PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA: I would like to make some brief remarks about Teach for Australia, which, as you may be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker Slipper, is an outstanding initiative that targets top non-teacher graduates and places them in, typically, disadvantaged schools. This initiative is based on very successful models in the United States and the United Kingdom—respectively, Teach for America and Teach First. In essence, the initiative attracts a different type of person into teaching. They are people who would not ordinarily be interested in teaching, but they are the types of people that we should be seeking out and getting into teaching in our schools.
I have been involved in this initiative since its inception. I was actually involved in helping to design the initial proposal right at the very beginning, about five or six years ago, when I was working in Far North Queensland at the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. I was involved in establishing the Teach for Australia organisation and, indeed, I remain on its board today. This is now the second year that we have young non-teacher graduates—we call them associates—placed in schools. Last year was the first year. We have 85 outstanding young graduates, associates, in schools predominantly in Victoria, but this year they are also starting in the Australian Capital Territory, and next year we are hoping—and it is most likely—that we will have some graduates starting also in Western Australia and possibly in South Australia.
It is relatively early days for this program, but to date the results have been quite outstanding. Over the last two years, we have had something like 1,500 applications for the Teach for Australia associate program—1,500 applications for, now, 85 placements. Clearly, as an organisation Teach for Australia is reaching many young people and it is an attractive program for those young people to apply to. The actual associates that we have been recruiting and placing in schools are outstanding young Australians. They are, typically, exceptionally high performers at university but, equally important, they also have a number of other attributes which the organisation thinks will make them exceptionally good schoolteachers, including leadership skills, community involvement and terrific interpersonal skills. One such associate, whom I was just speaking to on Tuesday night at the ACT launch of the Teach for Australia program, is an outstanding young woman who, before joining the program, was over in India starting up an orphanage there. It is that type of person that we are attracting into the program —someone who has not only fantastic education results but also broad experience.
The feedback from school principals, which of course is very important, has been excellent. The principals are basically unanimous in the view that the overall quality of the individuals that Teach for Australia delivers to disadvantaged schools is unquestionable. I will just quote a couple of the school principals. Tony Simpson, for example, is Principal of Copperfield College. He took seven associates into his school last year. He says:
“Every single one of our Associates is very successful in the classroom.”
Similarly, Trish Horner, the Principal at Mill Park Secondary College in Victoria, who has taken 10 associates all up, has said:
“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made as a Principal the conversations about teaching in the staff room now is on such a high level, and that’s because of the Associates.”
I will not go into other details and the results which those associates have been achieving for their students, but they are also outstanding.
I had the pleasure recently of going to a school in my electorate, Fairhills High School, which this year has two Teach for Australia associates operating in the school, Hugh Bachmann and Melanie Henry. I am sure they will be as successful as the other Teach for Australia associates have been. I wanted to record my strong support for this program. There are many partners involved with it which make it a success, but I am a very proud board member and proud to support that initiative.