Would-be teachers must prove skills: union

Marnie Banger
There are concerns over the standards universities have set for accepting teaching students

Australia's aspiring teachers should have to prove their literacy and numeracy skills before they begin a university degree, the education union says.

The Australian Education Union is urging the commonwealth to take the lead in introducing minimum entry scores for university teaching courses, after data revealed students with dismal high school results were being accepted.

Figures released on Sunday showed one student was accepted to a teaching course at a Victorian uni in 2018 with a score of 17.9 out of a possible 99.95, while the lowest score accepted at another institution was 22.1.

The commonwealth, unlike state and territory governments, does not have the power to set minimum entry scores.

But the federal government has introduced a literacy and numeracy test teaching graduates must sit to confirm they have skills in the top 30 per cent.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham is urging universities to only admit students likely to pass the test, and has asked states and territories to ensure the testing is implemented.

AEU president Correna Haythorpe says a test at the end of a degree is the wrong way around.

"You actually need to know before a person goes into a course whether they have those issues," she told AAP.

Ms Haythorpe said minimum entry scores should be paired with accountability measures to prevent universities from using "backdoor approaches" to get students in.

She said such approaches were likely how students with low scores were being accepted into Victorian institutions, despite the state government having introduced a minimum score for teaching courses of 65 in 2018, with plans to boost the benchmark to 70 in 2019.

The university sector has stressed that only two per cent of teaching students have an entry score below 50.