Chapter 2 - Taking teaching seriously
The terms of reference of the Committee’s Inquiry into the
Status of Teachers elicited a broad response, bringing to the Committee’s
attention a range of issues and concerns across the education spectrum. This
has enabled the Committee to produce a comprehensive account of teaching in
Australia towards the end of the twentieth century.
The Committee was struck by the extraordinary unanimity of
views about the key issues, revealed in over 300 submissions and in the oral evidence
presented at public hearings across all States and Territories. The
complexities of contemporary schooling, whether in curriculum, technology,
school based management or student welfare, mean that demands on teachers’
skills, time and energy are at an all time high. Teachers continue to respond
to those demands, but in an environment where they are constantly asked to do
more with less, where their efforts are frequently undermined by ill-informed
or gratuitous criticism, where opportunities for professional development have
been severely eroded, and where career progression is largely non-existent.
Teachers are alarmed by what they perceive as governments’
retreat from education, which combined with the unseemly brawls between
Commonwealth and State Ministers over funding, does nothing to persuade
teachers that they are valued or that they are engaged in one of society’s most
important tasks. The result is a serious crisis of morale amongst teachers. The
Committee recognises that education is not the only area to be adversely
affected by budgetary constraints and withdrawal of government involvement, and
that similar trends are evident overseas. But it regards the impact on
education as little short of desperate, and one which demands a concerted effort
by governments to fund schools at a level more commensurate with the demands
placed upon them, and to place quality teaching at the heart of a quality
The Committee has thought long and hard about the profession
of teaching itself – whether indeed it can be described as a profession; what
attributes of teachers and teacher organisations contribute to their level of
professional status; how the relationship of teachers to their students, to
school communities and to their own employers affects their professional role.
This has necessarily involved reflecting on the connection between the
professional and the industrial concerns of teacher organisations, on the
question of politicisation, and on the relationship between governments and the
It has also involved paying close attention to such matters
as; the pre-service training of teachers and their subsequent professional
development; the impacts of changes in education policy on the organisation of
schools and school systems; the relationships between schools and their
communities, and how these are influenced by the media. The range and depth of
the evidence placed before the Committee has enabled it to formulate
recommendations which take into account the needs and perspectives of all the
key interest groups and which are likely to elicit a broad cross section of
The Committee is in no doubt that teaching must be regarded
as a profession, with all that this implies for the standards, accountability,
status and autonomy that a community expects of a profession. In the
Committee’s view, the vast majority of Australia’s schools employ teachers who
are deeply committed, well qualified, and dedicated to the educational and
personal wellbeing of their students. There is no major crisis of quality in
Australia’s teaching force, and generally our schools are the safest
environments in which young people gather. It is important that we acknowledge
the achievements of Australia’s school systems and celebrate the efforts of our
teachers, students and administrators in creating schools which have met the
challenges of learning in the latter half of the twentieth century.
However, there is something of a crisis of confidence
emerging in the private and public discourses about teaching and education in
this country. Many teachers feel undervalued, that their work is unappreciated,
their schools under-resourced and their role is not properly understood. They
are perplexed and feel demoralised when their efforts are considered by others,
such as government ministers, their employers, media commentators and society
at large to be inadequate or worse. There is a vivid contradiction between how
teachers value the work that they do and how many in the community value that
work. Indeed, it is the way teachers feel about their work and how they
perceive that work to be regarded by others, which animated much of the
evidence brought before the Committee during its Inquiry.
In the Committee’s view, a society which seeks to be
democratic, vigorous, tolerant, and economically successful must have a
wholehearted commitment to good education. A fundamental premise, which must
inform all deliberations about education, is that good teachers lie at the
heart of successful learning. In terms of student achievement, the teacher
is a more significant factor than any other kind of school resource.
This crucial premise must provide the basis for all decision-making by policy
makers and education authorities. This “does not mean endorsing and celebrating
everything that teachers think, say and do. But it does mean taking teachers’
perceptions and perspectives very seriously.”
