Australian governments are committed to working with all school sectors to attract, develop, support and retain a high-quality teaching and school leadership workforce in Australian schools (Melbourne Declaration
Among the key strategies agreed by Education Ministers for this commitment are the creation of new professional standards, a framework to guide professional learning for teachers and school leaders, and national consistency in the registration of teachers. Improved pay dispersion to reward quality teaching, improved in-school support for teachers and leaders, particularly in disadvantaged Indigenous, rural/remote and hard-to-staff schools and joint engagement with higher education to provide improved pre-service teacher education are other agreed strategies.
This commitment is aligned with the policy and reform directions outlined in the National Education Agreement (NEA), which will contribute to achieving the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) targets for schooling in Australia.
National Partnership Agreement on Improving Teacher Quality
Through COAG, Australian governments have agreed to a five-year National Partnership Agreement on Improving Teacher Quality
. This partnership runs from January 2009 to December 2013 and is designed to drive systemic reforms to improve the quality of teaching and leadership in Australian schools. It aims to deliver system-wide reforms targeting critical points in the teacher ‘life cycle' to attract, train, place, develop and retain quality teachers and leaders in schools.
The National Partnership Agreement states that it will contribute to the following outcomes:
attracting the best entrants to teaching, including mid-career entrants
more effectively training principals, teachers and school leaders for their roles and the school environment
placing teachers and principals to minimise skill shortages and enhance retention
developing teachers and school leaders to enhance their skills and knowledge throughout their careers
retaining and rewarding quality principals, teachers and school leaders
improving the quality and availability of teacher workforce data.
COAG also agreed to the development and implementation of national professional standards for teachers and a certification process for highly accomplished and lead teachers.
Commonwealth funding for this National Partnership is $550 million over five years. Of this funding, $50 million is allocated to professional development and support to enable principals to better manage their schools and achieve improved student results.
Individual States and Territories have implemented a range of initiatives, including the establishment of centres of excellence, expanding traditional pathways into teaching, trialling rewarding excellence with pay and piloting programs that enhance school-based decision-making.
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership
(AITSL) was established to provide national leadership for Commonwealth, State and Territory governments in promoting excellence in the profession of teaching and school leadership. AITSL is responsible for fostering high-quality professional development for teachers and school leaders, working collaboratively across jurisdictions and engaging with key professional bodies.
AITSL is funded by the Australian Government. Over the four years from 2009–10 to 2012–13 AITSL will receive around $54 million from the National Partnership on Improving Teacher Quality, the Australian Government Quality Teacher Program and other Australian Government project funds.
During 2011, AITSL undertook extensive research and consultation about the development of the Australian Charter for the Professional Learning of Teachers and School Leaders, which together with the National Professional Standards for Teachers underpins the Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework. The Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) agreed in October 2011 that AITSL would develop this framework.
National Professional Standards for Teachers
The National Professional Standards for Teachers comprise seven standards which outline what teachers should know and be able to do at different stages of their career. The standards are interconnected, interdependent and overlapping. They are grouped into three domains of teaching: Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement. Within each standard, focus areas provide further illustration of these domains. These are then separated into descriptors at four professional career stages: Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Lead.²
The National Professional Standard for Principals
The National Professional Standard for Principals³ sets out what school principals are expected to know, understand and do to achieve excellence in their work. It will be used to build the quality and capacity of school principals across Australia and will provide a basis for the broader Australian community to understand the scope and complexity of a principal's work and what can be expected of school leaders.
The standard is supported by a clearinghouse for school leaders
which provides an interactive research repository and online tools designed to foster exchange and development of the knowledge and skills of principals. The clearinghouse is a project under the Smarter Schools National Partnership.
Both standards support the commitment in the Melbourne Declaration and align with the reforms included in the National Partnership on Improving Teacher Quality.
Australian Government Quality Teacher Program
The Australian Government Quality Teacher Program (AGQTP) provides funding to non-government education authorities in each State and Territory to run a variety of projects and activities that offer ongoing professional learning and development for teachers and school leaders. AGQTP complements the reforms of the National Partnership for Improving Teacher Quality. Funding recipients are required to address one or more of the three priority areas: curriculum; targeted learning needs; and cross-curricular/whole school, with a focus on the Australian Curriculum, student wellbeing and the National Professional Standards for Teachers.
The objectives of the AGQTP are to:
equip teachers with the skills and knowledge needed for teaching in the 21st century
provide national leadership in high priority areas of teacher professional learning need
improve the professional standing of school teachers and leaders.
From January 2010, the component of the AGQTP for the government sector was rolled into the National Schools Specific Purpose Payments. Funding for the non-government sector continues to flow directly to State and Territory non-government education authorities in accordance with current funding agreements.
Total funding for the 2011 calendar year was $7.0 million.
¹ Subsequently renamed the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers
² National Professional Standards for Teachers, AITSL, February 2011, p. 3
³ Subsequently renamed the Australian Professional Standard for Principals