The Power of Education: Teach for Australia

Ben Edwards, an Associate with the Teach for Australia Leadership Development Program in the classroom.

Teach for Australia seeks to break the cycle of educational inequity by partnering exclusively with schools that serve low socio-economic communities, where the education disadvantage gap is most severe and demand for high performing teachers and subject specialists is greatest.

“I believe in the power of education to give people freedom and let them lead the life they want to lead,” said Ben Edwards, a participant in Teach for Australia’s Leadership Development Program– one of the two pathways under the High Achieving Teachers Program. 

The High Achieving Teachers Program recruits university graduates with a passion for social justice and a strong commitment to equity in education. The Program combines a Master of Teaching (Secondary) with two years’ employment experience in low socioeconomic schools, where program participants can make a real difference while completing their degrees.  

The Australian Government has invested $28.7 million into the High Achieving Teachers Program until 2022. 

Pathway into secondary teaching 

Teach for Australia’s Leadership Development Program has approximately 130 high achieving graduates and career changers in this year’s 2020 Cohort who are due to complete their Masters of Teaching at the end of 2021. 

“What really appealed to me about this program is the ability to study and work at the same time. There’s the benefits of extra training in leadership and cultural awareness, all of which cemented a pretty awesome pathway, the learning and coaching was the icing on the cake,” said Ben.

Teach for Australia (TFA)  is currently working with secondary schools experiencing teacher shortages in the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

TFA recruits across Australia for well-rounded individuals, who meet the requirements for the program and the subject area needs of the schools. TFA seeks people with the drive to make a difference in the lives of their students, who have the potential to be inspirational leaders, and are strong and confident communicators with a Bachelor degree in an area other than teaching. Successful applicants come from all academic disciplines and career backgrounds.

“I made the decision to become a teacher because I’d worked with young people in Perth for a number of years and ran a mentoring program with Indigenous kids.  And I really loved that work, but I wanted to make more of an impact directly with the kids, and more towards the education side rather than pastoral care,” said Ben.

Work placements accelerate learning and confidence

Once a candidate is offered a place in the Leadership Development Program, TFA then works to match them to a suitable vacancy with an eligible partner school.

The placement process begins in August, and rolls out at different times in different states and territories with TFA working closely with partner schools who advise on upcoming vacancies and the subject specialists they need.

TFA participants, known as Associates while they are undertaking the program, are able to preference by location – but the more flexible they are, the more likely it is that a match can be made. 

While Associates are sometimes able to be placed near where they currently live, for many taking up a school placement offer requires relocation. While there is a need for great people in classrooms across Australia, regional and remote schools tend to experience the greatest challenges in securing subject specialists.

Ben was studying for an arts and economics double degree before he relocated from Perth to Darwin to take up the opportunity as an Associate in the program.

“It was a big move for me to make, but worth it.  I’m now teaching music and humanities subjects. The highlights for me are the kids and the opportunities the program provides, the networking opportunities with my cohort, earning a Masters of Teaching. 

The schools where we are placed can be challenging but I have found myself working alongside and supported by some really good human beings. I’ve experienced lots of really small wins with my students that fill my heart and remind me why education equity is so important,” said Ben.

Support and resources to work and complete Master’s studies

Incoming Associates commence with an Initial Intensive, which commences before their first year of teaching, where they complete a portion of the Master of Teaching (Secondary) (Professional Practice) and are introduced to all aspects of teaching and learning to prepare them for the classroom. During this time Associates also undertake school practicums to begin their hands-on teaching experience.

Associates earn a salary during the two years, and are provided one day per week for the study and professional development required to complete their teaching qualification. This support includes one-on-one coaching and mentoring at three levels.

“I have an academic mentor I can turn to. She’ll observe me in the classroom, provide coaching and help me with my study and long-term goals for teaching. This is a program that demands a lot from you, but I get lots of support from my TFA Teaching and Leadership Advisor and my in-school mentor,” said Ben.

“Among my cohort in the Northern Territory, there’s an engineer, a chef, a vet, a dentist—some people who have made some big changes facilitated by this program and they all seem to be really enjoying themselves and really enjoying the training. 

I’ve found it incredibly rewarding – a really awesome new challenge. I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who’s interested in becoming a teacher,” says Ben.