The Committee’s analysis, assessments and recommendations
emerge directly from the evidence placed before it. This evidence confirms the
place of teachers not only as major players in the development of our young
people, but as the key to educational change. This recognition of teachers as
the key factors in student achievement and the core agents of educational
change has several important and obvious implications for any government which
is serious about schooling excellence.
- High priority must be given to maintaining the quality and
capacity of the existing cohort of teachers. Ongoing professional development
is of critical importance.
- The recruitment and training of new teachers must be predicated
on rigorously developed and enforced standards which are owned by the teaching
profession and recognised by education authorities as benchmarks for
employment. To ensure comparability across State systems and between government
and non-government school sectors such standards should be developed on a
- A system of professional recognition for teachers must be
established which is based on the achievement of enhanced knowledge and skills
and which retains teachers at the front line of student learning. Such
knowledge and skills should be identified, classified and assessed according to
criteria developed by expert panels drawn from the profession. Education
authorities should structure remuneration accordingly.
- Schools must be managed according to principles which place
teaching and student learning at the heart of decision making about school
organisation and resource allocation. Teachers should be intimately involved in
the planning, implementation and evaluation of a school’s educational program
and the learning experiences of students.
In encouraging governments to exercise their educational
responsibilities for students through a focus on the quality and well being of
teachers, the Committee is not ignoring the importance of other dimensions of
school systems, such as the physical and technological infrastructure,
curriculum development and so on. But it is the Committee’s strong belief that
the most powerful leverage for improving education lies with a skilled and high
quality teaching force. Any effort applied to enhancing teaching will multiply
the effects on student learning.
There are two significant and pragmatic considerations,
which, in their own right, justify the focusing of governments’ attentions on
teachers. The first is that expenditure on teachers takes up the vast bulk of
governments’ expenditure on education, and will continue to do so. The second
is that Australia is entering a phase when there will be a substantial change
in the profile of the existing teacher cohort, and which will see a significant
influx of new teachers. This provides an ideal opportunity for governments to
enhance the educational effectiveness of schools through a revitalised, better
trained and more esteemed teaching profession. In the Committee’s view there is
no comparable development in other areas – technological, curricular or
organisational – which has the potential to produce such significant
In emphasising the role of teachers as agents of educational
change, the Committee has received evidence that many teachers have identified
relentless change as a key contributor to the sense of crisis infecting the
profession. Teachers have the capacity to change, and indeed acknowledge the
imperative for change. However, teachers need to be able to bring their
professional judgement to bear upon what things require changing and what
things need to be preserved. They should play a key role in determining how change
is to be most effectively implemented within the administrative, regulatory and
policy frameworks which governments and education authorities prescribe. To do
this, teachers need the opportunity to reflect on and evaluate current
practices and the implications of introducing new ones.
To emphasise the role of teachers as agents of change
therefore requires a simultaneous affirmation of their professional rights and
their responsibilities in implementing that change. The imposition of a series
of changes – across a raft of policy and curriculum areas, and largely by
government fiat - is contrary to such a requirement and denies teachers the
opportunity to be effective professionals. Governments should view the teaching
profession as their most powerful change agent and strategic ally in adapting
schools to the needs of students and in achieving the goals and standards set
by governments for Australia’s educational attainment.
It is important to set out briefly the dominant features of
the context in which teaching is now carried out, so that we are clear about
the social and historical conditions which apply to the schools and classrooms
of Australia in the nineties.
With the average age of teachers at around 46 years, and
with many of these having been in the profession for well over two decades, it
is a truism to observe that these teachers have experienced massive changes in
the social, cultural and vocational attributes of their students. The shift to
an emphatically multicultural student population is but one of these. The shift
from mainstream classes which excluded students with special needs to a more
inclusive class profile is another. The increased diversity of students’
domestic arrangements, and of their needs and aspirations at the post-compulsory
level are two other discrete variables which teachers must now take more
deliberately into account as they exercise their professional responsibilities.
