Most trainee teachers fail benchmark

Fewer than one in three of school leavers starting teaching degrees this year would meet the O'Farrell government's new benchmark for teachers, part of a suite of reforms designed to lift the standard and status of teaching in NSW.

Teaching students will have to pass new literacy and numeracy exams to gain their degrees, while new teachers will be supported by mentoring and support initiatives to strengthen their skills.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli described the plans as the ''most significant reforms around quality teaching ever undertaken in Australia by any jurisdiction''.

While he admitted that some of the reforms would incur ''significant'' cost, he did not commit new funding nor suggest any reversal of the recent $1.7 billion cut to the education budget.

High-school leavers who hoped to do a teaching degree would have to score a minimum of ''Band 5'', or 80 per cent, in at least three of their HSC subjects, one of which had to be English. Of this year's intake of teaching students who were high-school leavers, only 30 per cent achieved that standard.

Premier Barry O'Farrell said he did not believe the new requirements would discourage people from entering teaching.

''Quite the reverse,'' he said. ''I think the fact that we're seeking to raise standards, to raise the status of teaching, will encourage more people to enter the profession.''

Board of Studies president Tom Alegounarias said the new standards did not translate to an exact ATAR cut-off, but he said 70 was a rough estimate.

Under the proposed reforms, all teachers would also have to register and be accredited by the NSW Institute of Teachers, and those who had been out of the profession for more than five years would have to do a refresher course, which would be available by 2014.

Unions and the non-government school sector welcomed the reforms on Wednesday but stressed financial support would be crucial to their success.

''I'm confident and hopeful the government realises how resource-intensive this is,'' the executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said.

But the universities said the stricter benchmark could lead to a teacher shortage.

''Introducing entry requirements such as this ignore the well-documented fact that input measures are very poor predictors of graduate success and teacher quality,'' chief executive of Universities Australia Belinda Robinson said.

The Australian Council of Deans of Education warned the moves could add ''significant layers of complexity, review and costs'' to initial teacher education courses.

New measures would also be put in place to remove more quickly and de-register teachers who did not meet the professional teaching standards.

Mr Piccoli said the government's response had not been prescriptive about how this would take place, as different sectors had different industrial-relations arrangements.

''Within the government sector I can say it is something of a difficult and cumbersome process for principals so there are things we need to do to make the process shorter and more predictable,'' he said.

Laura Robinson, a primary teacher at Croydon Public, did not rely on HSC marks to become a teacher, but studied a master of teaching as a mature-age student.

She said raising the bar for high-school graduates entering teacher education ''can't be a bad thing''. But, she said, it was not the solution to lifting education standards. ''Funding is the answer. We need to raise the bar within schools before we focus on graduates,'' she said.

The year 3 teacher was in her fourth year in the job and said it was a balancing act. ''You're trying to do your best but, if you've got a budget of $150 a year for your class, that doesn't really work.''

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