The Education and Training Reform Amendment (Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership) Act 2021 (Vic) (the Act) was assented to on 14 September 2021 and establishes the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership (Academy). The Academy will be dedicated to developing teaching and leadership excellence in order to raise the calibre and status of the Victorian teaching profession.
The Act establishes the Academy as a statutory authority led by a board comprised of education experts and members from all school sectors. The Academy will offer and deliver a program of advanced professional learning for high-performing teachers in all government, Catholic and independent schools.
The Academy aims to build on the work of the existing Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership. It will be based in the Melbourne CBD with additional regional campuses in Geelong, Ballarat, Mildura, Shepparton, Moe, Bairnsdale and Bendigo. The regional centres will ensure that rural and regional teachers are able to access high-quality professional development and promote an objective of equality in education.
In addition, the Act will enable the Academy to establish an Evaluation and Evidence Centre to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the programs on teacher practice and student outcomes.
Functions of the Academy
The Bill’s Second Reading Speech outlines the following as the key functions of the Academy to include:
- providing specialised teaching and leadership excellence programs and professional learning pathways for exceptional teachers and school leaders
- raising the calibre and status of the profession through the promotion of evidence-informed teaching practice
- providing impartial, expert advice to the Minister for Education and the Department of Education
- partnering with organisations, professional associations, and others to identify the needs of the profession and optimise the delivery of the Academy’s programs
- publishing guidance and resources for use by providers of professional learning
- evaluating the effectiveness and impact of its programs on school leadership teaching practice and student outcomes.
Who Can Attend the Academy’s Programs?
The Academy has addressed entry requirements for its 2022 flagship program, the Teaching Excellence Program. This Program appears to be directed at individuals who are currently approved at proficient teacher level as outlined in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) and adopted by the Victorian Institute for Teaching (VIT).
The year-long Program will initially be available to 500 eligible teachers who meet the following criteria and succeed in the application process.
To be eligible for the Program, teachers must:
- be Australian citizens or have a permanent residency visa
- have full teacher registration with the VIT
- be in a current teaching role in Victoria (full-time or part-time) in a primary, secondary or specialist school at commencement and for the duration of the Program
- have taught for at least three years in a school setting
- have their principal's endorsement.
There is an extensive application process for this Program (more information can be found here on the Bastow site). The five selection criteria are as follows. The teacher:
- demonstrates deep understanding of the relevant discipline
- develops and implements innovative, engaging learning opportunities for students
- uses and analyses data to identify each student's learning level
- applies a range of strategies from an evidence-based teaching repertoire to advance students' learning
- communicates with clarity, compassion and commitment.
There are several other criteria that need to be met including a 250-word statement that addresses why a teacher would like to participate in the program:
“In what ways do you anticipate the Teaching Excellence Program will benefit and have impact on your teaching and the profession?”
Cost of the Academy Programs
The first 12- month Teaching Excellence Program requires a co-contribution payment of $500 for each approved participant.
The Program co-contribution is paid by the individual school in the case of government schools. In Catholic schools the arrangement for payment will depend on each school’s context and independent schools’ arrangements will depend on each schools’ relevant policies.
What the Academy Means for Victorian Teachers
It is currently unclear what the professional implications are for teachers completing the Academy’s programs. We can assume that the programs will constitute professional development according to the VIT’s professional development definition “any activities that teachers engage in that develop their professional knowledge and practice to support student learning and that are relevant to their teaching context”.
In Victoria a teacher must complete 20 hours of professional development per year for a (full) teacher registration. Based on the VIT criteria, completion of the Academy programs is likely to be counted towards teachers’ hours of professional development.
Beyond professional development hours for teacher registration requirements, there is currently no indication that the Academy programs will assist with the accreditation of graduate teachers. However, based on the first of the key functions of the Academy “providing specialised teaching and leadership excellence programs and professional learning pathways for exceptional teachers and school leaders”, the Academy will, no doubt, assist in a teacher’s progression through the higher levels of the Australian Professional Standards for Teaching as assessed by the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).
The introduction of the Act and establishment of the Academy appears to be a positive opportunity for Victorian teachers to engage in professional development. However, several questions about the professional implications of the Academy programs remain:
- What are the professional implications of completing an Academy program?
- Will it give proficient Victorian teachers the ability to move into AITSL certifications?
- Will Academy programs expand to include all Victorian teacher levels?
It will be a matter of ‘watch this space’. However, it is a wonderful step in the right direction for all Victorian teachers, as the provision of top-quality professional development will only help to enhance teaching and, therefore, learning opportunities for students.