Subject: Code Club Australia
Annie Parker: My name’s Annie Parker, I’m the founder of Code Club Australia. It’s a pleasure to have everybody here today, and especially to welcome Trent Zimmerman and the Minister for Education to see one of our… one of our newest Code Club’s actually. These guys have only been up and running for just over four months, and they’ve already got well over 150 kids learning how to code in schools- in the school here which is fabulous. So far the Code Club Australia program has reached over 325 clubs across the country, but there are 8000 primary schools in Australia, so we have a lot more to do, and together with the Minister for Education we are completely committed to making sure that we get to every primary school in Australia over the next 12 or 18 months. Well I’d like to hand over to Trent Zimmerman.
Trent Zimmerman: Oh well thank you Annie and thank you Minister for joining us in the North Sydney Federal electorate, and also to Bill for hosting us at this fine school Willoughby Public School. Today’s a really exciting day for our local community because we’ve just seen the enthusiasm of local students for Code Club, and for developing the skills that are going to be really important to future jobs, not just in Australia, but in North Sydney. And for North Sydney it’s particularly important because we are fast becoming an IT hub in Sydney, and having young people so enthusiastic about computer programming and the skills that they will need to succeed in those types of professions bodes really well for the future of young people in our area. So I’m really delighted Simon you’ve been able to join us today, and to make an important announcement for supporting our young people as they develop the skills of the future. So welcome Simon Birmingham.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much Trent and Annie it’s a delight to be here at the Willoughby Public School, and thank you Bill for you and your team for hosting us here at this exceptional school that’s doing wonderful things. To come into a school like this and to see that within the space of four months more than 150 students have been energised to voluntarily participate in the Code Club, to voluntarily upskill themselves in areas that are so essential to the future of our economy is really essential.
This is exactly the type of project that I know that Trent Zimmerman as the candidate for North Sydney, and I trust the next member for North Sydney is passionate about. Trent is somebody who I’ve known for close to twenty years, and he is an exceptional advocate for his local community through years on local council, through years of contribution to public policy, and his passion and engagement in making sure that we have the opportunities to create new jobs in the future and to skill people for those jobs is second to none.
To Annie, to you and the team at Code Club, thank you. Thank you for bringing to Australia an exceptional initiative, and I’m delighted today to announce that the Turnbull Government will commit an additional $500,000 to support Code Club to expand their activities. This is a contribution that matches the contribution of the Telstra Foundation, and will help to reach Code Club out to many, many more students right around Australia. Code Club’s already supporting some 10,000 students at least to learn exciting new skills for the future, and the Turnbull Government has made sure that coding is part of our curriculum for the future, that coding is supported along with other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects across a range of different programs with multimillion dollar investments to back them up. And this is another tangible example of how we are helping to train and skill teachers with the type of knowledge they need to be able to help students develop the skills that will equip them for the jobs of today and importantly the future.
Question: Minister would you like to see a time when coding becomes part of the national school curriculum?
Simon Birmingham: Coding will be part of the national school curriculum as the national curriculum is adopted from the start of next year. So we have worked to reform and implement a new national curriculum that gives us the right mix; that has a focus on the traditional basics, the teaching of literacy and numeracy, and the role of phonics in that regard, as well as new technology skills such as coding that ensure that students should be leaving school with the type of capabilities they require. If I can touch on one other issue today, which is the release of the data from the first round of testing of teachers- teachers in training in our universities.
Another reform of the Turnbull Government has been to make sure that we focus on teacher quality as part of our overall education agenda, and from the first of July next year it will be mandatory that every single person undertaking a teaching qualification in Australia passes a literacy and numeracy test prior to graduation that guarantees they are in the top 30 per cent of Australians for literacy and numeracy skills. This is an important reform to make sure that parents, principals, and all stakeholders in schools can have confidence that future teacher graduates are at the top of the literacy and numeracy capability across Australia, and that they are well-equipped to teach our students in the future.
Question: Minister how disturbing was it to discover that ten per cent of those student teachers weren’t up to scratch?
Simon Birmingham: Well we of course have introduced this reform because there were concerns about whether we were getting the right quality in terms of our teacher graduates. We want to make sure that every parent, every principal has confidence in the capability of teacher graduates in future, and from next year with this mandatory test in place people can have confidence that those who graduate from a teaching program will have the skills to teach children literacy and numeracy in the classroom.
Question: Minister are you concerned about the quality of classrooms in Sydney’s West where some students are forced to study in learning environments without air conditioning, and some parents have taken it upon themselves to petition and raise money to buy them the air conditioners.
Simon Birmingham: Look I know at that as a Federal Government we’re providing some record funding through to the school systems around Australia. It’s a matter for the state school systems as to how they manage to upgrade their building infrastructure, of course when many of us were at school air conditioning was not the norm, but it is nowadays, and I’m sure that parents do rightly expect that as building upgrades occur air conditioning will be applied across their schools, and I have no doubt that’s part of the State Government’s building program.
Question: Does it concern you that the demographics of particulars cities’ impact on equality of teaching, when you consider that cities such as Sydney, in particular areas like this, teaching is a supplementary job in terms of household income because of the outrageous price of buying properties and renting them. Is that something you’re going to look at in terms of the uniformity of teaching equality across big cities- big expensive cities?
