for a teacher registration system, minimum educational standards and legislative frameworks to enforce these requirements in all schools in Queensland. In fact, Queensland has been a world leader in this regard. It is important to note that the TFA has not been allowed in Queensland. The Palaszczuk government has been strong in its’ opposition to this model of teacher training. The QTU also strongly supported the decision of the previous Newman Government to reject the TFA model and we expect Queensland to remain TFA free for years to come.

The inconvenient truth for the Turnbull government is that forcing underprepared teachers into under-resourced schools has but one inevitable outcome. Training, inspiration or motivation cannot overcome chronic underfunding and the impact of the equity gap on our schools. Attracting teachers with high academic ability and an aptitude for teaching is important for the future of our schools. However, all teachers need to be properly trained before they begin their teaching careers, not thrown into a classroom after six weeks.

If student outcomes are to be improved we need a federal government that is prepared to stick with the program mapped out by Gonski, enshrined in the Australian Education Act and funded through agreements with the states and territories. The current education malaise is largely of the federal government’s making and, when combined with further stalling tactics on funding negotiations for early childhood education and care, and vocational education, will create massive downward pressure on early attempts by the teaching profession to lift educational outcomes for all students.

Denying true needs-based education funding now will snatch away our greatest chance to address the fact that Australia is being outpaced by the improvements in outcomes in other nations. Investment in our children’s future is the only option that will truly make a difference.

Kevin Bates