New maths standard for aspiring primary teachers

The announcement from the NSW Education Minister requiring students sitting the HSC to achieve at least a Band 4 in mathematics in order to become a primary school teacher has been commended by Federation President Maurie Mulheron.

In comments made to The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Mulheron said the 24 October announcement “fits with the union’s long-held belief that we should protect rigorous and high academic entry standards into initial teacher education”.

“This is something we’ve been campaigning to achieve for some years now. The restoration of HSC mathematics as a requirement for entry into primary teaching courses is long overdue,” Mr Mulheron said. “One of the impacts of this policy announcement should be to boost ATAR entry scores into initial teacher education courses which, in too many universities, are dangerously low.”

The new rule will apply to students sitting the HSC from 2021 and came a day after the Berejiklian Government announced plans to make maths compulsory for year 11 and 12 students.

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the government was committed to raising standards. ‘‘The early years are the most formative and important in a child’s educational journey. No one teaching our kids the basics of maths should be unable to complete high school maths themselves,’’ she said. “Parents have a reasonable expectation that their young children are learning the basics of numeracy from someone who is mathematically literate.’’

In the event a student fails to achieve a Band 4 but passes a maths-based course at university, they will still be able to work as a primary teacher.

The policy also specifies Band 4 ‘‘or equivalent’’, which recognises that such a level would be more difficult to achieve in extension maths than standard maths.

Mr Mulheron responded to reported comments from the Deans of Education that the policy could “exacerbate the severe shortage of maths teachers by creating extra demand among HSC students”. Mr Mulheron countered: “On the contrary, this requirement provides an opportunity to boost the number of secondary teachers of mathematics, as primary teaching candidates could choose to also seek to be qualified in a secondary teaching method such as mathematics, thereby increasing their opportunities for permanent employment.

“This is a step in the right direction and will no doubt play a key role in lifting the status of the profession.

“We’re proud that the requirements to become a teacher in NSW public schools are high. Today’s announcement will strengthen that employment requirement.”

Mr Mulheron told The Sydney Morning Herald: ‘‘We’ve always believed that we should have rigorous and high academic standards in teacher education.

“Not just numeracy – I’m talking about mathematics. “Primary school teachers who are confident in mathematics, will have an impact on mathematics in primary and a flow-on effect in high school.’’

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