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Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Page: 9401


Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:45): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Will the minister inform the Senate about the results of the trial of the new literacy and numeracy test for teacher education students?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:45): I thank Senator Bushby for his question, which is a very important issue for the nation but especially for Tasmania in terms of having confidence in the quality of our teachers and confidence in the literacy and numeracy standards that are taught to our children.

The Turnbull government is providing new measures, in cooperation with the states and territories, to give confidence in the capabilities of our teachers in their own literacy and numeracy standards and therefore their capacity to be able to teach and appropriately deliver a good literacy and numeracy education to our children. Our government provided the opportunity, as part of our reforms, for up to 5,000 students to voluntarily sit the new test that we are applying across all initial teacher-training education graduates across nine centres: Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Ballarat and Albury. This test is an opportunity for students to demonstrate that they are in the top 30 per cent of all Australians for literacy and numeracy standards. Importantly, from next year, it will be a compulsory part of graduation for any student and will therefore be available right around the nation, including, of course, in Tasmania.

What we have seen from these initial results is that some 92 per cent of those involved in teacher training at university passed the literacy component of the test and 90 per cent passed the numeracy component of the test. While these are pleasing pass rates, it demonstrates that our universities have a way to go to ensure that every single graduate completing a teacher training program at university is within that top 30 per cent band for literacy and numeracy. To do so will give us confidence, and, most importantly, will give parents, principals and the community confidence that our teachers are up to standard and can provide the requisite literacy and numeracy skills and training to students to ensure they have the basics for an excellent education into the future.

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:47): I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister advise the Senate why this test is considered necessary?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:47): The government recognises that the quality of teachers is the single most important in-school factor in determining student outcomes. Yes, there are many other factors that are critically important that our government is focused on—parental engagement and the quality of the national curriculum—but, within the classroom, it is the calibre and quality of the teaching that matters most.

Back in 2011, education ministers from around Australia agreed that teaching graduates should meet this top 30 per cent benchmark for literacy and numeracy standards. However, sadly, the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group independent review the government undertook demonstrated that this was not necessarily being met. So this new measure, the mandatory test, which will ensure that, from 1 July next year, all students undertaking teacher training in universities must pass this test, therefore guarantees that they will meet the minimum 30 per cent standard. It will guarantee to parents, principals and others that they have teachers in the classrooms who are capable and competent in literacy and numeracy. (Time expired)

Senator BUSHBY (TasmaniaChief Government Whip in the Senate) (14:49): I ask a final supplementary question. Will the minister please explain to the Senate how this will improve student outcomes?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:49): This complements the record funding that our government is delivering to the school systems right around Australia. It complements what we have done in the new national curriculum that will apply from next year. It complements our parental engagement strategy. All of this comes together with our new teacher quality agenda to give schools, principals, education authorities, and, most importantly, parents, families and the community greater confidence in what is happening in the classroom and for literacy and numeracy outcomes of students around Australia.

This is an important benchmark to set. When it comes to what our teachers should have, and their capabilities and competencies within the classroom, the top 30 per cent of Australians for literacy and numeracy is not an unreasonable expectation. The vast majority of our teachers do an outstanding job, but it is critically important that we ensure public confidence in the teaching profession because, by having such excellent standards, we will then attract even better students into the teaching profession in years to come. I am confident these reforms will help to enhance the reputation of our teachers around Australia. (Time expired)