Simon Birmingham: Teaching should be one of our most respected professions. The vast majority of Australian teachers show great love, great commitment and great passion in what they teach in their classrooms and how they try to motivate their students and give them the best skills for the future. And we’re determined to make sure that the quality of teachers is as high as possible, and in doing that of course it then becomes self-propagating that you actually, by having high quality teachers and a guarantee of that, attract and encourage the best students to go into teaching in the future
If you are part of one of the most highly regarded professions, you will want to join that profession in future. And that is really where we want to make sure that teaching returns to. Now I think the overwhelming majority of our teachers do an exceptional job, but we are focused on ensuring that the basics are in place, by ensuring we’re got the right curriculum, the right teaching standards, the way students are taught and the teacher quality is as high as it possibly can be, which is why we’re putting this new mandatory benchmark in place at universities.
Question: Why is there the need for this for this test? Is there – perhaps it’s too easy to get into a teaching degree?
Simon Birmingham: Well we’re really putting the onus back on universities to make sure that students they admit into teaching qualifications are capable of being in the top 30 per cent of Australians for literacy and numeracy. Universities need to be confident when they admit somebody that they can get them to that capacity before they graduate, otherwise the student won’t graduate and that will then be on the head of the university for their failure in that regard.
Question: So can I just clarify – will it see nothing less than ten out of ten will be acceptable for next year, is that correct?
Simon Birmingham: So every student, to graduate from a teaching qualification must pass this new minimum benchmark to demonstrate they will be in the top 30 per cent of Australians for literacy and numeracy capabilities.
Question: Is there anything, Minister, to suggest that ten per cent figure may be reflected in the staff of teachers who have graduated, or are beyond the student level that has carried through into the permanent qualified staff?
Simon Birmingham: We’ve obviously taken this step as a result of some degree of concern about what’s been happening with the vast expansion of universities and their intakes in recent years. So we are conscious of making sure we do all possible, and from a Federal Government perspective where we have direct control over the way universities are funded and operate, we’ve been able to make sure that this is a first step, and a very important step in delivering teacher quality.
Question: Is there anything to suggest that ten per cent figure has expanded into the general teaching staff, is that reflective according to the analysis of a general problem extending beyond the student teacher population?
Simon Birmingham: I’m confident that the vast majority of teachers in our classrooms are delivering great teaching and great outcomes for their students, and that principals like Bill work very hard to ensure that they have the best teachers, and where they think a teacher needs a helping hand to lift their skills and capabilities, they deliver it. And in looking at how the Code Club is working here today, I’ve seen the benefits of teachers collaborating with each other. That it wasn’t just one teacher who went and did the Code Club program, it was a group of teachers, so they were able to work as a team afterwards and ensure that they share their knowledge and skills and expertise in relation to the teaching and learning of coding. And so it’s really important that we don’t just see teachers as an individual, that we see them as a profession working in teams to deliver the best outcomes for their students.
Question: Could it be that the nine out of ten score means that our teacher training needs to be [indistinct]?
Simon Birmingham: Well I think the issue here is absolutely that our universities need to ensure firstly they are taking students into teaching programs who are capable of reaching this high benchmark, and that in their teacher training they are delivering the skills that ensure those students do meet that benchmark, so that when they graduate they have the top skills in numeracy and literacy.
Question: Is there enough uniformity between courses at different universities, do you think, in terms of what teachers are taught?
Simon Birmingham: Look, there’s certainly a degree of uniformity. Now, each university will offer certain specialisation in terms of the way they approach teaching and learning. This is about ensuring we have a minimum national benchmark so that people can have confidence that there’s consistency and quality in the literacy and numeracy skills that they’re teaching.
Question: Overcrowding is an issue here on the North Shore, is there anything being done to help that situation – more schools, more [indistinct]?
Simon Birmingham: Trent Zimmerman raised this issue pretty much as soon as we arrived, and has been speaking to Bill about State Government plans for the potential expansion of this school to provide greater facilities and greater room to deal with student numbers. So I know that the State Government is very focused on that. Once again of course the schools themselves are run by the State Government or the relevant school system. At a Federal level, we’re providing record funding to help them with that and to help them address those issues.
Question: Well you’re an experienced educator, can we get your views just on … What’s your take on the standards of teachers that are coming through …And is it reflective of your experience personally in managing schools, is it a concern for you …
Bill Bird: I’m seeing- yeah I’m seeing the sand of the two just coming through, is good. There are facilities now, if teachers aren’t performing, the department has a great pathway to be able to help those teachers, which is wonderful again. That hadn’t always happened. I’m very fortunate to talk about my school here. I think the teachers here at Willoughby are outstanding, and I think I’m a very lucky principal to have such a great group of teachers who put themselves behind the children. They want the best for the children, and as a principal, that’s all I could really ask.
Question: And the accountability’s never been better, in other words.
Bill Bird: Accountability is very strong, and the school we’ve just been through a school audit, we have done extremely well. So accountability is right up the very top. Thank you.
Senator Birmingham’s media contact: James Murphy 0447 644 957
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