Submission on the Education Workforce Advisory Group report “A vision for the teaching profession”

Posted By TEU on Aug 6, 2010 |


Submission of the Tertiary Education Union

On the Education Workforce Advisory Group report

“A vision for the teaching profession”

6th August 2010

For further information please contact:

Jo Scott

Policy Analyst

Ph: 021-844-526

Email: http://scr.im/joscott

General comments on the report and consultation process

The Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa welcomes this opportunity to respond to the report and discussion document “A vision for the teaching profession”.  As the largest union and professional association representing staff in the tertiary education sector, (in universities, institutes if technology/polytechnics, wānanga, private training establishments, OTEPs and REAPs), we represent members who are teacher educators, and therefore have a significant interest in the proposals contained in this report.

The report proposes some substantial changes to the structure of teacher education in this country, and to career pathways of the teaching profession.  For this reason, we believe that a consultation period of eight weeks is insufficient, particularly because the recommendations, if implemented, would result in major structural changes for the sector, and would require a significant commitment of funding and resources.

We are also very concerned that Māori medium delivery and outcomes for Māori students, and early childhood education have effectively been excluded from analysis in the report.  The reasons given for the minimum consideration given to Māori medium delivery and outcomes for Māori students are wholly inadequate in our view.  The sector has many eminent researchers and educationalists who have detailed knowledge of the issues facing Māori education, any one of whom could have been asked to participate in the working group.  To put Māori education into the “too hard basket” in the context of this project reflects poorly on the government’s commitment to addressing educational outcomes for all children in this country.

Similarly, the exclusion of early childhood education from the working group’s analysis is of concern.  Indeed given the terms of reference provided to the working group, “…to provide different perspectives to the Minister of Education on teaching workforce issues…Specific areas for consideration…include: initial teacher education; the induction and mentoring of beginning teachers; career pathways in teaching; the school leadership tier; accountability systems” (pg 20 “A vision for the teaching profession report” April 2010), we would argue that these have only been partially addressed.  We can only wonder if the exclusion of early childhood education is part of an ideological shift to ‘de-professionalise’ this part of the sector.

It is unfortunate that the working group appears not to have examined research such as that carried about by the New Zealand Teachers’ Council into initial teacher education.  Researchers undertaking projects on behalf of the Council have clearly identified issues facing initial teacher education, including Māori medium and early childhood education.  This body of research provides a very useful starting point for an analysis of the state of the teaching profession in this country.  It also suggests further research that could be undertaken, and the kinds of dialogue that need to occur in the sector to ensure that children are provided with the very best learning opportunities, provided by high-quality teaching professionals, and supported by a cohesive and highly-functioning teacher education system.

Initial teacher education and induction

1.        Provide comment on the proposals for initial teacher education/induction

Moving toward initial teacher education being provided only at postgraduate level (so that entry into teaching is dependent on holding a postgraduate qualification).

We have a number of concerns with this proposal.  Firstly we are not convinced that a post-graduate programme will provide sufficient time to develop the required knowledge and expertise in curriculum and pedagogy while also developing teaching practice and skills.  This is likely to particularly be an issue for those studying for entry into primary teaching, where knowledge of the whole curriculum is required.  Postgraduate study is generally characterized by an emphasis on high-level skills in critical analysis; our concern is that the need to have a solid practice-base for entry into the teaching profession may not be adequately addressed with the proposed model.

Secondly requiring an additional period of intensive study during provisional registration will put substantial pressure on the beginning teacher, as well as placing resource demands on the school (because presumably the teacher will require substantial periods of study time in order to complete the qualification).

Our other concerns centre around the extent of the changes proposed, and the impact this is likely to have on the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.  Current funding for teacher education would be inadequate to meet the changes recommended, and the Minister for Tertiary Education has made it very clear that there will be no additional funding for the tertiary sector in the foreseeable future.  The recommendations to shift teacher education to post-graduate level (which presumably would mean the eventual cessation of undergraduate programmes) would require course re-writes, new accreditation, and upgrading of qualifications for some teacher educators so they can teach on the higher-level programmes.  How is it proposed that these would be funded?

