Teach for Australia given an F

Kerri Carr

Teach for Australia is failing in its mission and there should be a public review of its cost-effectiveness, Save Our Schools Australia national convenor Trevor Cobbold said in an education policy brief published this month.

The federally funded program appoints university graduates from other faculties with six weeks of teacher training to work in disadvantaged secondary schools. Accreditation standards in NSW prevent Teach for Australia (TFA) associates from working in the state’s schools.

Mr Cobbold’s comments are based on his appraisal of a report for the Federal Government by management consultancy firm Dandalo Partners (awarded the contract following a limited tender process).

Why a program to support disadvantaged schools should only target schools just below the median Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) value rather than more highly disadvantaged schools is a mystery, Mr Cobbold said.

“Greater accountability is needed from TFA and the Commonwealth Government about decisions on its school placements,” he said.

The TFA hopes to retain a proportion of these fast-tracked teachers in the schools to which they are appointed beyond their initial two-year commitment.

However, Mr Cobbold said that TFA is “compounding the serious problem of teacher retention in disadvantaged schools rather than reducing it”.

“The report shows that the retention rate of TFA teachers is low and many of those that remain in teaching shift to more advantaged schools after their two-year placement in a school. Less than 50 per cent of TFA teachers are still teaching three years after completing their two-year placement (that is, after five years) and only 30 per cent remain in schools below the national median ICSEA value.”

Mr Cobbold noted: “The failure to collect data on student academic and social outcomes is a consistent feature of evaluation reports on TFA.”

Disadvantaged schools, disadvantaged students and the taxpayer would be better served by using TFA funding in more effective ways, he concluded.

Federation President Maurie Mulheron said Federation opposes unqualified people being placed into teaching positions.

“We believe in raising, not lowering, entry standards.”