A number of articles have appeared in the media regarding the recommendations of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG). These have included articles from Ben Jenson (‘Weekend Australian’, 2015), Roberts-Hull, et.al. (2015) and Andrew Bracey (‘Education Review’, 2015). Jenson identified employment or registration as a possible key transformer lever by having universities advertise results for successfully employed graduates. Poorly performing universities would be keen to improve courses to ensure they attract students. Jensen also looked at selection to courses and indicated the focus on the ATAR score may not be the answer. Incidentally, in Finland, all applicants to teacher education need to complete an academic entrance assessment before they are considered for the next phase of selection. Bracey’s article pointed out that many organisations and groups have welcomed the government’s response and believe the recommendations will lead to improved courses.
APPA strongly supports the Government’s position that universities should select students with demonstrated high academic achievement through a rigorous screening of applicants. Such screening is required in other high preforming countries where applicants need to demonstrate a readiness and capability for undertaking initial teacher education. In Australia, the selection of students to courses needs clarity and transparency. This is also a clear view held by APPA.
The Learning First organisation has released a report called ‘A new approach: Reforming teacher education’ (Roberts-Hull, et al. 2015). This report identifies the key problems and issues with Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and options for reform. The report believes there is a lack of evidence-based content and teaching practice in the university course, low subject knowledge training, insufficient focus on data collection and analysis skills, and limited integration of theory and practice (practicum). APPA’s submission to TEMAG identified similar key concerns and areas that need to be improved. We have identified four key areas that APPA sees as critical for reforming initial teacher education:
The Learning First Report also stated that ’…improving the connection between ITE providers and schools is crucial, since teachers and school leaders have long reported that ITE is failing to adequately prepare teachers for the realities of classroom teaching’ (p..8). APPA strongly supports this view and believes the partnership between schools and universities needs strengthening to ensure graduates are ‘classroom ready’.
Increasingly, principals report that they are having to provide intensive induction programs for beginning teachers to meet the demands of the classroom. Beginning teachers seem to be coming into the school with gaps in their learning and training. This requires additional resources and adds to the work of principals and supervisors. APPA will shortly be undertaking a project to identify the key behaviours, skills and knowledge beginning or graduate teachers need to demonstrate to be classroom ready. There seems to be different interpretations of the graduate teacher standards; so the information from the project will help inform universities and all involved in teacher education as to what it means to be classroom ready and trained to teach the primary curriculum. I believe this is a key area where the voice of primary principals needs to be loud and strong about the need for urgent change in initial teacher education.
The emphasis of Minister Pyne of the need for preservice teachers to have an early school experience is strongly supported by APPA. Simply stated, this means in the first semester of the course. APPA believes it can provide practical advice and feedback on developing the framework for the practicum part of the teacher education course. We also welcome the opportunity to investigate innovative teaching practicum options, especially for people studying in rural and remote areas of Australia. The integration of the practicum relies on the support and willingness of principals to accept pre-service teachers. Additionally, the university needs to support the school and mentor with ongoing collaboration to ensure the practicum is successful. Unfortunately, there seems to be with some universities a ‘one-sided partnership’, dictating when and how the practicum is to run. This is not collaboration. I could well understand a principal refusing to take pre-service teachers if collaboration and resourcing were not forthcoming from a university.
While it is early days in the tasks that emanate from the report, APPA has written to Minister Pyne welcoming the recommendations and also to Professor John Hattie, Board Chair of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). Our goal is to ensure that primary school principals are key stakeholders in developing the responses to the recommendations. I see APPA and the state and territory principals associations as key partners in the work ahead. As the Learning First report (p19) states, ‘Attracting strong candidates into well-executed ITE programs should be the ultimate goal.’
I look forward to the task ahead and call on all principals to be proactive and involved with improving initial teacher education courses.
President, Australian Primary Principals Association
Mobile: 0466 655 468
Bracey, A. (2015) ‘Teachers, get ready’, In Education Review, p 10.
Jenson, B. (2015). ‘The six steps to better teachers’, In Weekend Australian, March 28-29, p 19.
Roberts-Hull, K., Jensen, B., & Cooper, S. (2015). A new approach: Teacher education reform, Learning First, Melbourne, Australia.
School Aid KidsGive: This program is about students conducting projects and events to raise awareness and funds for other less fortunate children. School Aid will be launching the It’s NOT FAIR Week on 25 June in Canberra. The week will see student leaders in primary schools organising events to raise funds and awareness for a school-selected cause.
More information will be available on the website: www.kidsgive.com.au.
