New national classifications: bonuses, but at what cost?

The federal government is planning to offer one-off bonuses to teachers who successfully apply for one of its new national classifications: highly accomplished and lead teacher.

Teachers certified as highly accomplished will receive $7,500 and those certified as lead will receive $10,000. The first reward payments are planned for 2014, based on certification in 2013.

The plan is outlined in the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s (AITSL) “Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers” paper, which was endorsed by Commonwealth, state and territory education ministers on the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (SCSEE) on 20 April.

The paper outlines the criteria that those nominating for the classifications must meet. If applying for highly accomplished status, teachers must have been assessed as satisfactory in their two most recent annual performance assessments, or their three most recent annual performance assessments if applying for lead status. In instances where annual performance assessments have not been conducted, evidence of past performance of an equal period is required. Applicants who fulfil these requirements will then be required to prove that their practice meets each of the 37 relevant National Professional Standards for Teachers career stage descriptors.

Understandably, some teachers may be concerned at the intrusion of the National Professional Standards into the Queensland education sector. The Victorian model of a four-step pay scale divorced from seniority is worryingly similar to the four-step National Professional Standards:  graduate(NPS)/graduate(Vic), proficient(NPS)/accomplished(Vic), highly accomplished(NPS)/expert(Vic), lead(NPS)/leading(Vic). Although the current proposal does not affect Queensland’s incremental pay scale, the use of the four-step National Professional Standards rather than a specific professional pay classification is an area of concern.

The QTU believes that standards based on the existing joint EQ/QTU Professional Standards for Teachers, as suggested in the Union’s own professional pay proposal, would be more appropriate for Queensland teachers. Under the QTU proposal, all teachers with at least five years teaching experience would be able to access a single professional pay classification point that would sit above the existing senior teacher salary scale, without the need to introduce a parallel system of career progression.

Teachers wishing to apply for highly accomplished and lead teacher certification are required to complete a three-stage application process. The first stage involves a professional discussion with their principal, although endorsement by the principal is not required. In the second stage, applicants must submit written evidence of their teaching practice, including classroom observations. Applicants applying for lead teacher classification will also need to submit a short description of an initiative they have led. At the final third stage, applicants will be responsible for arranging an assessor’s site visit, that will include classroom observation and professional discussion with the applicant, principal and referees.

Teachers who are successful in their application will retain the classification for a period of five years. Feedback will be provided regardless of whether the applicant is successful or not.

Further information can be found at www.aitsl.edu.au

Daniel Bevis
Acting Industrial Advocate

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 117 No 4, 1 June 2012, p20