Reviewing education structures: What's a fair timeframe?

While pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the review and to make a submission we have indicated our concern at the rude haste with which there view was conducted.

On 10 March NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli announced a review of the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES). The announcement was accompanied by terms of reference and details of the three person panel to undertake this review.

The terms of reference were extensive and addressed issues from the structure and governance of the BOSTES to curriculum and teacher accreditation. On 31 March an issues paper was released which invited responses and submissions by 21 April.

The Union met with the panel to provide some initial views in respect of the terms of reference and made a comprehensive submission in writing addressing the issues paper.

While pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the review and to make a submission we have indicated our concern at the rude haste with which the review was conducted (three weeks from release of issues paper to close of submissions, two of which were school holidays) and the likelihood that real consultation and input has been inhibited.

The panel is expected to report back to the minister by July. Almost every level and function of the infrastructure and process of education in NSW dissected and evaluated in under four months smacks of disrespect and hardly inspires confidence. However we will see what emerges.

The IEU submission (available from our website) was particularly informed by commentary from members over the past few years and from our intersection with BOSTES and its committees, working parties and other forums.

In regard to curriculum we congratulated BOSTES for their implementation of the ACARA Australian Curriculum and supported the process in NSW where teachers by participation are authors or co-authors of school syllabuses. This process or involvement, engagement and consultation we argue needs to be preserved and extended. It is teachers who know their students and how they learn.

On the transfer of responsibility for teacher accreditation to BOSTES through the merger of the Board of Studies with the Institute of Teachers we argue that the case for merger was not made at the time (2013) and that nothing in the meantime has happened to change our minds on this matter. As is always the case with mergers there is one institution that is swallowed up and quickly loses its identity.

Although teachers in NSW were never trusted by government or employers to own their own profession the merger has ensured the dominance of others on the work of teachers. Our view is that school based teacher accreditation was a poor model when introduced in 2004 and has been made no better by the structures currently in place. Despite the efforts of some within the new BOSTES to improve consultation with teachers and their representatives you simply cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

The BOSTES governance structures are a contested space. On one hand a BOSTES board should be representative of various stakeholders in education and on the other such a large body is unwieldy and will include those with a legitimate interest in some issues which come before the board but no valid rights in respect of others.

This is particularly true of the majority of teacher accreditation policies which require board endorsement. Increasingly decisions of the BOSTES board have implications of an industrial nature with no provisions for those who represent teachers on industrial matters.

The IEU is critical also of the insignificant number of teacher practitioners at board level and the denial of representation by teacher professional associations. The NSW Government’s GTIL policy blueprint recognises these associations as important stakeholders but clearly not important enough.

Our submission raised substantial governance issues regarding the Quality Teaching Council (QTC) which is seriously under representative of teachers and which, in our view should have some oversight of the funds raised by the accreditation fees paid by teachers.

At present it has none and IEU members have legitimately claimed that a significant user of BOSTES resources on accreditation matters are Teacher Accreditation Authorities (TAAs) who get this service free, paid for by teachers’ fees.

We advised the review panel that in our view there are significant deficiencies in the registration requirements for schools. School registration makes demands on school authorities to protect the curriculum, to protect the reputation of non government schools through governance structures and to protect students and parents, but requires nothing to protect or support the staff in those schools. This is more than an oversight, it is a quite deliberate omission and must be addressed.

The above is a snapshot of the IEU submission and our issues will be similar to many other submissions but vastly different to others. It will be interesting to see what emerges from the panel by way of recommendations and which if any the government adopts.

The full text of our submission to the review panel can be found on our website.

John Quessy