The best teaching for the schools most in need

When Elise Milner received an invitation to join the National Exceptional Teaching for Disadvantaged Schools (NETDS) program, many of her colleagues had misconceptions about families whose children weren’t turning up for school.

“Many people have assumptions about who might be at fault or why it is happening, but those assumptions and stereotypes aren’t based on actual knowledge or education,” Elise said.

Elise is now in the final year of the NETDS program within her Bachelor of Education Degree at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) Brisbane. She recently returned from the best learning experience she’s ever had – a four-week placement at a school in a Torres Strait Islander community and is planning to return later this year.

“As a teacher, you can’t work from a deficit perspective. Teachers need to focus on the student and understand that every child has skills and strengths to bring to the classroom, regardless of where they live or what their life situation may be,” Elise added.

Bruce Burnett with Elise Milner, photo courtesy - The Australian 

Addressing teacher capacity in disadvantaged schools

Since its inception in 2008 the NETDS program has been preparing teachers to work in the schools that need them the most.

Pioneered by Professors Bruce Burnett and Jo Lampert, then at Queensland University of Technology, the program is designed to address teacher capacity in schools with low socio economic status (SES) and create outstanding outcomes for students in disadvantaged communities.

High-achieving, engaged teaching undergraduates like Elise are invited to participate in a modified curriculum, mentoring, and targeted professional placements in low SES schools.

More than 500 teaching students have been trained and are already creating advantage for students in over 250 schools. 90 per cent of NETDS graduates have chosen to work in low socio-economic schools and a follow-up study in 2016 revealed about 85 per cent were still there, five years later.

“We are now finding that the teachers who have graduated as part of the NETDS program are not only in high demand but they are getting recognised at the academic level from other scholars. These exceptional teachers are going to be our future leaders,” Professor Burnett said.

Our Foundation has helped take the program nationally, with $2.2M in funding. NETDS is now offered at ACU in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as University of New England, University of Newcastle, Western Sydney University, Deakin University, Victoria University, and the University of South Australia.

Head of the Origin Foundation, Sean Barrett said that effective teachers and quality teaching made a big impact on student learning outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged students.

“We know from the research the critical importance of good teachers: This program has already had an impact and over time it will produce thousands of teachers who during their careers will each impact on the lives of large numbers of children,” he said.

Recognition for the Australian teacher training initiative

The NETDS program has received recognition both here in Australia and internationally.

The impact of NETDS on systemic change has been noted in the Australian Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group report (TEMAG), and the From Growth to Achievement: Report of the Review to Achieve Education Excellence in Australian Schools (The Gonski Report). 

In April 2019 the world’s most significant education forum delivered international recognition for the success of NETDS. Professor Jo Lampert presented at the Presidential Session of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in Toronto, Canada with more than 15,000 delegates from around the world.

Our support of the NETDS program was acknowledged by the Business/Higher Education Round Table, who awarded us ‘Outstanding Philanthropic Support for Higher Education 2014’ in their BHERT Awards.

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