At a broader level, schools and teaching have been markedly
affected by the major changes in Australia’s technological, employment and
economic profiles, and by the associated changes in labour markets and skills
requirements. The overall pace of living in Australia has increased
dramatically, with people generally, including teachers, students and their
parents, living much more harried and stressful lives. Over this period schools
have become even less – if ever they were - a cloistered domain. The Committee
was told repeatedly that teachers are increasingly a first port of call for
parents or young people seeking advice and guidance about a range of personal,
domestic and welfare-related matters.
The school of today must address the needs of a culturally
diverse, socially and economically differentiated cohort of students. To meet
contemporary social and economic demands it is required to present more
challenging content to be mastered at ever higher levels by a much greater
proportion of students than has hitherto been the case. Because many of the
basic organisational features of school have changed little over the years, the
task of facilitating this more intensive learning, with closer personal support
for students and the utilisation of new technologies, has fallen substantially
In short, teaching in the 1990’s is a profoundly more complex
and professionally demanding activity than it was twenty years ago. The
American National Commission on Teaching expresses this point in the following
It is not just that educational demands are increasing but that
the very nature of learning is changing. Students must do more than learn new
facts or cover more chapters; they must learn to integrate and apply their
knowledge in more complex ways to more difficult problems. This means that
teachers must accomplish very different things that require them to work in new
ways. Consequently the nature of their preparation and the settings in which
they teach must change substantially as well.
In the Committee’s view, policy makers and education
authorities have a strong sense of this need for a paradigm shift in the
structure and operation of schools and school systems and to acknowledge the
dramatic changes which have been wrought in teachers’ experience of their
profession. This possibly explains the blizzard of initiatives which has
emerged from successive governments over the past two decades, all aimed at
‘making schools better’. The Committee finds it very telling, however, that
these reform initiatives were repeatedly cited in evidence as a debilitating
factor in teachers’ morale and an impediment to their efforts to improve
student learning. Similarly telling is the comment by Max Angus, a senior,
highly regarded Australian educator and bureaucrat closely involved in many
such initiatives over that time. He writes in the Preface to his 1998 book on
The fact that most of the ideas failed to come to fruition was
taken merely as a sign of the importance of trying harder.... Each [of four
representative examples of reform described by the author] consumed the
depleted reserves of energy and good will of thousands of teachers and
officials. None succeeded in achieving their fundamental purpose. 
The Committee believes that such evidence and comments raise
serious questions about recent approaches to school reform. Combined with other
evidence - such as that of an American study of 1,000 school districts which
concluded that “every additional dollar spent on more highly qualified teachers
netted greater improvements in student achievement than did any other use of
school resources” (WMM p8) – there is a strong prima facie case that school
reform is best approached by a focus on teachers and their professional
In pursuing its Inquiry on the Status of Teachers,
the attention of the Committee has necessarily turned to the issue of teaching
as a profession. (A discussion of questions of status and professionalism
appears in a separate chapter of this Report.) No consideration of this sort
can avoid the fundamental question of professional standards. If, as the
evidence indicates, teachers are both the key factors in student achievement
and the core agents of educational change, the Committee considers that all who
take on the role of teacher must demonstrate their ability to operate at the
appropriate professional standards.
The Committee has strong views about how this requirement
should be met. These views about standards and the mechanisms by which they are
established, regulated and enforced are articulated in the parts of the Report
which deal with the building blocks of professional standards –such as proper
selection and initial training, effective licensing, thorough professional
development, practice informed by research, and so on. It is necessary here,
however, to make some general comments about the question of professional
standards and some idiosyncrasies which attach to it because of teaching’s
distinctive relationship to the state.
Standards are essentially concerned with quality assurance
and accountability. Quality assurance is generally understood as the process by
which users (but also producers) of a service or product can be confident of
its consistency, reliability, safety and to some extent its ‘value for money’.
Such assurances are normally predicated on certain key assumptions about the
conditions under which the product or service will be used, and the nature of
the users involved.
