Aspiring teachers in NSW will once again be able to enter the classroom after completing a one-year postgraduate course after a change in NSW Government policy, but there is no guarantee the change will increase teacher numbers.
The requirement for a two-year masters qualification was introduced in NSW in 2014, after national education reforms released in 2011 increased standards for teaching education. A formerly available one-year Diploma of Education was discontinued as part of the reform.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said this new policy will continue their push to modernise education and make a teaching career a reality sooner for people already working.
“People at all stages of their lives have the potential to be great teachers, for those who already have an undergraduate degree we want a more streamlined approach for them to start a teaching career,” Mr Perrottet said.
“Teaching is a profession to aspire to and I don’t want a single person who is considering starting this fantastic career to be deterred by an unnecessary additional year in their training.”
Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said the current two-year Masters degree requirement has been shown to act as a disincentive for aspiring teachers, particularly mid-career professionals, and didn’t have a clear enough impact on student outcomes.
“A major barrier for people who already have an undergraduate degree and want to become a teacher is the length of time required to retrain,” Ms Mitchell said.
“Providing a new one-year Masters pathway will enable more mid-career professionals with existing qualifications and experience to bring these to bear in our classrooms.”
“This decision is backed by strong research which shows that the best way for teachers to hit the ground running is to spend more time in schools.”
Stakeholders across the sector, including many NSW universities, have expressed a desire to see more bespoke and skill-based Initial Teacher Education (ITE) degrees, especially for mid-career changers. This means that trainee teachers can get in front of a classroom sooner and finish their formal education while employed at a school.
The approach is supported by the findings of a new NSW Productivity Commission report released this week.
However, Professor Kim Beswick, Head of the School of Education at UNSW Sydney, said 1 year options are already available, and caution is required to ensure that the change doesn’t compromise the quality of education programs.
“There is a lot of detail that we don’t have at this stage. It may remove a barrier for some prospective teachers but care needs to be taken to maintain the quality and rigour of postgraduate initial teacher education programs.”
“It’s worth noting that “fast-track” options are already available. For example, under current arrangements, UNSW MTeach students complete their intensive program in 1.33 years and can teach at the end of 1 year,” Professor Beswick said.
Professor Beswick said the change may make a small contribution to addressing teacher shortages but ultimately we need to find ways to make the profession more attractive to prospective teachers and to retain teachers already in the profession.
“A raft of things including pay, public and political rhetoric that imply teachers are to blame for various of society’s ills, endless hoops to jump through, high administrative burden, lack of respect for teachers’ professional expertise, lack of career progression opportunities … all make the profession unattractive.”
“A capable Year 12 student who can do well in maths for example has options that are much higher status and more highly paid, [like] medicine, business, engineering,” Professor Beswick said.
“Some people are committed to being teachers regardless of the conditions but we cannot run a system on altruism.”
The University of New England was approached and declined to comment on the policy change at this early stage.