Strict uni cut-offs a mistake, says teaching expert

THE perception that universities are turning out low-quality teachers and that strict ATAR cut-offs should be imposed on teaching courses is wrong, a leading education expert has told the federal government.

Rob Tierney, the dean of the faculty of education and social work at the University of Sydney, told a parliamentary inquiry that setting high, inflexible entry standards to university courses would be a mistake and risked limiting the diversity of teachers.

The inquiry is examining the Australian Education Bill, which was drawn up in response to the Gonski review of school funding and includes a broad objective to lift teacher quality. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has pledged that, as part of the reforms, ''teacher trainees will be among the best and brightest'' and that they would meet ''rigorous professional standards''.

Professor Tierney rejected a suggestion from a committee member that university entry requirements were too low and said the average Australian Tertiary Admission Rank to get into a bachelor of primary education at his university this year was 95.

''That really concerns me,'' Professor Tierney said.

''What am I looking at then, relative to the diversity of students that are going to be going into primary education?''

Professor Tierney said poor performing students did not graduate and that while he did not mind ATARs as a guideline, governments needed to give universities the discretion to assess suitability via other means such as interviews.

The funding model outlined in the bill - where base funding is topped up with loadings for various forms of educational disadvantage - was endorsed by Kerrie Nelson, the president of the National Independent Special Schools Association.

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