Labor is looking at splashing nearly $150 million on getting more high achievers into teaching and boosting the numbers of science and mathematics teachers.
The plan is aimed at reversing nearly two decades of declining performance from Australian students.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese formally announced the policy during a visit to his former school at St Mary’s Cathedral College in Sydney – where he was mobbed by enthusiastic students – on Monday morning.
In a debate against Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday night, Mr Albanese said if elected he would work every day to make Australia a better country.
“There are four words you will never hear from me: ‘That’s not my job.’ I will never say it,” he said during the second leaders’ debate on Sunday.
“If I get the job [of prime minister], I will do the job each and every day.”
Labor’s plan for the education sector come as it faces a post-pandemic shift, with teachers saying they are burned out after two years of lockdown and educators in NSW striking last week for better pay.
At least one in three teachers quit the sector in their first five years of teaching, with unions complaining of extra workloads pushing members to their limit.
Mr Albanese said his party’s plan would incentivise the best graduates to take up teaching.
“We want to make sure our kids get the best education they can. That means we have to make sure they get the best quality teaching,” he said.
Under the plan, 5000 students with an ATAR of 80 or higher will be able to receive $10,000 a year to study teaching, plus an extra $2000 if they move to the bush.
The plan will also fund 1500 extra placements to retrain mathematicians and scientists and support them as they work part-time as teachers while getting their masters degree in education.
The policy announcement came as Labor extended its lead in two new opinion polls, published less than a fortnight out from election day.
The latest Newspoll showed Labor ahead 54-46 on two-party preferred, up one point from the previous week, while the newest Ipsos poll had Labor on a 35 per cent primary vote while the Coalition had dropped to 29 per cent.
However, Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said the opposition was not reading too much into the polls.
“You’re right to be suspicious, they’ve been wrong in the past and I can only expect that they are wrong now,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
“We need to win seats, not polls.”
Labor also said it would work with the states and territories to boost career options for existing teachers, including considering higher pay for elite teachers and more chances to share their skills with other teachers without having to leave the classroom.
The updated plan will be funded by $146.5 million over four years.
Shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek said boosting student results was one of the most important things Australia could do.
“If we want a better future in Australia, we need a smart, skilled workforce so we can compete for jobs and growth with our neighbours,” Ms Plibersek said.