Universities are under fire for admitting teachers with low ATAR scores. Picture: iStock
Universities are under fire for admitting teachers with low ATAR scores. Picture: iStock

Our teachers’ marks don’t make the grade

QUEENSLAND universities are allowing students who have effectively failed Year 12 to become classroom teachers, in a move that has "alarmed" the Federal Education Minister.

Shocking new data, to be released by the Federal Government today, reveals school leavers are being accepted into Queensland teaching degrees with Australian Tertiary Entrance Ranks (ATARs) of just 38, which is equivalent to about an OP 24.

The data shows a massive disparity in the raw Year 12 marks required by universities across the state to gain entry into teaching degrees.

It indicates Central Queensland University and the University of Southern Queensland are offering university places to prospective teachers who achieved ATARs of just 38, while the University of Queensland requires would-be classroom teachers achieve at least a 75 or an OP 11.

Federal Minister for Education Simon Birmingham.
Federal Minister for Education Simon Birmingham.

Across the country, students with ATARs as low as 17 have been permitted entry into teaching degrees.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the data "sets off alarm bells".

He has written to state Education Ministers demanding an update on what progress they have made on lifting teaching standards since national reforms were introduced in 2015.

"Schools and families rightly expect the teachers working in our classrooms to be top−notch," Senator Birmingham said.

"To get the best outcomes for students we need the highest calibre teachers in the classroom."

From next year, aspiring teachers in Victoria will need to score an ATAR of at least 70 to gain entry into teaching degrees, while in NSW students wanting a career in the classroom have to achieve a Band 5 result (the top 20 per cent) in at least three subjects including English.

But in Queensland OP and ATAR cut-offs are determined by each university, although would-be teachers must also submit personal essays on their leadership attributes and why they want to teach.

USQ Head of Teacher Education Stephen Winn.
USQ Head of Teacher Education Stephen Winn.

Stephen Winn, the Head of Teacher Education, at University of Southern Queensland disputed the data, saying the university had an OP 15 cut off for primary and secondary teaching degrees, which is equivalent to an ATAR of 61.85.

Central Queensland University Vice Chancellor Scott Bowman also said his university had an OP cut-off 15 for teaching courses.

"Along with the academic entry requirements prospective students must also meet stringent non-academic entry requirements," Professor Bowman said.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the personal circumstances of these students were not known and it was important to get perspective.

"A mere two per cent of teaching students have an ATAR below 50," she said, "making these lower scores extreme outliers".