Television Interview with David Campbell and Sylvia Jeffreys – Today Extra – Friday 24 March 2023

FRIDAY, 24 MARCH 2023 

SUBJECTS: Classroom behaviour; teacher shortages

DAVID CAMPBELL: Well, we all know it, teachers are feeling stressed, they’re also feeling unsafe at work as they grapple to control bad student behaviour in the classroom, and parents too. It comes as a new survey reveals, half of Aussie educators are overwhelmed by those demanding parents.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: Federal Education Minister Jason Clare joins us now from Canberra to discuss. Minister, good morning and thank you for your time. We’re among the worst countries in the world when it comes to classroom behaviour. Does that shock you?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Yeah, very, very worrying. Teaching is such a tough job. I don’t know if many of us really appreciate just how tough and hard and complex being a school teacher is. Home-schooling during Covid probably reminded us how hard it is, and it is one of the most important jobs in the world. You can literally change people’s lives by being a school teacher. One of the big things that I’m doing as Education Minister is looking at how we can better prepare teachers for the classroom when they’re still at university, giving them the skills they need so that they’re ready to hit the ground running, teaching kids to read and write, but also to deal with classroom behaviour.

CAMPBELL: I mean, then that idea of shortening the length of teacher postgrad degrees, is that a good idea then? Because then we want to have the right amount of tools for these teachers going into the classrooms.

CLARE: So Dave, this goes to how do we encourage people who might be an engineer or a lawyer to become a school teacher? And at the moment, if you want to do that, you’ve got to do a two-year master’s degree at university. This discussion paper that’s been put together by teachers and principals and other experts has said that if we can compact that a little bit, make sure that you’re spending a bit more time being paid to do practical experience in a classroom, then we can encourage more people in their thirties or their forties to want to become a school teacher. Think about it, if you’ve got a mortgage and kids, you can’t easily take two years out of the workforce. So, we’re looking at ways to maintain the standard, compact the course, spend more time in the classroom and pay people while they learn so that we can get more people who are engineers or lawyers or scientists or whatever else to think about becoming a schoolteacher.

JEFFREYS: So, Jason, among the recommendations from this expert panel that you’re talking about is a suggestion of tightening standards for education degrees, lifting the ATAR effectively. Are you open to that suggestion?

CLARE: First, Sylvia, it’s a discussion paper, it’s out there for everybody to comment on. We’re hoping to get feedback next month and we’ll get final advice at the end of June. Different states have got different models at the moment. I think a minimum ATAR of 70 is the general rule in Victoria. In New South Wales if you want to become a teacher, then you’ve got to, I think, hit level five in three of your exams in the HSC, so different states do it differently. I want more people to want to become a school teacher. I want kids bursting out of high school, wanting to go and become a teacher rather than a banker or a lawyer. We’ve got a shortage at the moment. I certainly don’t want to see fewer people become teachers. But if we can encourage more of our best and brightest to become a teacher, I think that’s a good thing. So, one of the things that we’re doing, and it’s in the budget, it’ll start next year, are $40,000 scholarships to encourage people who get an ATAR of more than 80 to become a school teacher.

CAMPBELL: That does sound good, but you want people not to become bankers, lawyers, engineers, these, scientists. These are well paying jobs.

CLARE: Yeah, it’s exactly right.

CAMPBELL: It seems like the thing to get people to this profession is to pay them more.

CLARE: That’s part of it, Dave. Most teachers start off on about 70 grand, and they get an increase every year for about ten years, and then it just flattens out.


CLARE: Which is one of the reasons that you see teachers leave after about ten years. But if you talk to mates who are teachers, they’ll tell you it’s pay, but it’s also workload. The idea that teachers knock on at 9:00 in the morning and knock off at 3:00 is rubbish. Teachers work long hours. The work that the Productivity Commission’s just released shows that teachers in Australia work longer than teachers in other countries around the world, but only about 40 per cent of that time is in the classroom teaching kids. So, if we can find ways to take some of the jobs off teachers that aren’t all about teaching in our classrooms, then I think that will go a long way to encouraging more teachers who are currently quitting schools to stay around and help educate our children.

JEFFREYS: Yeah, it’s getting more and more desperate, isn’t it? Education Minister Jason Clare, we appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

CAMPBELL: Thanks, Jase.

CLARE: Thanks, guys.