New program addresses NSW teacher shortage

30 July 2018

Teachers in Western Sydney will now have the chance to upgrade their mathematics expertise and qualifications thanks to a timely partnership between The University of Notre Dame Australia and the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP).

Professor Cate Thill, Dean of Arts & Sciences at Notre Dame, says the initiative is designed to address the chronic shortage of specialist mathematics teachers in Western Sydney – a problem already identified by the NSW government which recently pledged to employ 900 additional science and maths teachers.

CEDP is responsible for 80 primary and secondary schools in the Western Sydney and Blue Mountains region, with a total enrolment of over 42,500 students – making it a major provider of education in this part of New South Wales.

More than 50 local teachers have already enrolled in the university-level mathematics courses, which will be held at the Aengus Kavanagh Education and Equity Centre in Rooty Hill. In stage one of the project, students enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in Mathematics. They have the option of going on to a Graduate Diploma in Mathematics or a Masters of Mathematics Education.

The first classes began this week, with the cost of the three postgraduate programs being underwritten by CEDP. This means that students can complete the one-year Graduate Certificate in Mathematics for a modest co-payment contribution.

Both organisations recognise that providing support and mentoring is crucial to growing a quality workforce of mathematics teachers. The existing shortage of specialist mathematics teachers in Australia is compounded by an aging workforce as experienced teachers are being replaced by teachers who do not have the confidence to teach higher-level mathematics.

“This collaboration addresses the need to build a new generation of specialist mathematics teachers who can confidently inspire their students to think logically, become problem-solvers and understand the real-world applications of mathematics,” says Professor Thill.

Sue Walsh, CEDP Director Learning, said the collaboration between the two educational organisations has resulted in a very practical opportunity for teachers to greatly improve their mathematical expertise.

“This initiative has been on our radar for some time. We are so proud to be supporting these dedicated educators in their professional learning,” she says. “I’m looking forward to graduates sharing their new mathematical skills in classrooms across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.”

Professor Thill said these programs are the result of a detailed consultation with the teachers themselves to ensure that students could readily combine work and postgraduate study.

“CEDP recognises the multiple demands on teachers’ time and want these programs to be sustainable for their staff. They needed an academic partner that could be flexible, innovative and responsive. Most of the classes are taught during the week and in the early evening, with some full-day session during term time,” she says. “We are also bringing the programs to them - Rooty Hill is just off the M7 and therefore central to all the schools.”

All three postgraduate programs will be delivered on a part-time basis using a combination of face-to-face classes and online tuition. Students will cover the latest suite of topics, including networks and statistics, and core areas such as algebra and calculus to advanced-level.

This partnership is an investment in the students as well as the teachers across the CEDP system. Quality teaching can have a lasting impact on student participation and learning. Engaging students in STEM – fields in which there are significant jobs growth and skill shortages – prepares them to meet future workforce demands.

Photo: Mark Chipperfield