Accountability involves the requirement that one group (here
a profession) provide an account or justification of its activities to another
group (here the public) in return for the trust or privileges granted to the
former by the latter. Accountability also normally involves the expectation
that the accountable group be willing to accept advice or criticism from the
public and to modify its practices in the light of that advice or criticism.
How, and sometimes whether, such modifications are effected, usually remains
the prerogative of the trusted (accountable) group. This prerogative tends to
be carefully guarded and partly constitutes what it means to be ‘professional’.
In both the quality assurance and accountability domains,
some idiosyncrasies attach to teaching which make the discussion of these key
elements of professional standards particularly interesting. Chief among these
is the nature of the relationship between teachers and the public, which is
quite different from that which normally applies between the public and
professional groups such as lawyers or engineers.
For example, teaching is a profession comprising large
numbers of practitioners. It deals very closely with people en masse over an
extended period of time. Another distinguishing feature of the teaching
profession is that governments have been the major employers of teachers. As a
result of funding arrangements for the non-government sector, Australian governments
also have relatively close ties to private schools and hence to the teachers
within them. Not only have governments been the employers of teachers, they
have been to a greater or lesser extent the regulators of teachers, the
gatekeepers into the profession, and the monitors of their training. For
teaching, and unlike other professions, governments have exercised the kind of
influence that in other professions would fall to the profession itself.
Governments, representing the public interest have been largely
both producers and users of the product/service called ‘teachers’/ ‘teaching’.
Governments also significantly determine the conditions under which these
products/services are used – that is, the conditions in schools. This makes the
issue of quality assurance peculiarly problematic. Moreover, governments not
only influence both the product (teachers) and the conditions under which their
services are used (schools) but are responsible for paying for both of them!
There are some parallels here with governments’ responsibilities for hospitals
and doctors. However, with schools and teachers the scale of governments’
involvement is broader.
Somewhat similar considerations render the issue of
accountability also problematic. In a strong sense governments are both the
“accountable for” and the “accounted to” when it comes to the teaching
profession. Add to this the electoral accountability of governments to the
public where the public is also the major user of the teachers whom governments
are responsible for producing and the picture becomes exceedingly complicated.
In the Committee’s view, both governments and the teaching profession must be
mutually responsible for the standards of Australian schooling. These
responsibilities should be separated out in a way which helps to clarify which
standards are more properly the province of which group, and where the lines of
accountability should be drawn.
In the Committee’s view, governments’ core responsibilities
in education should be described in terms of the quality of the resources and
the working conditions in schools. (For ‘governments’ read also
‘education/employing authorities’.) These range from buildings and other
physical infrastructure to the safety and sufficiency of the various human and
technical support services which together make up the overall environment in
which teaching and learning take place.
The Committee stresses governments’ clear responsibility to
ensure that conditions in schools are commensurate with the requirements of
good teaching practice. It is up to the profession, however, to specify the
standards that should apply to teaching practice.
Government policy cannot provide an adequate basis for
determining what teachers should know and be able to do any more than it does
in other professions. It is very difficult for government policy to penetrate
practice, as it is for any occupation that must rely on the exercise of
judgement and the adaptation of skill in ever-changing local situations.
The Committee concurs with Ingvarson’s view that it is very
important to distinguish between the government’s and the profession’s areas of
responsibility, and to be clear about the lines of accountability that apply.
This means distinguishing between educational matters that are properly the
province of government control and those matters that should be under the
control of professional bodies.
The Committee regards the government’s domain as embracing
calls delivery standards while the teachers’ domain embraces standards
of professional practice, a matter which will be explored in more detail
shortly. By defining the boundaries, the Committee believes that both teachers
and departmental officials will be helped to focus on the main game for the
profession and for government respectively. It also believes that this
distinction will assign lines of accountability, and construct the relationship
between governments and the teaching profession in a way which promotes the
interests of both.
The Committee appreciates that a lively tension arises when
professionals aspire to the highest levels of practice and demand of
governments the resources and conditions to achieve them. In the context of
teaching, this would mean that the relevant delivery standards for schools
should be determined with reference to professional teaching practice, just as
the resources and conditions which apply in hospitals, say, should be at a
standard commensurate with the requirements of professional medical practice.
