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News - Exceptional trainee teachers make a difference

6th April 2011

A landmark education program that puts the brightest trainee teachers into disadvantaged schools across Queensland is expanding after its first year.

Queensland University of Technology's (QUT) Faculty of Education is recruiting its top third-year Bachelor of Education students to complete specialised training to teach at disadvantaged schools.

So far, 24 trainee teachers completed work placements at regional and remote schools from Thursday Island, in the north, to Caboolture, Beenleigh and Redbank Plains, in the southeast.

The Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools project will take a second cohort of 30 students in July, chosen for their high grade point averages and commitment to ending educational disadvantage.

"These are our gifted students. We want them to end up where they're needed the most, in these low socio-economic schools (SES)," program co-ordinator and Senior Lecturer Dr Jo Lampert said.

Senior Lecturer Dr Bruce Burnett, also program co-ordinator, said the QUT-funded program had been "incredibly well-received".

"Nationally and internationally, it's known that it is difficult to attract quality teachers to teach in disadvantaged schools," he said.

"When we offer these schools our best undergraduates, principals have been enthusiastic about recruiting them. They're looking at it as an employment strategy."

Dr Burnett said the QUT program was unique because students stayed within the Bachelor of Education program but received specialised tuition, mentoring and completed intensive placements in low SES schools over two years.

Trainee teacher Tamara Dawson, who is returning to a Beenleigh school in May to complete a second practicum, said it was a much different experience to her Catholic schooling.

"I didn't experience a lot of the family and social issues these students were dealing with so I've had to learn about them and understand what's going on outside of the classroom," she said.

But the 21-year-old, who grew up in Logan, said she was committed to working in disadvantaged communities.

"It has made me think about what I value as a teacher. These students shouldn't miss out on a quality education," she said.

Trainee teacher Jason Biddle, 37, who worked in the hot air balloon industry for 15 years, said personal experiences motivated him to take part in the program.

"I've had troubles in the past in my life. I see a lot of potential in these students and it seems like I can make a difference," he said.

strongMedia contact: Stephanie Harrington, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1150 or stephanie.harrington@qut.edu.au/strong

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