Teacher candidates can undertake an initial teacher education (ITE) programme at the undergraduate or postgraduate level in Australia. There are several routes to entry: secondary education, vocational education and training (VET), higher education institutions, mature-age entry, professional qualification or “other”. Decisions on admission to programmes are made by individual institutions according to criteria they set that must comply with a set of national regulatory frameworks. According to 2014 data, 43% of commencing undergraduate ITE students entered from secondary education, 25% entered through undertaking a previous higher education degree, and 17% entered through VET. The vast majority of postgraduate students (95%) are granted entry on the basis of their record of study in higher education (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2016a).
In Australia, there has been an increase in the proportion of students entering undergraduate ITE programmes directly from secondary education with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) in the lower bands. The ATAR, which will be used nationally from 2020, indicates a student’s position relative to all students in the same year cohort. Universities commonly define an ATAR cut-off point between 0.00 and 99.95 for entry into programmes. In 2005, 21% of teacher candidates had an ATAR of 70 or lower. This increased to 40% in 2014 (Australian Council for Educational Research, 2016a). In 2014, the Teacher Educational Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG), in its review on initial teacher preparation in Australia, voiced concerns about the variability and lack of transparency of entry decisions by teacher education institutions, which may impact adversely on the quality of teachers graduating from programmes (Teacher Educational Ministerial Advisory Group, 2014). Specific areas of concern included:
New national selection requirements
In response to these concerns, and as part of the ITP reforms developed in response to the TEMAG’s recommendations (Australian Government, 2015), a number of changes were made to selection requirements for entry to teacher education programmes, applying to all new intakes of students from January 2017. The changes are set out in new standards and procedures published in December 2015 (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2015) and require that all institutions providing initial teacher education should:
Selection processes form a key part of the requirements that all programmes must meet to gain or maintain accreditation. While institutions will be able to choose how they satisfy the requirements, they will be required to provide a rationale for their approach to selection, including selection mechanisms and threshold entry standards applied (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2016b).
In addition, all Australian education ministers agreed that, from 1 July 2016, all teacher candidates would be required to sit and meet the standard of the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students prior to graduation. Administered using an online assessment tool, the tests were designed to measure personal literacy and numeracy, with the test benchmark broadly equivalent to the top 30% of the Australian adult population. Teacher graduates are given three attempts to pass the test, with up to two additional attempts allowed in exceptional circumstances (Australian Council for Educational Research, 2016b).
Additional selection requirements of individual states and territories
Individual states and territories have also introduced additional requirements. For example, the state of New South Wales has specified that candidates entering an ITE programme directly from secondary school must have above-average results in at least three subjects in Year 12 (the final year of high school), including English. If they do not, they must complete study over the course of the programme in order to demonstrate that they have equivalent skill levels. The state of Victoria has introduced a requirement from 2018 that school leavers require a minimum ATAR score of 65 to enter undergraduate programmes – and this will increase to 70 from 2019.
The Teacher Capability Assessment Tool, University of Melbourne
In 2012, the University of Melbourne developed the Teacher Capability Assessment Tool (TCAT) as an evidence-based tool for selecting and developing entrants into their post‑graduate teacher education programmes. More than 3 000 applicants were selected into post-graduate programmes at the University of Melbourne using TCAT between 2012 and 2016. The tool assesses a range of cognitive and non-cognitive domains associated with the successful completion of ITE programmes. The TCAT is composed of two core components: 1) informed self-selection and 2) cognitive and non-cognitive skill assessment, in addition to 3) optional components composed of a structured behavioural interview and teaching demonstration (Figure 1) (Bowles et al., 2014; University of Melbourne, 2017).
Figure 1. Teacher Capability Assessment Tool Model of selecting teacher candidates
The OECD team in its review of Australia from 22-26 May 2017 noted the opportunities that these selection practices provide regarding four areas:
The information provided by these new selection processes can be improved by:
Australian Council for Educational Research (2016a), Country Background Report. OECD Initial Teacher Preparation Study, Australia, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra. 
Australian Council for Educational Research (2016b), Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education Students: Assessment Framework, ACER, Melbourne. 
Australian Government (2015), Australian Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers – Australian Government Response, Australian Government, Canberra. 
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (2016a), Guidelines for the Accreditation of Initial Teacher Education Programs in Australia, AITSL, Melbourne. 
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (2016b), Initial Teacher Education: Data Report 2016, AITSL, Melbourne. 
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (2015), Action Now: Selection of Entrants into Initial Teacher Education, AITSL, Melbourne. 
Bowles, T. et al. (2014), “Proposing a comprehensive model for identifying teaching candidates”, The Australian Educational Researcher, Vol. 41/4, pp. 365-380. 
Teacher Educational Ministerial Advisory Group (2014), Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers, Department of Education and Training, Canberra. 
University of Melbourne (2017), Teacher Capability Assessment Tool (TCAT). 
This case study describes a “promising practice” drawn from an OECD review of initial teacher preparation in Australia from 22-26 May 2017.
The OECD Review Team – Hannah von Ahlefeld (OECD), Michael Day (University of Roehampton), Kjetil Helgeland (OECD), Ee Ling Low (Nanyang Technological University), Rob McIntosh (consultant) and Emily Rainey (University of Pittsburgh) – identified a number of “promising practices” in each country. These practices may not be widespread or representative, but seen in the context of other challenges, they represent a strength or opportunity to improve the country’s initial teacher preparation system – and for other countries to learn from them.
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