Any system should carefully assess its effectiveness, and plan for the necessary improvements to ensure it is meeting (and exceeding) outcomes.  In this case however, rather than making wholesale changes to the structure of teacher education qualifications, attention could be focused on specific areas of the pathway to becoming a teaching professional within the current system.  These could include refining the selection process for undergraduate programmes, improved support for new graduates, better opportunities for study time and professional development for teachers and teacher educators (to support classroom teaching and to contribute to research outcomes) and improving the support for principals as educational leaders in schools.

If these areas can be focused on first, then a further evaluation of whether the recommendation to shift teaching qualifications to the post-graduate level is necessary or viable in the New Zealand context could be made.  We are not convinced at this stage that this is necessarily the solution to improving educational outcomes for children in New Zealand schools.

Addressing the balance between the number of teachers being trained and the number of appropriate placements available for trainee and beginning teachers.

The McKinsey Report cited in this report provides an interesting analysis of the impact of tightly managing entry into the teaching profession, in order to maintain it’s status as a preferred profession, and to ensure that a high caliber of applicants is received.  This system has merit (bearing in mind our comments in the previous section about teacher education as a post-graduate qualification), and could benefit the New Zealand education system.  It would be dependent however – amongst other things – on some assurance of employment for new graduates into the profession, assuming of course that the student teacher maintains the standards of academic quality and professional conduct required by the profession throughout their initial teacher education programme.

Such a model for entry into the profession would also need to be structured to ensure that the criteria used for selection takes a holistic view of each candidate, and does not focus solely on academic merit.  This would ensure that potential new teachers reflect the diversity of our society and the holistic philosophies underpinning our education system and curriculum.  The models outlined in the McKinsey report emphasise academic merit almost to the exclusion of other important factors.  Whilst we support the need for high levels of academic aptitude for potential candidates to the profession, we also see the value of such individuals bringing a broad range of other experiences to their studies as a teacher.

Ensuring that trainee teachers are accepted into initial teacher education programmes only after being assessed with a “disposition to teach” through a formal selection process.

Current selection processes do already require an assessment of the candidate’s suitability for teaching.  If this process needs refinement then the profession must be involved in the process of determining a standard national measure, that is able to be quantified, and that provides a range of processes that can be used to garner this information from candidates.

Strengthening the links between trainee and beginning teachers, and teacher education providers and schools, by altering the structure of ITE and provisional registration.

There may be merit in extending the period of ITE, with this stage of professional development concluding at full registration (although as we noted above, we would see this occurring within the undergraduate degree period of teacher education).  However what is not clear is how the relationship between provider/s and schools or centres would be managed, especially given that a school or centre may need to work with several providers at any one time.

There are likely to be a myriad of complexities around ITE delivery and completion of the ITE qualification which would need to be further explored and clarified, such as who has overall responsibility for the overseeing of the completion of the qualification, its assessment, support of the student teacher etc.

We are supportive of the concept of ensuring that associate teachers have the opportunity to engage in professional development to support their role as mentors of student teachers and new graduates.  However this must be fully supported by workload allocations that allow time for professional development and relief staffing to cover the teacher’s absence.  We agree that such professional development should be required of associate teachers who will be working with student teachers and new graduates.

2.        Identify any other proposals you think should be considered:

If teacher education does move to becoming a post-graduate qualification, then the undergraduate degree must have an education focus to it as well as broad subject knowledge (for those planning on teaching at a secondary level, this would need to be in addition to specific subject knowledge).  Aside from the obvious consideration that potential candidates should be able to show interest in and knowledge of education systems and theories, the current requirements for entry into Masters and Doctorate-level study requires this.

The proposals seem to ignore the extensive research carried out by the New Zealand Teachers Council into induction and mentoring.  The Council has undertaken extensive consultation and research about ITE.  This work should be used as part of the discussions on reviewing the system as it represents the voice of practitioners and the sector.

3.        Identify any other implications you think should be considered:

Perceptions that provisionally registered teachers are not ‘real’ teachers  (whether or not system changes see teacher education moving to a post-graduate qualification or not) could have a very negative impact, unless this is strongly counter-balanced by a process that emphasises the high status of teaching as a profession, and the high caliber of those studying to enter the profession.

As we noted earlier in our submission, these proposals only address the school sector.  How will these changes impact on early childhood sector teachers and Māori medium teachers in the school sector?

