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11 May 2015

hands in front of blackboard in classroomSouth Australian students in lower SES areas of Adelaide can expect a boost to their performance with the launch this week of the National Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools (NETDS) project.

A first for South Australia, the project will see 45 high performing pre-service teachers at UniSA selected to teach in 13 schools, and is a partnership between UniSA’s School of Education, project schools in Adelaide’s Northern suburbs and the Department of Education and Child Development.

Describing the project as a win-win situation for school students and pre-service teachers, Associate Professor Graham Hardy, who heads the project, says students from low SES communities in South Australia will be taught by some of the best pre-service teachers now, and after they graduate.

“The idea is very simple. We are selecting our highest performing pre-service teachers and preparing them to teach in some of our most challenging schools,” says Assoc Prof Hardy.

“The NETDS project aims to impact directly on students’ learning outcomes. A longitudinal research study will track the NETDS teachers through their early years of teaching to gather data about their teacher effectiveness.”

In total a group of 23 undergraduate primary students and a group of 22 masters level secondary students will teach across eight primary schools and five secondary schools.

“The pre-service teachers in the project will learn to become successful teachers in highly disadvantaged contexts and use these experiences as a springboard to enter employment as teachers in low SES schools,” says Assoc Prof Hardy.

“The School of Education has a long and rich history of working closely with schools in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. The NETDS project is a deepening and a formalising of those relationships.” 

The Exceptional Teachers project has been running successfully for four years in the lead partner university in Queensland (QUT), and results indicate that many pre-service teachers engaged in the program have chosen to continue teaching in schools in lower SES areas.

The Origin Foundation, which has provided $2 million to fund the program nationally, has also partnered with the University of Newcastle and the University of New England, who both launched the program in NSW in 2014, and Deakin University, which is also launching the program this week.

Head of the Origin Foundation, Sean Barrett says there is too much criticism of teaching performance.

“Teachers are part of the solution they are not the problem. The teachers who have already emerged from this program at other universities are proving how powerful teaching is in changing young lives,” Sean Barrett says.

UniSA School of Education lecturer Brendan Bentley, who is also working on the project, said NETDS is achieving much.

“I’ve spent a considerable part of my career working both as a teacher and as a project officer in low SES schools. Along with my years as school principal, it’s a real pleasure to work with such talented pre-service teachers to achieve so much for today’s children,” Brendan Bentley says.

Contact for interview: Associate Professor Graham Hardy office (08) 8302 6922

Media contact: Will Venn office (08) 8302 0096 email will.venn@unisa.edu.au

Or Kelly Stone office (08) 8302 0963 email Kelly.stone@unisa.edu.au

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