In late 2016, a flood of NSW accreditation cases arrived at the Union. A theme was constant – Teacher Accreditation Authorities (TAAs) weren’t taking their responsibilities seriously.
NSW’s accreditation system is flawed as long as employers have power over the accreditation of individuals. In 2015, the IEU worked hard to ensure the creation of the NSW Education Standards Authority’s (NESA) TAA guidelines, the first document which outlined how a TAA should behave with regards to accreditation.
The hope was that some consistency of application of the Standards as well as monitoring of poor behaviour of some TAAs would be achieved. The whole accreditation system couldn’t be changed to remove employers as TAAs, but at least now there were rules.
Not all TAAs behave poorly. Many will use accreditation in the way it is intended – to induct and mentor an early career teacher to full proficiency of their profession. The process was designed to assist our newest practitioners into a hard profession – it was not meant to make being a beginning teacher even harder. NESA does not want the process misused for punitive measures.
The stories below are anonymous to protect the Union members. These are just two examples from 2016 to help members understand how misapplication of accreditation can occur.
In May 2016 one school divested its TAA status and engaged the AIS to be its TAA at Proficient. Just before this happened, an IEU member handed in their accreditation at Proficient evidence and annotations, the report was written and signed off by the school as TAA and never sent to NESA. The teacher remained unaware that the school had engaged the AIS until after submitting the accreditation portfolio. The AIS asked that the teacher complete the accreditation process again, from scratch, but did not hurry to start the process in the same school year. It did not consider the already completed and signed accreditation report, evidence and annotations.
What was at stake? The teacher might have been forced to complete accreditation for the second time for no known benefit to the teacher or school. Also, the teacher’s pay progression the following year would have been jeopardised as the AIS did not have the resources to commence accreditation in 2016 for the individual, despite having been TAA for the entirety of Semester 2.
IEU approached NESA and asked for clarity regarding whether a new TAA can disregard already completed accreditation reports. After pursuing this issue at the highest levels of NESA, the Union won agreement that the teacher should have been accredited at Proficient and the AIS signed the document.
An independent school acting as its own TAA had created an overly prescriptive accreditation policy. The policy asked for multiple observations by various executive of the school, which the IEU member sought to arrange. The observations were not occurring. The teacher had several successful observations by colleagues as part of her evidence already.
In addition, verbal rules were added to the accreditation policy, which deliberately mislead teachers at the school. These included insinuating that NESA had approved their policy (it hadn’t), that accreditation could only be completed in the third year of full time employment at the school (incorrect – accreditation is Standards based, not time based), that observations could only occur in the third year (poor form to only observe a beginning teacher three years into their practice!) and that a teacher had to indicate in the first four weeks of Term 1 that they intended to undertake accreditation, or else they couldn’t commence that year at all.
What was at stake? No teacher who hadn’t been at the school for three years could complete accreditation. This meant that the school was churning and burning young teachers – stringing them along until their third year of teaching, and then letting their contract end in order to find other beginning teachers. It also meant that casual teachers would never achieve accreditation at the school. In addition, progression on the pay scale was being denied due to overly restrictive school policy misapplication, which affects not only take home pay, but the accumulation of superannuation. It had also led to a culture of fear about accreditation, and a type of indentured servitude where teachers had to stay for three years before being given the ‘freedom’ of their Proficient accreditation.
IEU attempted to negotiate with the TAA, who indicated that they only wanted to hear from NESA. IEU went to the top of NESA and asked that they educate the TAA as to accreditation policy in NSW. After a few tense weeks of negotiation, the TAA agreed to observe the teacher immediately and sign their accreditation report.
The IEU is well versed in accreditation. The Union will not tolerate induction and mentoring experiences being subsumed into a punitive, restrictive processes that deny beginning teachers progression on the pay scale or scares them out of teaching by overburdening them.
If you are experiencing an accreditation process that goes beyond NESA requirements, the IEU wants to know. Talk to your rep and organiser about the alignment of your school’s accreditation policy/processes to NESA. If you want to check facts or requirements, email firstname.lastname@example.org.