Inaburra collaborates with alliance of Christian schools to adopt an innovative way forward for teacher training.

Inaburra is undertaking a creative partnership with four other Sydney schools to pilot a training program to ensure the future supply of high-quality teachers. Trainee teachers will enter into a four-year undergraduate or two-year postgraduate degree program with a big difference: the trainee teachers will be working in the schools with students for their entire tertiary education.

The Teaching School’s Alliance Sydney (TSAS) has been established by Inaburra School, Blue Mountains Grammar School, St Andrew’s Cathedral School, The Scots College and William Clarke College. The Alliance will partner with Australia’s largest Protestant – affiliated tertiary provider, Alphacrucis College, to deliver the degree program. This amounts to an extraordinary example of co-operation across Christian groups in the area of professional training with three of the schools being Anglican, Scots is Presbyterian, Inaburra is Baptist and Alphacrucis is Pentecostal.

The initiative will help address the anticipated growth in the number of teachers required in NSW schools in the next 10 years (a need occasioned by growth in enrolments and also by the anticipated retirement of the large number of teachers who are part of the baby boomer generation). The Alliance hopes to also address wider social concerns about student teacher quality, high attrition rates in the profession and classroom readiness of graduates.

The model operates around a clinical supervision methodology, whereby trainee teachers are embedded on rotation within the participating schools, both for practical teaching experience, and also to learn the craft of schools through part-time work as teachers’ aides during their degree years.

Complementing the work of traditional universities

Much of the theoretical components of teacher education will be delivered on site in conjunction with the teacher education staff of Alphacrucis College, which is authorised by TEQSA (Tertiary Education Quality Standards Authority) and NESA (NSW Education Standards Authority) to both offer degrees (up to doctoral level) and prepare people for teaching. The Teaching Alliance will complement the work of traditional universities, giving schools like Inaburra more recruitment options – the key difference being that it will offer the opportunity to develop emerging teachers who are grounded in the school’s context and apt to teach in Inaburra’s environment. The initiative reconnects schools with the training of the next generation of teachers and utilises the tertiary partnership to form a ‘Teaching School Hub’.

Alphacrucis liaison for the Alliance, Dr David Hastie, said that the ‘Hub model’ of teacher training provides significant benefits to the schools as well as the trainee teachers. “The clinical training approach embedded in the model has proven to be effective across the globe, but this Hub model adapts it for our unique Australia education context. The model provides professional and contextual preparation with a wealth of experience in curriculum development, assessment, small group teaching, parent interaction, problem-solving and conflict resolution.” “The trainees are also well supported, their tuition fees are subsidised, they are paid part-time as a teaching assistant and they graduate with significant work experience.” A typical Alliance trainee will spend 1-2 days per week paid to work in the classroom with a Mentor Teacher, which means that by the completion of their degree the trainee will already have hundreds of days of school-based experience. The academic program includes a mixture of local face-to-face intensives, mentor training, and online coursework. A significant point of difference from existing models is that the training follows the rhythms of the school calendar rather than the traditional university calendar. This means that trainee teachers are receiving 40 weeks of training each year rather than the common university calendar of two 13-week semesters.

Standards, rigour and accountability

The degrees awarded are the same degrees awarded at traditional universities with the same standards, rigour and accountability to the governing bodies that set and monitor academic standards in Australia. In addition, the pilot is to be evaluated by an independent research team. Full and partial scholarships are available to prospective trainees.

Trainee teachers are spending each Thursday of Term 3 at Inaburra undergoing bespoke sessions (either onsight or via Zoom depending on conditions). Their mornings are spent with a lecturer focusing on differentiation and pedagogy. In the afternoons, Inaburra’s Director of Teaching and Learning K-12, Karen Easton, conducts some sessions with them to introduce what is distinctive about Inaburra and how we incorporate a Christian world view in our approach to education.