The best surgeon or physician in the world cannot perform to the required
professional standard if the hospital does not provide the necessary
environment in terms of cleanliness, equipment, ancillary staff and so on.
Likewise, the best teacher in the world cannot perform properly in an inadequately
resourced and inadequately staffed school.
On the other side of the coin, the highly resourced and well
serviced school will not ensure quality education without teachers who can
perform to the relevant professional standard. In the Committee’s view, these
relevant professional standards are the province of the teaching profession
itself, and should be established and upheld by the profession.
The most desirable state of affairs for education would be
one in which delivery standards (of conditions and resources, for which
governments are responsible) are predicated upon standards of professional
practice (for which teachers are responsible). The current economic
facts of life are hardly likely to realise such a desirable state, but it is a
principle which the Committee believes should inform the construction of the
relationship between governments and the profession.
Historically, and because state governments have
constitutionally had the responsibility for school education, it has been
assumed that governments are directly responsible for all aspects of school
quality including the maintenance of the professional standards of teachers.
Registration of teachers by state governments is typically cited as a key
quality control mechanism, and while the Committee endorses the need for
registration or licensing arrangements, it believes that, by themselves, they
are not adequate for assuring satisfactory teaching practice.
Registration of teachers - the way forward
Registration is the legal mechanism by which state
authorities give permission to applicants to practice their profession within
that state’s jurisdiction. Arrangements for registration vary between
jurisdictions. In the Committee’s view, registration should provide the legal
benchmark for employment of teachers, whether in the government or
non-government sectors. This is because governments have an obligation to all
students, regardless of their location, to ensure that they are being
taught by a properly qualified teacher.
Registration standards must be developed with serious
attention to standards of professional practice, and should have particular
concern for the qualifications and competencies of those who are seeking to
enter employment in the profession for the first time. For this reason, the Committee
believes that registration should occur in two stages. Provisional registration
should rely on the possession, by the prospective entrant, of the relevant
university qualifications and formal professional qualifications. Only those
professional qualifications acquired through a nationally-accredited teacher
training course would be acceptable for provisional registration purposes.
The appropriately qualified person would be permitted, on
the strength of provisional registration, to teach in a school. Full
registration would follow satisfactory assessment after the first year of
teaching. Teachers would have to seek re-registration every few years, when
proof of satisfactory performance and ongoing professional development would be
the core criteria for renewal.
Registration serves an important purpose as gatekeeper for
entry into employment in schools, and registration standards are a vital
consideration. However, the Committee is of the view that current registration
arrangements, which are generally limited and variable between jurisdictions,
do not provide the necessary ongoing guarantees of standards of professional
Standards of professional teaching practice
When speaking of standards of professional practice
there is a risk of being too glib by half. Long and heated debate invariably
characterises attempts to define standards. The complexities, surprises and
subtleties of teaching have often been cited in claims by some that it is
simply not feasible to determine meaningful standards for it. While
acknowledging the difficulties of determining clear statements of standards,
the Committee insists that establishing such standards of professional teaching
practice is possible, unavoidable and absolutely necessary.
Without standards, a professional body is defenceless. A
demonstrated ability to articulate standards for high quality practice is an
essential credential if a professional body wishes to be taken seriously by the
public and policy makers. When placed on the table in forums with policy makers
about reform and accountability, established professional standards are hard to
An abundance of high quality work in developing standards
which has already been done by teachers, teacher associations and an array of
researchers, academics, administrators and educational philosophers. Perspectives
and insights are also available from serious attempts in other countries, both
successful and unsuccessful, to devise and implement standards for teachers’
knowledge, performance, ethical behaviour, professional development and so on.
