UNE makes a difference in low socio-economic schools in Western Sydney

Published 13 June 2014

UNE NTEDSThe University of New England’s School of Education has launched an initiative which aims to improve the retention rate of quality teachers at disadvantaged schools in Western Sydney.

Top-performing education graduates are in great demand, and statistically they are likely to accept positions in higher socio-economically located schools and stay there for a long time. Teachers who accept jobs at disadvantaged schools, however, tend to stay for a much shorter period of time.

Dr Tiffany Jones and Dr Keita Takayama, two senior lecturers at UNE’s School of Education have described this trend as a serious educational equity issue, given that teachers are said to account for a roughly 30% variance in student achievement and that a stable teacher workforce is important for effective teaching and learning in schools.

Dr Jones and Dr Takayama have launched the UNE initiative which aims to recruit and prepare high-achieving teaching students for working in low socio-economic schools.

Based upon the Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools program (ETDS) pioneered by the Queensland University of Technology, student teachers undertake professional experience in low SES schools and receive specialised support from program mentors and other participants.

Following the success of the QUT program with around 90% of graduating ETDS students now working in low SES schools, UNE and the University of Newcastle were selected as the first cohort of the National ETDS (NETDS) roll out.

Dr Takayama said that Western Sydney was selected as the focus of the UNE NETDS for several reasons.

“A large number of UNE external education students live in this area and seek employment upon graduation. Western Sydney has many disadvantaged schools and our UNE FutureCampus is well positioned to facilitate the program,” Dr Takayama said.

Dr Jones said that unlike those run by QUT and Newcastle University, the UNE NETDS focuses on external students.

“UNE has a larger online student population than many other universities, so it was important for us to include external students in the program and to contribute innovations to this approach”.

Dr Takayama and Dr Jones plan to provide specialised support to this group of students via occasional meetings and workshops at the Future Campus and through various social media networking tools. Along with their QUT and Newcastle colleagues, they will undertake a longitudinal investigation into the effectiveness of the program in increasing the number of top performing education graduates in disadvantaged schools.

UNE’s NETDS program was launched on Thursday 12 June at UNE’s FutureCampus in Parramatta at an event attended by 20 education students who have been recruited to be part of the first cohort.

The original ETDS program was recognised as an ‘Australian Bright Spot’ by Social Ventures Australia, and the program’s national expansion was made possible by philanthropic support by the Origin Foundation.