Interview on Channel 9 Sunday Today
ATAR scores for teaching courses; National Energy Guarantee




Peter Stefanovic:          There’s shocking evidence this morning that failing students are being accepted by universities to train as teachers. Across the country it was found that multiple universities have accepted students with ATAR scores of less than 40. Joining us for more is the Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham. Minister, good morning to you. These are the people educating our children. Surely it’s not good enough.


Simon Birmingham:     Well good morning Peter. And look, while ATARs aren’t the be all and end all of everything, it’s absolutely ringing alarm bells to think that this is happening and it reinforces why states and territories must deliver on the Turnbull Government’s reforms, which require minimum literacy and numeracy standards from those graduating out of our universities into the teaching profession and also require that there be clear teacher assessment programs implemented by each university graduating future teachers.


Peter Stefanovic: So is that what you’re going to do to fix it?


Simon Birmingham:     We absolutely have already put reforms in place and we’re asking the states and territories through their registration bodies to make sure they’re implemented. Those reforms will ensure future graduates are in the top 30 per cent of all Australians in terms of their literacy and numeracy capabilities and that they are classroom ready when they graduate and can step in with confidence into our classroom because our children deserve no less.


Peter Stefanovic: The Teachers Federation says that the universities are accepting students with lower scores as a way of getting more money out of the Federal Government. Is that an argument that you buy into?


Simon Birmingham:     We’ve certainly seen universities in their enrolment practices over recent years undertake questionable steps. That’s, again, why we’ve put transparency measures around enrolment practices and we want to put performance measures on universities so that any future increase in enrolment growth, in fee revenue they get from both Government and students, is actually conditional upon getting good quality graduates who employers regard, satisfied students. This is about ensuring we have the best possible teachers in our classroom and indeed high-quality graduates across all other disciplines and subject areas too.


Peter Stefanovic: But is there truth to that, that the universities are basically accepting these students to get more money out of the Government?


Simon Birmingham:     We’ve seen huge growth since 2009 in terms of university enrolments, and that’s a good thing in many cases. But it has also corresponded with huge growth in university revenue. Now, what we did last year is we put a check on that growth, with a two year pause in terms of the growth in funding to universities in one funding stream that relates to the enrolments of students, to say: we want you to focus on quality. And we’ve said that future growth there is going to be conditional on performance outcomes. And we want that to occur right across the universities, but here in the teaching discipline that relates to those people who go into the classroom and teach our kids, we’ve already taken the steps as well to say: the outcomes from those universities, the graduates have to be at the top of the profession, have to be able to have high quality literacy and numeracy skills, and be classroom ready.


Peter Stefanovic: Minister, just finally, a number of MPs have indicated they’ll cross the floor over the National Energy Guarantee on Tuesday. Will this policy be adopted?


Simon Birmingham:     The National Energy Guarantee is forecast to deliver savings to Australian households of around 4500 plus dollars per household on average over a period of time. They’re really important savings and they’re savings that I would hope every single member of parliament supports, because that’s going to deliver lower prices for households as well as more reliable energy for Australians.


Peter Stefanovic: All right, Minister Simon Birmingham, thank you very much for your time this morning.


Simon Birmingham:     My pleasure.