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Labor’s education minister is all talk and no action on Coalition’s teacher training reforms

The Albanese Government was handed a ready-made plan with the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review when it came to government more than 12 months ago.

In typical Labor fashion, Education Minister Jason Clare chose to ignore the advice of the education experts and instead wasted another 12 months reviewing teacher training, only to return to the recommendations handed to him by the Coalition.

A 2019 review into literacy by education expert, Jennifer Buckingham OAM (which underpinned the Coalition’s plan) examined teaching degrees including 116 literacy units across 66 degrees by 38 universities across Australia. The results were damning.

Ms Buckingham found that of the initial teaching degrees offered by the 38 Australian universities:

  • • only four per cent had a specific focus on how to teach children how to read in their first few years of school;
  • • only 16 per cent mentioned phonics;
  • • in 70 per cent of units, none of the five elements of evidence-based reading instruction was mentioned; and
  • • only eight per cent mentioned explicit teaching.

“As confirmed by the Australian Research Education Organisation (AERO), evidence-based teaching such as explicit instruction and the teaching of phonics is critical to turning around declining school standards.  I continue to call for explicit instruction to be introduced into every Australian classroom,” Senator Henderson said.

“By failing to prioritise evidence-based teaching, the vast majority of universities are failing to train teachers correctly and this needs to urgently change.  So many teaching degrees are setting graduates up for failure.  It is no wonder that half of all teachers leave the profession after five years.”

Some universities such as La Trobe are leading the way in transforming teacher training.  La Trobe’s SOLAR program (Science of Language and Reading program) is one such example. (See

“There must be consequences for universities which are failing student teachers. If universities aren’t prepared to meet the grade on the teaching degrees they offer, they should not continue to be funded or permitted to offer teaching courses,” Senator Henderson said.

Education Ministers will meet in Canberra today and the Minister for Education needs to start acting on his rhetoric. Time is up.

“Quality initial teacher education is critical to teaching success and improved student outcomes. It’s time Jason Clare stopped talking in circles and got on with the job,” Senator Henderson said.

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