High-achieving students who want to become teachers will be given at least $10,000 a year to study education under a Labor plan to improve teacher quality.
Under the policy, to be announced on Monday, 5,000 students with an Atar of 80 or more will receive the scholarship to study an education degree, with an extra $2,000 bonus a year for those who teach in a regional area.
Labor will aim to double the number of high achievers studying to become teachers over the next decade, from about 1,800 to 3,600 a year.
The package will cost $146.5m over four years, and includes an extra 1,500 places in high achieving teachers’ programs.
That will include 700 places in Teach for Australia and 60 in La Trobe’s Nexus program, effectively doubling a $40m commitment by the Coalition to create that number of places in those courses.
Labor is concerned just 3.3% of high achievers with an Atar over 80 choose teaching, down from about 30% three decades ago.
Education degrees are already among the cheapest offered at Australian universities, with a maximum cost of $3,985 after the Coalition’s jobs ready graduate reforms slashed $3,000 off the cost to the student.
Under the scholarship plan, graduates will be required to teach for at least three years in public schools. The bonus of $2,000 is payable for each year a student does a placement in a regional area.
The $10,000 scholarship was proposed by the Grattan Institute in a 2019 report which found that doubling the number of high achievers studying teaching could help the average student gain an extra six to 12 months of learning by year 9.
The report also called for performance pay for teachers, with “master” teachers able to earn up to $80,000 more than their peers.
Labor’s policy said it would work with states and territories to make sure teachers have a better career path with more opportunities to be “rewarded as experts, and to pass on their skills to other teachers without having to leave classroom teaching”.
“This could mean higher pay and more responsibility for elite teachers working as literacy and numeracy specialists or helping coach early career teachers in the classroom,” it said.
“We want to make sure our kids get the best education they can,” Anthony Albanese said. “That means we have to make sure they get the best quality teaching.”
The shadow education minister, Tanya Plibersek, said: “One of the most important things we can do to stop the slide in students’ results and boost student results is to lift teaching standards.”
“I want students competing to get into teaching like they do to get into medicine or law,” she said.
If elected, Labor will design safeguards in consultation with the education department, such as adding the cost of the scholarship to students’ Hecs debts if they choose a different career, with a pro rata reduction for each year they do teach.
The 1,500 high achieving teachers program places will allow qualified professionals in other fields, such as mathematicians and scientists, to retrain as teachers by employing them as part-time teachers’ aides while they do an intensive master’s degree in education.
Those places are on top of 20,000 extra university places already promised by Labor.
Last Wednesday the acting education minister, Stuart Robert, announced the Coalition’s plan to lift teacher quality which included $13.4m to create a one-year graduate diploma of education to help professionals become teachers, $10.8m for phonics and quality teaching programs and $7.2m for professional resources.