In late 2017 state and federal education ministers agreed to undertake a national review of teacher registration, and in particular examine how the existing eight aspects of the current national teacher registration framework (endorsed in 2011) have been working, Cathy Hickey, Assistant Secretary of IEUA Victoria Tasmania, writes.
A review panel, supported by the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), undertook consultation across the country with stakeholders in the education sector.
IEUA made a submission to the review and participated in various state consultations. In particular, the Union did not support a national registration scheme or body. It did support the continuance of current state based bodies, with an agreed framework to assist with consistency across states and territories. IEUA believes this model enables greater direct input from and consultation with the teaching profession.
Teacher registration framework
While teacher registration in Australia is an individual state and territory matter, with each state and territory having its own teacher regulatory body, there are aspects of teacher registration that have been agreed by state and territory ministers and have been part of a framework.
The existing framework, which is intended to provide a level of consistency across the various state and territory registration schemes, covers eight areas: an initial period of registration, a fixed period of registration (requiring periodic renewal), alternative authorisation to teach (eg, limited authority/permission to teach categories), sanctions including withdrawal of registration, suitability (eg, national criminal records check), qualifications (minimum of four years, including an initial teacher education program), English language proficiency (except where the qualifications have been gained in specific English speaking countries), and mutual recognition arrangements across states and territories.
The review has made 17 recommendations, discussed last year by the Australian Education Senior Officials Committee (AESOC), which is the group of senior officials supporting the Education Council of Ministers. AESOC determined that more work should be done on an implementation strategy.
In respect to this work, there should be significant consultation and IEUA will continue to discuss issues with relevant ministers. It is not likely that agreed implementation will occur before ministers meet in June.
- Employers maintain and strengthen their role in induction, mentoring and support transition into the workforce and profession.
- National strategy in consistent judgements made for teachers moving from provisional to full registration.
- Professional development – four recommendations more explicitly referencing the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.
- Nationally recording Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher accreditation (does not apply in Victoria andTasmania).
- Registration of early childhood teachers in all states and territories.
- Amend the teaching standards to be more relevant to early childhood teachers.
- National evidence base of ‘limited authority to teach’ authorisations.
- Strategies to strengthen relationships between preservice teachers and the regulator (form of pre-registration).
- Amend legislation/policies to allow information sharing between regulatory bodies.
- An information sharing platform between teacher regulatory bodies.
- National policy on suitability to teach, including considerations of ‘fit and proper’ implemented by all regulatory bodies.
- Improvements in mutual recognition across state jurisdictions.
- Plan to enable teacher registration to be fully transferable between jurisdictions.
- Updated national approach to English language proficiency assessment.
- Greater alignment between teacher registration and VET qualifications for teachers with dual teaching and VET qualifications.
- Pathway programs to teaching qualifications recognising VET qualifications and prior learning for those employed in schools under limited authority categories.
- Consider workforce challenges under current VET in schools arrangements.
Key areas of change
Teacher registration is an important but complex process and has developed during the last decade in some jurisdictions, but during two or more decades in others. Registration has by and large strengthened the status of teaching and these positive aspects have been the result of consultation with the profession, and particularly the education unions who represent the vast majority of teachers in Australia. Any changes must be discussed with the teaching profession and its representative bodies.
This suite of recommendations will affect particular aspects of registration and specific groups of teachers, and it is imperative that no group nor current state and territory registration processes are negatively impacted, and that hard won protections for the profession – for example around limited authority to teach (recommendation 7 and 8), are not watered down. There should be no diminution in key aspects of natural justice and fair processes in the initial registration of teachers, processes and decisions dealing with complaints, reporting and information sharing on these issues (recommendations 9 to 14).
Early career teachers (recommendations 1 and 2) must be supported by quality induction programs and the processes to move from provisional to full registration must be fair, context related, embedded in the actual daily work being undertaken and be based on reasonable workload expectations.
Similarly, the continued expansion of registration into early childhood and VET teaching (recommendations 5, 6, 16 and 17) is important for the profession but must be consulted on to ensure that teaching standards and registration processes, while supporting the status of teaching, are relevant and context related to the work of these teachers. It is pleasing that the review has recommended, for example, that the teaching standards be amended to be more relevant to early childhood teachers (recommendation 6).
Requirements around specific professional learning for ongoing registration (recommendation 3) must be flexible and relevant – reflecting the diversity of education settings, the diversity of skills and knowledge teachers need to develop and enhance at different stages of their careers, and the real work they have undertaken at any given time. Any changes that make professional learning tied to ongoing registration narrow and inflexible must be rejected. 2019 is shaping up to be another year of change and challenge!