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Stephen Dinham
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Education media contact:
Catriona May:
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ACE media contact:
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Teachers are being unfairly blamed for the Australian education system’s problems, where in fact they are its greatest asset, Professor Stephen Dinham will tell the Australian College of Educators (ACE) in Canberra tonight (Thursday 28 Feb).

Delivering ACE’s annual Phillip Hughes Oration, Professor Dinham, who is the Chair of Teacher Education at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education and President-elect of ACE, will say the quality teacher movement has been ‘hijacked’.

“When research first showed that teaching is the biggest in-school influence on student achievement, I really hoped this would lead to significant focus on and investment in teachers’ professional learning,” Professor Dinham will say.

However, this finding has been twisted and used instead to blame teachers for a wide range of issues.

“The words ‘in-school’ have been mislaid and we now frequently hear of the teacher being ‘the biggest influence on student achievement’, which is untrue,” Professor Dinham will say.

ProfessorDinham will warn against panic about Australia’s performance on international measures, pointing out that Australia out-performs similar countries like the US, the UK, France and Germany and is only slightly behind New Zealand and Canada.

He will also blast “simplistic” policies designed to lift teacher quality, including sacking the bottom 5 per cent of teachers, paying teachers by results, giving principals more autonomy to hire and fire and allowing non-educators to become principals, calling them “ill-informed” and “half baked”.

However, Professor Dinham will acknowledge that there are issues that need to be addressed.

“There are signs that Australia is slipping in the international rankings, the equity gap remains an issue and Year 4 achievement is also of concern,” he will say. “However, these phenomena need investigation, not invective and panic.”

Instead, says Professor Dinham, there should be a focus on developing teachers’ professional skills.

“We need to concentrate on policies that support our teachers,” he will say. “These include ongoing effective professional learning, recognition and reward for teachers who upgrade their skills, excellent training for future leaders and methods for attracting and retaining the most able people.”