From the Principal

Who is in front of your child’s class?

After parental input, the most important aspect in determining a student‘s school success is the teacher. 

Professor John Hattie has produced data that shows that the quality of the teacher accounts for 30% (plus or minus) variance in student academic achievement. 

While St Columba believes that schools need to address the changes in our 21st century world, the truth is the quality of the teacher who takes a class continues to make a measurable difference. 

Research has shown that great teachers make their students feel safe and loved, believe in their students, model patience, and help their students reach their full potential.

What teachers know, do, and care about is a very powerful component of the learning equation.

Teaching has changed and our classrooms look and sound different to past decades, but the quality of the teacher remains one of the key determinants of student success.

Sometimes St Columba teachers come with a breadth of experience in other schools, sometimes straight from university, and sometimes straight from university but with a background and experience in different professions, industries and commerce. 

All of them are qualified to teach in their particular teaching field.

It appears that the government might consider changing that in government schools.

“A ministerial briefing, written in late January and marked “sensitive”, discusses alternatives to a requirement for high school teachers to have university qualifications in the subject they teach – such as Maths or English – as well as an education degree. The alternatives could include vocational study or workforce experience in their discipline.” SMH, May 2, 2022.

Great engineers could be great teachers, but there is no guarantee that their skills will always translate into being great engineering, science or mathematics teachers, without honing their skills for effective use in the school environment. 

Great lawyers can be great Legal Studies teachers, if they have the skills to pass on their knowledge to students in an effective manner. 

NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) are working with the state Education Department and universities to develop “defendable” recognised prior learning to “support the department’s teacher recruitment strategy” .NSW education authorities are investigating how they can endorse high school teachers as subject specialists even if they do not have university qualifications in that discipline amid shortages of qualified teachers, particularly in maths and science.

We acknowledge that there is a current and worsening teacher shortage in some areas and some regions. This means that, in some schools, teachers are required to “teach out of field.”

Teachers work out of field when they teach without a university major or minor in that subject, such as when a PE teacher leads a maths class. They teach out of field if their principal cannot find a qualified teacher, or does not have enough of them to meet timetable requirements.

This has led to a situation where up to 37% of teachers in schools are teaching outside the roles that they were trained for.

The danger is that this can compromise the quality of education being offered. Even the Education Department acknowledges that “Students achieve better academic results if they are taught by a fully qualified teacher.”

According to the Education Minister, “This isn’t about watering down teaching standards.”

No student at St Columba is being taught by someone who does not have formal qualifications in their area of teaching expertise (with the occasional exception of a lesson being taught by a teacher replacing a sick colleague). 

Your school is staffed by professionals who know their subjects, who offer engaging and relatable classes, effective pastoral care and great educational and co-curricular opportunities.

We like it that way and will continue to seek out qualified, innovative and engaging professional educators to work at our school.

Without wishing to get political, we believe that we owe our students nothing less.

Want to share your thoughts on this story, or do you have something you’d like to add? Email me at principal@scas.nsw.edu.au

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