Reward, recognition and progression

4.        Comment on proposals outlined for reward recognition and progression

Providing career development opportunities to support effective teaching and progression through the profession.

Ongoing professional development for teachers is a vital element of ensuring a high-performing education system.  However we are concerned that implied within these proposals is a move towards performance pay or similar systems that link remuneration to performance.  Performance pay systems often have as their primary (unstated) goal to be a means of limiting salary budgets, undermining collective bargaining, and indvidualising the salary-setting process.  This in our view does not contribute to the kind of collegial and collaborative system that the teaching profession needs if it is to respond effectively to the challenges facing our education system.

Of course teachers want professional development opportunities however they are often constrained in taking these up because of workload issues and difficulty obtaining relief teachers.  These issues need to be addressed, along with ensuring that school management has the skills to deal effectively with individual performance issues.  Propagating the view that performance pay systems are the solution ignores the unique features of professions such as teaching, which do not necessarily adapt well to these systems.

Creating greater flexibility for principals to use resources at their disposal, such as salary units and non contact time, to provide opportunities for teachers to up skill and to reward their increased skill and capability.

The TEU has concerns about the implications of the recommendation to have ‘flexibility’ about use of resources.  In relation to the salary unit proposal, this suggests an individualised approach to salary setting.  We believe that these kinds of practices undermine national consistency, and could lead to an increase teacher competitiveness rather than cooperation.  Such an approach also contradicts the principles which underpin the teaching of the New Zealand Curriculum which encourages and relies on collaboration and collegiality.

Setting clear standards so that effective, transparent and robust judgments of teacher capability and performance can be made.

Obviously we support quality in our education system.  However this proposal suggests that standards may be linked to pay, and therefore become a high-stake type of assessment.  Such an approach has the potential to lead to teachers focusing on ‘meeting the standards’ rather than continuously developing their knowledge and skills and sharing these with their colleagues.

5.        Identify any other proposals you think should be considered:

We note in the discussion document the issue of recognition of excellence within the profession.  We do acknowledge that rewards such as financial incentives to individuals do not necessarily mean that there is also a contribution to the sector or profession.  Consideration could be given to incorporating rewards such as study awards and sabbaticals that culminate in a lecture series or workshop presentations, where the skill and expertise of the individual teacher can be shared with colleagues.

6.        Identify any implications you think should be considered:

No comments for this section.

Leadership within schools

Provide comment on the proposals outlined for leadership within schools

Supporting educational leadership rather than administrative management.

All principals must be registered teachers – in our view this is a prerequisite for recognition by staff and the school community that the principal is the educational leader of the school.  Consideration also needs to be given to how the administrative duties that currently fall to principals will be managed if there is to be a re-focusing of the principal role.

Establishing compulsory training and development for aspiring and new principals and focusing more support on growing distributive leadership within schools.

We support aspiring and new principals being required to undertake training and professional development for their new roles, but such programmes must be developed in partnership with the profession.  There are currently a number of professional programmes for new principals, which should be assessed for their effectiveness, and if necessary expanded or adapted to meet current and future requirements.

Distributive leadership generally allows for the professional development of teachers and assists with managing principal workloads, as well as contributing to a higher degree of aspiration and engagement amongst staff.  However such models need to be carefully scrutinised to ensure that staff workloads are fairly distributed, and that real opportunities for career development are available to those taking on additional leadership or management roles.

Introducing secondments across schools for teachers aspiring to become principals.

Secondments could provide an opportunity for potential candidates to get insight into the principal role, as long as the roles are appropriately supported and structured to ensure individuals get maximum value form the opportunity.

Introducing a system of professional mentoring for all principals to support professional discussions/development.

We are supportive of a greater emphasis on professional mentoring for principals.  There are a number of ways that this could take place – through individual one-on-one mentoring, regional mentoring groups and so forth.

Providing flexibility for principals to support, recognise and reward teaching excellence and distributed leadership.

As we noted earlier in our submission, we are concerned that this proposal indicates a shift to performance pay and individualised salary setting.  There is also considerable risk of ‘grace and favour’ if principals are given power over remuneration or professional and career development opportunities, as this proposal seems to indicate.  Structures and criteria to recognise excellence and leadership skills should be developed through the professional body for teachers, the New Zealand Teachers’ Council, who have recognised systems for consulting with the profession before establishing new systems and policies.

