Higher general teacher salaries, smaller class sizes ‘not key’ for students

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Mar 092022

By Madeleine Heffernan

March 3, 2022 — 12.01am


Forget higher pay for all teachers, smaller class sizes and increasing ATAR scores for teaching degrees, a contentious new report says overhauling teaching degrees and boosting pay for qualified maths and science teachers will make the biggest difference in improving educational outcomes.

Glenn Fahey, education research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies think tank, said many of the factors commonly believed to improve student achievement – smaller class sizes, improving teachers’ pay and conditions and boosting the reputation of teaching – had “virtually no effect on student outcomes”.

Glenn Fahey, research fellow in education policy at the Centre for Independent Studies, says better teacher training is essential to helping students.
Glenn Fahey, research fellow in education policy at the Centre for Independent Studies, says better teacher training is essential to helping students.CREDIT:

The report has been slammed by the Australian Education Union, which last month finalised an enterprise agreement with the Andrews government that gives teachers a 2 per cent annual pay rise over the next four years, as well as more time to prepare lessons and a reduction in face-to-face teaching hours.

However, Mr Fahey said how teachers used their working time, their practices in the classroom and the quality of teacher training were the “significant factors” that influenced student achievement.

His Teacher workforce: fiction vs fact report, released on Thursday, said teaching degrees often failed to prepare trainees, arguing they benefited most from teaching rounds in high-performing schools with effective supervision.

“The greatest risk to the quality of the teaching profession is not the ‘quality’ of teachers who come into initial teaching education courses, but the quality and preparedness of teachers coming out of initial teacher education,” Mr Fahey said.https://www.smh.com.au/interactive/modules/graphic-embed/?resizable=true&v=238&configUrl=https://www.smh.com.au/interactive/hub/configs/graphic-embed/5855.json

“One of the issues that’s missing is having more time in practical training [teaching rounds], having practical training earlier and having a structured program of supervision. At the moment it remains ad hoc.”

Teacher training varies across the states and territories, and across universities. The federal government has put together a panel to develop new standards for initial teacher education courses after a review found that lifting the top pay rate of teachers by $30,000 to $130,000 would make young high achievers 13 percentage points more likely to choose the profession.

Mr Fahey said while across-the-board pay rises for teachers were unnecessary, qualified maths and science teachers ought to be paid a premium to encourage graduates in these fields to choose the profession.



How to boost the status – and quality – of teaching

Jordana Hunter

Education program director at the Grattan Institute

“Australian teachers are among the highest-paid in the world, are nearly twice as likely as the OECD average to be satisfied with pay, and report relatively high perceptions of their status,” he said.

“There is some international research that suggests a salary supplement equivalent to a 5 per cent permanent differential for science and maths teachers can result in a significant increase in teacher supply and reduction in attrition.”

Australian Education Union federal president Correna Haythorpe accused the report of cherry-picking data and said comparisons with other OECD countries had been used to downplay the gravity of teacher shortages in Australia.

“No distinction has been made about how private schools are benefiting disproportionately from increased resources and reduced class sizes,” she said.

The Grattan Institute has long argued that teachers who have a strong academic record are likely to be more effective in the classroom and has urged for incentives to encourage them to choose teaching. It has also called for the country’s best teachers to be rewarded with new roles overseeing other teachers, for pay of up to $180,000 a year.https://omny.fm/shows/please-explain-1/education-in-the-time-of-covid-what-does-it-mean-f/embed?background=f4f5f7&description=1&download=1&foreground=0a1633&highlight=096dd2&image=1&share=1&style=artwork&subscribe=1

Grattan education program director Jordana Hunter said the influence of top teachers could be extended by asking them to observe and coach others.

“This can also be a very effective way to help teachers translate relatively dry academic research about effective teaching practices directly into their classrooms.”


Students at Melbourne University.

Less work, lower pay: Victorian graduates pay price for pandemic

Teaching shortages are not as much of a hot-button issue in Victoria as they are in NSW. A recent Victorian Education Department report predicted teaching supply would meet demand in coming years, although specialist subjects, including languages and technology, were chronically short of qualified teachers and 20 per cent of advertised maths and science roles went unfilled.

NSW has yet to resolve its teacher pay dispute, with the government offering an annual pay rise of 2.5 per cent, but the NSW Teachers Federation is seeking an increase of between 5 and 7.5 per cent.

The University of Melbourne’s Peter Adams said effective teaching required knowledge of both the curriculum and how to teach.

“The question needs to be asked whether initial teacher education adequately addresses the latter,” he said. “A good teacher knows their subject, but also knows how to teach it.”

Acting federal Education Minister Stuart Robert said parents deserved the reassurance that graduates had the skills and knowledge needed to “hit the ground running” when they entered the classroom.

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Madeleine Heffernan

Madeleine Heffernan is an education reporter for The Age. She has also worked as a city reporter and a business reporter.Connect via Twitter or email.