First priority as teachers get schooled

NEW teachers will be forced to spend six months learning to teach children to read in a back-to-basics policy endorsed by the nation's education ministers last night.

The maths and science curricula will be simplified within a year in the wake of Australia's disastrous results in international rankings.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said state and territory ministers, including Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace, had agreed to fast-forward a "decluttering" of the national curriculum.

He said maths and ­science would be the first subjects to be simplified for use in classrooms in 2021.

"The PISA results clearly showed that in maths and science there have been steep declines, and there is a need to address this as a priority," Mr Tehan said.

Australia's 15-year-olds fell years behind the rest of the world in maths, reading and science, in the latest OECD International PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) test.

Mr Tehan said university students enrolled in four-year teaching degrees would now study phonics for six months.

"The teaching of reading skills, including phonics, will be put into the standards for initial teacher education," he said.

"This will result in at least half a year in a four-year undergraduate primary teaching program addressing reading skills.

"If you're going to teach, you've got to be able to teach proper reading skills."

Mr Tehan said governments would also set up a new "Evidence Institute" to give teachers trusted teaching materials to improve student literacy and numeracy.

"This is a way of having a trusted place where teachers can get the material they need to improve student outcomes, especially when it comes to literacy and numeracy," he said.

Each state and territory now produces its own syllabus material and many teachers use social media to swap lesson plans.

Mr Tehan vowed to "take a chainsaw to the curriculum" after The Courier-Mail revealed many students were struggling to understand a syllabus full of academic jargon.