8.        Identify any other proposals you think should be considered

Expanding the role of school administrative staff, and remunerating these individuals accordingly would assist in supporting the shift in focus for principals suggested in the discussion document.

9.        Identify any other implications you think should be considered

In regards to teachers the national consistency for career pathways that has been established would be threatened if schools take over the responsibility of decision-making about units.

There are as we mentioned previously, resourcing implications for many of the proposals – especially those dealing with professional development – that must be addressed if any new approaches are to succeed.

Principals are interested in developing their roles as professional mentors, but need the resources to support this role.  It is unclear how principal mentors will be selected, supported, and recognised industrially and professionally.

Leadership of the profession

Provide comment on the proposals relating to leadership of the profession

(The report proposals differ from discussion document proposals, therefore we have included our response to these also)

Refocusing the role of NZTC with responsibility for setting clear requirements for:

Entry to the profession

Entry into the profession is part of the Council’s current role, and in fact is an area of current consultation as well as one where considerable research has been undertaken.

Ongoing registration requirements, including continuing professional development within the profession

Teachers support professional development as a registration requirement.  However if there is to be an increased requirement for registration, then there needs to be consultation with the profession to determine what type of professional development, how participation will be measured, how it will be resourced, and how equity of access will be ensured

Ethical accountability of teachers and discipline

Currently the New Zealand Teachers’ Council has a comprehensive policy “The Code of Ethics” to which registered teachers must commit.  The Code of Ethics has been used in disciplinary situations for individual teachers, and is well-recognised and understood by the profession to be the regulatory document for teaching professional standards.  As such we see no merit in the argument for further formalising the code.  The widespread acceptance of the code is in our view a result of the extensive consultation undertaken by the Council with the profession.  During this consultation, the sector opposed the code being ‘measured’, the reasons for this being that it would rely too heavily on subjective measures.  The New Zealand Teachers’ Council policy “Good Character…” provides a further level of accountability that teachers support and adhere to.

Promotion and development of the professional community of teachers (pg 17 of the report)

This is one of the current roles of the Teachers Council, which it is continuing to develop.

Other comments on this section

We are somewhat confused by a number of the proposals in this section of the discussion document and the commentary contained in the report.  The Advisory Group appears to have an incomplete understanding of the current role of the New Zealand Teachers’ Council, which in our view has influenced their recommendations.  The Council already has as its legislated purpose ‘to provide professional leadership in teaching’ and for the three areas identified here.  The report seems to suggest that roles such as setting standards for entry into the profession, professional development and ethical accountability of teachers as professionals are currently not part of the Council’s role.

Developing greater awareness of the Council’s responsibilities in regards to these roles is supported.  However, it must be clear that the leadership in each school lies with the principal as the professional leader in that context.

In our view the Council’s role would be greatly enhanced if it became an independent body and was no longer a Crown entity.  This would ensure that it is able to represent the profession without limitations that may be imposed from government.

The report proposes the Council be refocused through leadership but not representation and in fact implies that the Council is in some way ‘held to ransom’ by representatives from teacher unions.  We reject this assertion, particularly as there is no evidence-base for it.  Additionally those unions that are represented on the Council are also professional associations who contribute from the broad perspective of their diverse membership.  To effectively represent and investigate issues for the teaching profession the Council needs to show that it reflects the diverse voices of the profession.  If anything, the representation on the Council should be broadened to include key groups such as early childhood educators, teacher educators, and secondary principals.

To our knowledge, our members have no confusion about the distinction in roles between the New Zealand Teachers’ Council and unions.  To date unions have had a very productive and professional relationship with the Council, which we believe has been beneficial in addressing professional issues for the sector.

11.      Identify any other proposals you think should be considered:

No comments in this section.

12.      Identify any other implications you think should be considered:

The Education Act at present grants autonomy to universities to manage their operation, academic programmes etc (as part of ensuring academic freedom).  This legislated concept of autonomy has been used by some universities to challenge the professional standards for teaching that have been developed by the NZ Teachers’ Council.  How does government propose to address this issue, particularly if a more ‘nationalised’ approach to entry into initial teacher education is implemented?

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