Locally made ethical school wear
Through their own procurement policies local schools have the power to support an ethical Australian clothing industry and help prevent the exploitation of workers. There are local school wear manufacturers who are committed to making clothes locally the right way.
Ethical Clothing Australia is responsible for accrediting local clothing and footwear manufacturers to ensure that their workers are receiving their legal wages and entitlements, and working in decent conditions.
To find out more contact Ethical Clothing Australia to ask how we can assist your school to source ethically accredited school wear.
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Where are you currently working as a school leader?
I recently took up the position of Head of Junior School at Seymour College, an independent girl’s school in the beautiful eastern suburbs of Adelaide. This is my first primary principal role, following extensive experience as Deputy Head of Primary at Matthew Flinders Anglican College, on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland. Moving from the Sunshine State to the Festival State has proven to be an incredibly rewarding professional and personal adventure, giving me the opportunity to continue working with outstanding educational practitioners and leaders at Seymour College.
How long have you been a school leader and where/what was your first appointment?
My first formal leadership position at Matthew Flinders was Junior Primary Coordinator, a title which later became Dean of Junior Primary. This role combined pastoral and curriculum responsibilities for the preparatory to year 3 sub-school. During the first few years in this role, I maintained my junior primary classroom teaching responsibilities, carefully balancing the classroom and leadership roles. As the school continued to grow, it became obvious that a greater commitment to the leadership role would benefit my teaching colleagues and the students in my care. My decision to leave the classroom and take up the full-time leadership role was a difficult one. I loved being a classroom teacher, nurturing a class of little ones and guiding their growth and learning. Teaching brought me great joy; it is a significant part of my life’s purpose. I was incredibly proud of what I had achieved professionally. It was my husband, Graham, who helped me in the early days to see that a leadership move out of the classroom was not the end of what I loved, but simply the beginning of a new way of touching the lives of children and their futures.
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Why did you originally want to become a school leader?
I am a fierce advocate for young children and the power of lifelong learning. Intelligent educational change and new professional initiatives have always excited me. My transformation from classroom teacher to school leader was inspired by some exceptional school leaders, mentors who lit the fire inside me to strive towards excellence. They helped me to recognise and hone my professional strengths and fuelled my desire to do the same for others.
I came to realise that by seeking a leadership role I could directly, and indirectly, positively influence the lives of more children, whilst simultaneously supporting the aspirations of my teaching colleagues. Becoming a school leader has proven to be far more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. I have learned the value of leadership from every student, every parent and every teaching professional who has shared my journey.
I am extremely grateful to those who have walked beside me on my path as a leader. They have guided me on a journey that continues to bring me joy and fill me with a unique sense of purpose after so many years.
What was your worst day?
My worst days at school have involved the loss of people who were part of the school community. Unfortunately, there has been more than one such day. The passing of anyone in a close-knit school community is a particularly heart-wrenching and tragic loss. These are moments when you truly appreciate the unique role we have in society and the words, in loco parentis, assume a meaning beyond mere legal principle. The opportunity to play a special and sensitive role in helping children at school who have experienced the loss of a parent is a unique reward of our position.
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What makes you smile at work?
The highlight of my day is being around young people. I love getting out into the playground at lunch times, hearing the stories of the day and watching the informal, but no less important, learning play out. Witnessing the magical milestones of first monkey bar crossings, seeing shaky cartwheels perfected, and looking on as imaginary fairy gardens are created, are among the special moments that I have the privilege of sharing. They make me smile. Our junior school playground at Seymour College energises and invigorates me, even on the busiest of days and is yet another reminder of the true value of this magnificent profession.
Debra J. Crouch
Mobile: 0413 009988
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Connected Leader is an official publication of the Australian Primary Principals Association. In close collaboration with APPA, Connected Leader is designed, produced and edited, specifically for APPA members, by Debra J. Crouch, Managing Director of Vivid Word and Image design, to enhance the professional learning of Australian primary school leaders.
The opinions expressed in any of the internet-based resources accessed by links from Connected Leader, belong entirely to those who created those resources, and do not necessarily represent official APPA views and policies. At times, links to some resources may be deliberately selected to reflect the wide range of views held by Australian primary school leaders, and the views therein may be subject to debate in some sections of the education community. Readers are advised that, in the interests of brevity, not all of the available personal opinions or information about a particular event, development, issue or policy direction may be published in resources made available through links in Connected Leader. Interested readers who require more comprehensive information, or who seek the opinions of all stakeholders, are advised to directly contact the institution/s or persons cited in the resource/s or conduct their own private research.
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