National Review of Teacher Registration Announced: Royal Commission’s Recommendations to be Taken into Account
Coinciding with the first meeting of The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) for 2018, the Federal Government has launched a National Review of Teacher Registration (National Review), aiming to improve education and teaching quality across the country and tackle jurisdictional inconsistencies in teacher registration systems.
Introduction to the National Review
In a move backed by state and territory ministers of the Education Council, the Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham has announced that the National Review will focus on the registration of early childhood teachers, vocational education and training teachers, and teachers who are transitioning into the profession for the first time. Eight education experts have been appointed to lead the National Review, which is being managed by the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).
The National Review is part of a package of reforms that also includes the work of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group, which aims to deliver reforms to boost the quality of Australian teaching, including to requirements for literacy and numeracy skills and accreditation standards for teacher training courses.
The National Review will consider:
- how the current registration framework operates, including implementation, consistency, best practice, challenges and barriers
- the extent to which the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (Teacher Standards) drive teacher quality and how this could be strengthened
- how to improve teacher registration arrangements in Australia, with a focus on:
- the current registration operating arrangements
- enhancements to better embed the Teacher Standards and strengthen teacher quality
- how best to implement recommendations, considering legislative, regulatory, administrative and resourcing contexts
- expected benefits and success measures for the implementation of the recommended reforms
- early childhood teacher registration, VET teacher registration, and the transition of initial teacher education students into the profession.
Outcomes of the National Review
A key deliverable of the reform is, according to Minister Birmingham, “to understand what’s working and what’s not in key areas”.
Two key outcomes of the review have been identified:
- considering how teaching graduates transition into school employment, by ensuring that classroom proficiency is attained through the registration process
- simplifying the process for people with other skills to become teachers, such as former tradespersons or nurses.
Minister Birmingham has suggested that there are clear benefits to having teachers with diverse employment experience, giving students the opportunity to learn about life beyond the school environment and their career options. In particular, vocational education has been identified as an education area that could receive substantial benefit from tradespersons teaching their trade in schools, facilitated by ensuring effective pathways for these people to enter the profession. The goal is stated to be making the educational transition “as straightforward as possible” with respect to career changes by talented professionals.
The Australian Education Union has leveled criticism against the Review, commenting that the putative ‘fast-track’ process to becoming a teacher will undermine teacher quality.
President of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maurie Mulheron, stated that lowering the requirements for registration would “downgrade teacher qualifications and lower the status of the profession”, suggesting that the requirements for becoming a teacher should actually be increased in order to align Australia with high-performing education systems globally.
The Current Registration Framework
Each state/territory manages teacher registration in its own way, with clear differences between what is a requirement to attain and maintain registration and the stringency in which teachers must demonstrate compliance. This is despite a consistent theme of governments attempting to streamline the registration process across jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions treat the Teacher Standards as a continuum of a teacher’s development of professional expertise, with the proficient and graduate stages being used to develop the registration levels. Others, such as NSW, use all career stages as registration levels, including highly accomplished and lead.
However, given that each jurisdiction has differences in curriculum, non-government school registration and child protection laws, it is unsurprising that teacher registration is regulated differently in each state/territory.
One thing that all jurisdictions have in common is that their teacher registration framework is established by legislation. In each state/territory, an Act establishes the statutory authority responsible for regulating the teaching profession, and also establishes the minimum requirements for teachers attaining and maintaining accreditation.
Key examples of teacher registration legislation are the:
- Victorian Institute of Teaching Act 2001 (Vic)
Teacher Accreditation Act 2004 (NSW)
- Teacher Registration Act 2012 (WA)
- Education (Queensland College of Teachers) Act 2005 (Qld).
The National Review will need to precipitate legislative change in order to reform teacher registration.
The National Review in Context
It is worth noting that multiple jurisdictions have already commenced reviews of their teacher registration systems; it is unclear how the National Review will impact upon these recent and ongoing jurisdictional reviews.
The NSW Education Standards Authority introduced a new regulatory framework for approving teacher accreditation authorities for non-government schools and early childhood education centres on 1 January 2016. A new Maintenance of Teacher Accreditation Policy took effect on 1 January 2018, requiring all pre-2004 teachers to become fully accredited. In Western Australia, a statutory review is underway of the Teacher Registration Act 2012 (WA), considering whether amendments are needed to, among other things, achieve a fair and efficient registration system that promotes a skilled teaching workforce.
Victorian Education Minister James Merlino announced a sweeping review of the Victorian Institute of Teaching in August last year, following multiple rulings that allowed teachers accused of misconduct to continue working in schools. This review will consider the appropriate role and functions of the VIT, and will respond to other developments in the education sector such as the Excellence in Teacher Education reforms and numeracy and literacy standards.
Connection with the Royal Commission
The AITSL has stated that the final recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) that relate to teacher registration will be taken into account in the National Review.
In Volume 13: Schools, the Royal Commission reflected that because teacher registration requirements vary considerably between jurisdictions, children in different schools receive varying levels of protection against abuse. Recommendation 13.8 states that teacher registration requirements should be strengthened to better protect children from abuse in schools, and that COAG should review minimum national requirements for assessing the suitability of teachers.
Because the National Review is focussing on improving accessibility to the teaching profession rather than on how teacher registration can be strengthened, the AITSL will need to consider how it will balance these outcomes.
What does this mean for schools?
Schools are a key stakeholder in the progress of the National Review – indeed, three educators from schools around Australia are part of the panel of education experts who will be spearheading the National Review.
It is anticipated that the National Review will launch its initial Issues Paper in March 2018, with its final report to be submitted to the Educational Council in September. With the Royal Commission’s recommendations clearly on the Federal Government’s radar, all schools should monitor the progress of the National Review, particularly for any signs of responsibility shifting to schools to monitor and improve the standard of teaching and education quality.
About the author
Kieran Seed is a School Governance reporter. He can be contacted here.