It is not the Committee’s role to prescribe standards for
the Australian teaching profession nor will it pre-empt the profession’s own
determination of how, and at what pace, it can proceed to a new era of professional
autonomy and self-regulation based on explicit and rigorously-maintained
standards of professional practice. Nevertheless the Committee, on the basis of
the evidence it has received, is in a position to propose some broad strategies
for the teaching profession to become the fully credible, standards based and
properly recognised profession that is required. The Committee is also of the
view that it is in the interests of government, and indeed an obligation upon
it, to assist the profession to achieve these goals.
The task remains to decide what strategy and structures will
facilitate the development, exercise and control of standards by the teaching
profession, while taking into account the historically close relationship
between the profession and governments, and the latter’s responsibility to
provide for school systems which facilitate professional teaching practice.
It is an essential characteristic of standards of
professional practice that they apply equally to practitioners wherever they
are located, whatever the system or jurisdiction that pertains. The standards
are determined by the profession itself – although the Committee acknowledges
that those with a relevant interest in the provision of education, such as
governments and education authorities, have a legitimate contribution to make
to the development of those standards. The Committee sees such stakeholders as
working alongside the teaching profession, reflecting and commenting upon the
professional standards as they are developed and taking note of the
implications for governments of their implementation.
In its earlier discussion of registration, the Committee
emphasised the need for registration and re-registration of teachers to be
linked closely with professional standards of practice, and noted that the
limited state-based registration mechanisms which currently exist are
inadequate for assuring teacher quality. The discussion of standards of
professional practice has emphasised that such standards must apply equally to
all teachers, wherever they are located, and whether they work in the
government or non-government sectors. In the Committee’s view, certification of
a teacher's professional competence, and the registration of that person as
eligible for employment in schools, are not separable. Therefore, the optimum
arrangement which will ensure teacher quality throughout Australia is one which
is nationally based and which does not differentiate between responsibility for
professional standards and responsibility for registration.
The Committee believes that any serious approach to
standards requires the establishment of a national professional teaching
standards and registration body with the responsibility, authority and
resources to develop standards of professional practice, to direct their
application, to accredit pre-service teacher training courses and professional
development programs, and to certify the quality and advanced standing of
Such a national professional teaching standards and
registration body must be constituted in a way which has credibility with
teachers, governments and the general public. In particular, teachers must
enjoy a strong sense of ownership of their national professional body, they
must exercise a powerful influence over the deliberations and actions of the
body, and they must take full responsibility, through the body, for both
admission to and dismissal from the profession.
To date, the development and guardianship of the
professional interests of teachers have been dispersed amongst an array of
teacher organisations and subject associations. The teacher unions have played
a major role in promoting the professionalism of teachers, while also being the
key advocates for better pay and conditions for teachers. In proposing a national
professional teaching standards and registration body, the Committee expects
that the teacher unions, with their strong professional as well as industrial
commitments, will make a major contribution.
The establishment of such a national body is no small
undertaking. It will need the goodwill of governments, teacher unions,
professional subject associations and teacher training institutions. Its
development must be properly resourced to enable extensive consultation and
careful planning, and its establishment will require an adequate
infrastructure. The Committee expects that governments will meet establishment
costs but that recurrent costs will be met largely through teachers'
registration fees. The Queensland example of registration arrangements suggests
this is a reasonable expectation.
In providing the focus for developing professional teaching
standards, the national body will need to draw upon the advice and expertise of
the peak teacher organisations, and to call upon the services of the subject
associations which presently exercise an important standards setting role in
the various teaching disciplines. This is why it is crucial that the
establishment of the national body is done in such a way as to win the
confidence and engage the support of existing stakeholders. An over-riding
consideration will be to ensure the transparency of the whole process to
teachers, without which ‘grass roots’ support will be denied.
The Committee sees the national professional teaching
standards and registration body as having a strategic and coordinating role for
a range of activities all building towards effective national standards. The
implementation of these professional standards could be assured at the state
level through appropriate boards acting on behalf of the national body.
