Victoria Announces Initiative to Provide Free Education for Future Secondary School Teachers
In a significant move aimed at bolstering the teaching workforce and supporting educators, the Victorian government has unveiled a groundbreaking initiative to make secondary school teacher education free. The initiative, which includes scholarships covering the cost of degrees, was officially announced today by Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Education Natalie Hutchins during their visit to Saltwater P-9 College in Point Cook.
This new program, part of a comprehensive $229.8 million package designed to expand and strengthen the school workforce, will see an investment of up to $93.2 million dedicated to offering scholarships to prospective secondary school teachers. This initiative aligns with the government’s ongoing efforts to bolster various sectors of the workforce, exemplified by the Free Nursing program launched earlier this year to enhance the state’s healthcare workforce.
Beginning in 2024 and 2025, the scholarships will be made available to all students pursuing degrees in secondary school teaching. Upon graduation, students who commit to working in Victorian government schools for a minimum of two years will receive final payments as part of this program. This forward-thinking move is set to support approximately 4,000 aspiring teachers each year.
The total scholarship amount for students opting to teach in government secondary schools will match the HELP fees established by the Commonwealth Government for Commonwealth Supported Places. This translates to $18,000 for a four-year undergraduate program or $9,000 for two years of postgraduate study.
Furthermore, an additional $27 million will be allocated to expand the Targeted Financial Incentives Program. This initiative will provide substantial incentives, up to $50,000, to teachers from various regions, including Victoria, who are willing to fill positions in rural, remote, or underserved areas within government schools.
Another notable allocation of $95.7 million will go towards expanding the successful Career Start initiative—a pioneering program unique to Australia. Career Start focuses on supporting and retaining teachers, offering graduate educators in government schools extra preparation time, mentoring, and professional support during their crucial first year of teaching.
In a move that aims to diversify the pathways to becoming a teacher, an investment of almost $13.9 million will support a trial of employment-based degrees for undergraduates, commencing in 2025. This innovative program will enable individuals to study and qualify as teachers while gaining valuable experience through paid work at schools. It also opens up opportunities for education support staff to obtain teaching qualifications.
This comprehensive package of initiatives aligns with five key priority areas agreed upon by all Australian jurisdictions to address workforce shortages in the education sector. These priorities encompass attraction, recruitment and distribution, support for early-career teachers, retention, and the establishment of flexible career pathways.
The latest investment builds upon the government’s commitment to strengthening the education workforce, with an additional $204.8 million allocated in the Victorian Budget for 2023/24. This funding is in addition to the substantial $779 million dedicated to reducing face-to-face teaching time, bringing the total investment by the Labor Government in the school workforce to over $1.6 billion since 2019.