Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools

Case study snapshot

The challenge

Very few of the highest performing graduate teachers are being directed into low SES schools.

The response

The ETDS program prepares the highest performing pre-service teachers to work in low SES schools. The ETDS program provides a specialised curriculum and practicum experience in low SES schools.

The takeaways
Early exposure through directed and supportive pre-service training improves attraction of pre-service teachers to low SES schools. It also increases retention as it better prepares early career teachers for the demands of working in a disadvantaged community.

Teachers in low socio-economic status schools (SES) require an additional set of pedagogies, attributes, experience and understandings to what may ordinarily be provided in typical initial teacher education courses. The Education Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has acknowledged this requirement and has created the Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools program (ETDS).

ETDS was designed in 2008 by Associate Professors Jo Lampert and Bruce Burnett to address the issues of teacher quality in low SES schools. The ETDS program creates a pathway for the highest quality pre-service teachers to be fully prepared, professionally and personally, for roles within the schools that need them most.

The ETDS program identifies the highest-achieving education students based on university grades at the end of their second year, and selects the top 5-10% of students. The program offers a specialised curriculum and practicum experience with partnering low SES schools. By working closely with Education Queensland and partner schools, the program also works to channel these exceptional pre-service teachers into low SES schools.

The quality of initial teacher education is a key determinant for improving early career teacher effectiveness, attraction, and retention in low SES schools. While the ETDS program is focused on pre-service teachers, it is having positive outcomes on early career teacher quality in low SES schools.


ETDS selects the highest performing undergraduate Education students and works with them in the last 18 months of their degree. Students are invited to join the ETDS program in the third year of their undergraduate teaching degree. The image below shows the design principles of the ETDS program, followed by a brief description of each stage:


1. Identifying the cohort: Academic results are used as the basis for selection. This is determined by student Grade Point Averages (GPA), which takes an average of the students’ marks. Depending on the size of the cohort, the top 5-10% of students are selected. Other factors (knowledge, skills, disposition, life experiences, and willingness to teach in low SES schools) are also used to recruit ideal candidates.

2. Modifying the curriculum: ETDS students undertake a specialised subject that provides foundational knowledge in socio-cultural studies. This provides a theoretical introduction into poverty, social disadvantage, and inequity in education.

3. Teacher Practicums: ETDS students are placed in low SES schools. These schools are partners in the ETDS program. The students are supported by QUT and school staff throughout their practicums, with each allocated a participating mentor or supervising teacher.

4. Placement: Together with government and partner schools, ETDS helps to place the graduates within low SES schools.

5. Longitudinal tracking of progress: Data is being collected in order to refine the curriculum and approaches that best prepare ETDS graduates for teaching in low SES schools. This data includes: student outcomes; graduate attraction to low SES schools; teacher retention; and student/teacher satisfaction.

Scaling ETDS

QUT, working together with the Origin Foundation and SVA, has now seen the opportunity to share the ETDS approach with universities across Australia. The ambition of this scaling process is to develop a national resource of highly qualified teachers to improve student outcomes in low SES schools.
The scaling process currently underway is implementing a National ETDS program (NETDS). This process consists of 3 core components that aim to expand ETDS’ reach, impact, and to ensure its long-term sustainability:

  1. Scale to other universities: The managed scaling of ETDS to 6 Faculties / Schools of Education over 3.5 years. This plan aims to graduate up to 210 new high-achieving highly- prepared teachers working in the low SES schooling sector annually;
  2. Developing the ‘Flagship’ program: The continued development of the QUT ‘flagship’ ETDS program. This will include the extension of mentoring to graduate ETDS teachers; and
  3. NETDS network: The development of a ‘learning and sharing network’ that emphasises long-term research and evaluation between the NETDS network on teacher education for high poverty schools.

Through the generous support of the Origin Foundation, and enabled through SVA, the NETDS program has been granted $2 million over 3.5 years to achieve scale.

The ETDS program has now expanded to the University of New England and the University of Newcastle in NSW. These programs will commence at the beginning of the 2014 academic year.





The ETDS program will be replicated in 6 more universities across Australia by 2016


  1. Early Exposure: The ETDS program shows the benefits of providing a targeted and supportive pre-service teaching program for graduates that are placed in low SES schools. These opportunities better prepare graduates and also improve their effectiveness.
  2. Partnerships between universities and schools: The ETDS program highlights the importance of equipping students and early career teachers with specialist skills and deep understandings of poverty and disadvantage.