As well as setting the standards for professional practice,
the national body should be the prime mover in the assessment of teacher
performance against these standards. Again, this is not a task which can be
accomplished overnight, but the national body should be responsible for
preparing detailed guidelines for teacher assessment, and for accrediting those
who carry out the assessment. The assessment itself would be undertaken locally
by a relevant nationally-accredited agency (whether university, subject
association or purpose-designed assessment body) and the teacher would receive
appropriate national certification. Such certification would provide benchmarks
for teacher advancement in terms of both salary and professional status.
An important function for the national body would be to
collaborate with university education faculties to accredit pre-service teacher
training courses, and to set out the professional development framework within
which, after initial training, teachers would be encouraged to maintain their
professional expertise. Such professional development could be linked to
ongoing national certification and to renewal of a teacher’s registration. This
framework would have links to, but not be driven by, universities offering
higher degree studies in education or a particular subject/discipline area.
While the national body would address itself initially to professional
standards for school teachers, there is no reason why its work could not be
extended to embrace teaching in the VET sector and in universities.
The national body, in keeping with its role as the developer
and monitor of standards of professional practice, would be responsible for
dealing with allegations of professional incompetence. This would involve establishing
a transparent process by which allegedly incompetent teachers would be
investigated and assisted to bring their performance up to the required
standard. In the event of the teachers’ failing to do so, the national body
would withdraw their professional privileges and deregister them.
There is an argument that the establishment of a national
professional teaching standards and registration body should be initiated by
teachers themselves. However, the Committee believes that there are a number of
reasons why governments should contribute to its establishment. Education, and
a quality school system, remain a fundamental responsibility of government.
Governments are the major employers of teachers, and it is in the interests of
governments that their employees are highly skilled and effective. It is a
simple matter of equity that young people, regardless of where they reside,
should enjoy the benefits of quality teaching. Given the mobility of many
Australian families, it is important that there is consistency of teaching
quality in all Australia's schools, government and non-government. In helping
to establish a national professional teaching standards and registration body,
governments would be able to demonstrate their commitment to appropriate quality
assurance of teacher knowledge and skill across Australia’s school systems.
At present, the professional standards of teachers are
supported by teacher unions and subject associations, operating within various
jurisdictions and serving a variety of professional and industrial purposes. In
the Committee’s view, the Commonwealth government is well placed to act as a
catalyst in establishing a national teaching body which will provide a focus
for all this professional activity. Such a body will not usurp the roles of the
existing groups, but rather serve as a reference point and a pivot around which
they operate. The national body will seek coherence in the key aspects of
professional self-determination such as pre-service training, induction and
professional development, monitoring of professional standards and the
assessment of practitioners against those standards. It will give these
practical effect through the registration of teachers. The development and
maintenance of such a register will be a core responsibility of the national
body, and the eligibility for employment of all teachers, whether in the
government or non-government sphere, will be determined by it.
- The Committee RECOMMENDS that:
- the Commonwealth Government facilitate the development of a national
professional teaching standards and registration body to have the
responsibility, authority and resources to develop and maintain standards of
professional practice. The national body should work closely with State
governments and peak teaching organisations. The national body will:
- establish standards
of professional practice which take into account what teachers should be
expected to know and be able to do in order to facilitate student learning
across the key learning areas
- certify levels of
entry into the profession, criteria for re- registration and recognition of
advanced standing in the profession
- accredit programs of
initial teacher training and establish the professional development framework
for the maintenance of the professional expertise of teachers
- make recommendations
to the Commonwealth Minister on priorities for national professional
- consider and act on
complaints of professional incompetence, and assist teachers to improve their
- manage a register of
teachers who meet and maintain professional standards and are thereby eligible
for employment as teachers in both government and non-government sectors of
- promote the value of
teaching in the general community.
- The national
professional teaching standards and registration body should be empowered to
delegate aspects of its authority, and such tasks as it sees fit, to
appropriate agencies or teacher associations.
- The national body
should cover all sections of the industry and teachers from all sections of
education, including those in early childhood, government and non-government
schools, vocational education and training, TAFE, adult and community education
and, in time, universities.
- The national body
should be funded by governments and by teachers' registration fees.
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