Top professionals switch to teaching: growing trend

Engineers, scientists and lawyers are just some of the professions leaving successful careers behind to become teachers across Australia, in a ‘career changer’ trend described by the two partner organisations as a growing movement.

Career changers comprised 70% of all applicants for the 2019 TFA cohort (more than 1000 applications were received) with final intake known early 2019.

In 2017, the Teach For Australia (TFA) program saw 57% of successful applicants come from another career. In 2018, 62% of successful applicants were career changers.

The Teach For Australia program partners with Australian Catholic University to offer a two-year teaching placement, delivering a Master of Teaching (Secondary) (Professional Practice) upon successful completion.

Former Sydney resident and well-respected research scientist Dr Jane Franklin applied to TFA and was selected to work as a science and maths teacher at Katherine High School in the small town of Katherine, Northern Territory.

Katherine has a population of around 10,000 and the public high school is mainly Indigenous students (61 per cent). Approximately one third of Dr Franklin’s students do not speak English as their preferred language.

Dr Franklin, a mother of two adult children, said she left the buzz of big city life after being impressed by a television documentary about the TFA program.

“I applied to TFA for an amazing experience and I certainly got one,” Dr Franklin said. “I’ve never worked so hard, but this is the adventure I really needed.”

After successfully completing her first-year teaching, Dr Franklin is already halfway to completing her Masters.

“I try to meet all the students’ needs in my class,” Dr Franklin said. “Katherine is a small town but it’s a big and beautiful experience.”

Melodie Potts Rosevear, CEO and Founder of Teach For Australia, said, “The world of work is changing dramatically. Studies show that graduates today will hold 17 different jobs across five industries, meaning soon most people will be ‘career changers’ at various points of their professional journey.

“Teachers with practical experience in their fields bring a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to the children they teach.”

Australian Catholic University Faculty of Education and Arts Acting Executive Dean Professor Elizabeth Labone said she welcomed ‘career changers’ choosing to join the teaching profession.

“These career changers bring subject expertise and immense life experience to classrooms in regional and remote Australia,” Professor Labone said.

“The growing trend of successful professionals electing to study teaching shows ACU’s partnership with TFA is working well and that teaching itself is both desirable and incredibly rewarding.”

In 2018, the successful TFA cohort comprised 62% career changers with:

§  Academia (11%), Business (10%), Engineering or Mining (9%), Not-For-Profit or Community (9%) and Policy and Government (9%).

§  49 per cent teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects;

§  48 per cent having advanced university degrees;

§  43 per cent teaching in regional schools, and 9 per cent remote;

§  22 per cent fluent in a language other than English.

Background

Schools in regional and remote Australia, and across some metro areas can struggle to find and retain teaching talent. Talented TFA teachers are placed in the schools that need them most. By age 15, Australian children from low income households are almost three years behind in school than those from high income households. (ACER, 2013).

Approximately 40 per cent of children from the lowest socioeconomic households do not complete Year 12.  This is educational disadvantage.

Research indicates that the most powerful policy lever to improve the educational outcomes of children is to improve the quality of teaching (Hattie, 2003).

ACU academic mentors have first-hand teaching experience in each region and work alongside TFA’s teaching and leadership advisors and school mentors, to provide the necessary support to placed teachers.

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