1990s - 2002: The long road to professional standards
The success of the QTU’s Professional Standards campaign can be measured by a number of factors including the significant collaboration involved in the development and pilot of the standards and the shift away from a focus on teacher performance to support of teacher professionalism.
The continuing development and implementation of the Professional Standards for Teachers spanned two Enterprise Agreements and culminated in the first department/Union joint statement in 2005 (as a provision of the 2003 certified agreement) and highlighted the commitment to promote the use of the standards among teachers.
In the late 90s, the development of a set of professional standards had been an ongoing issue both at state and national level. In 1995, the Queensland Department of Education had developed a draft professional standards document that was clearly linked to teacher performance. This was a major flaw in the first set of documents, and was rejected by the Queensland Teachers’ Union. Fundamental to the Union agreeing to be part of the development of a set of Professional Standards, confirmed in a letter to the department in late 1999, was that the standards should be voluntary, be linked to suitable professional development, be a precise and useful document for classroom teachers and under no circumstances be linked to teacher performance.
One of the key public arguments rejected by the Union was that other professions had a set of standards, so should teachers. While the QTU agreed that the development of a set of standards to support teacher professionalism could be of benefit, it argued that other professions developed and owned their standards, not the employers.
After negotiation, the department and the Union, working in collaboration, produced the Professional Standards for Teachers (draft). These 12 draft standards identified the key professional elements of the role of a teacher and were aimed at acknowledging teacher professionalism along with helping teachers to identify and drive continuing learning to deliver quality student outcomes.
In 2001, a taskforce was set up, as agreed during the 2000 enterprise bargaining process, to continue to develop a model of teacher professional standards, building on the work already undertaken and utilising research. In 2002, arising out of the collaboration between the QTU and Education Queensland, the Professional Standards for Teachers pilot was announced. Teachers from across the state were sought to field-test the standards, consider preferred models of reflective practice and engage in professional discussions.
While the standards had been developed collaboratively and the pilot was aimed at fostering teacher ownership and supporting reflective practice, progress was not helped by the publication of an editorial in The Courier-Mail in 2002 which fundamentally misread the intent of the standards, suggesting a “test” for teachers and claiming that increasing competition between teachers would improve outcomes. This position completely ignored that teachers are accountable through parent interactions, performance processes and supervision.
At the same time as Education Queensland was developing and piloting the Professional Standards for Teachers, national forums were held, resulting in a working document outlining further development around professional teaching standards, engaging the profession and demonstrating a national commitment to standards.
Both Education Queensland and the QTU held the view that the pilot of the standards was a success and ensured that the development of a national set of standards complemented the Queensland Professional Standards for Teachers.
Former President of the QTU
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 119 number 2, 125th Anniversary Special Edition, p40