Anger at cost of fast-track teaching plan

The Age

Wednesday December 16, 2009


THE Rudd Government is spending almost $22 million to parachute high-flying university graduates into some of the nation's toughest schools, sparking anger among teachers who claim the plan will do little to lift education standards.Figures provided by the Government under questions on notice reveal that millions will be spent over the next four years to administer the controversial Teach For Australia program, where university graduates who have not been "traditionally" trained as teachers will work in some of the most disadvantaged communities.Of the $22 million, about $14 million will go to the program's organisers, and about $8 million will go to Melbourne University, where the graduates spend an initial six weeks of intensive training before fronting a classroom.The Victorian Government, the first to roll out the scheme, is also providing more than $7 million.But some teachers yesterday lashed out at the costs, saying the money could be better spent on training and mentoring existing teachers.Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said the average annual cost to the Commonwealth to fund a traditional training course €” a diploma of education €” was about $8500 a year per student."This means that, on average, Teach for Australia is costing the Commonwealth in excess of $122,000 per student €” almost 15 times the cost of a teacher training place in the first year," he said.Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard's spokesman did not return calls last night. But Teach for Australia director Melodie Potts Rosevear defended the program, saying the funding was being used on a range of costs, such as ongoing training and support, marketing and recruiting and Teach for Australia wages.About 12 Victorian public schools will take on graduates next year in disadvantaged communities in Melbourne's north and west, in Gippsland, Hume and the Grampians.The graduates €” who must do at least two years under the program €” will train for an intensive six weeks and then continue to get support and mentoring while they teach.While some critics fear they will be underprepared, others disagree. Victorian Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said the program "will bring some of our state's brightest graduates into the classroom where they will not only pass on their knowledge, but also act as role models for our students".–Meanwhile, universities will receive $540 for each student they enrol from a disadvantaged background next year, as part of the Federal Government's push to raise the numbers of poor Australians who participate in higher education.Education Minister Julia Gillard has set a target of lifting the proportion of undergraduate enrolments from people of low socio-economic backgrounds to 20 per cent by 2020.The Government has committed $433 million over four years to reaching the target.The financial incentives offered to universities to enrol disadvantaged students will increase to about $1400 a student in 2013.The Government is allocating $135 million a year €” about 2.5 per cent of the teaching funding for the nation's 38 public universities €” to performance funding, which universities will only receive if they meet agreed targets.The Government last week released a discussion paper which floated several possible performance indicators, including drop-out rates, the results of satisfaction surveys and performance on standardised tests.

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