The New Zealand Teachers Council is undergoing a review at the moment and the proposals are up for consultation. You can find all the review documents here.
The initial read of the glossy proposals seems nice enough. There is a major catch however. The more you read, the scarier it looks. I thoroughly recommend that you take the time to read the details hidden within the larger cabinet paper as this is where you will find some of the bits that worried me.
Whilst writing my submission I was lucky enough to get the chance to read some other submissions (ranging from 1 page to 11 pages), all of which had great thoughts in them. Even if you only write a short submission, I urge as many of you as possible to make a submission.
In the interests of collaboration, here is my submission in full which was sent in today:
I am a Secondary School teacher in my 11th year of teaching, all of which have been in New Zealand Secondary Schools. I am also a proud past recipient of the Teachers Council sponsored Linking Minds Award for emerging leaders.
I see this review as a large shift in how New Zealand teachers are governed rather than a minor evolution. The review documents include promising language about strengthening the education profession, developing leadership, ownership by teachers and establishing a research focus. There are, however, details within the documents that I found particularly disturbing.
In Minister Parata’s recent speech in Chile she said:
Research has consistently shown that a teacher’s effectiveness is more important—has more impact on student achievement—than any other factor controlled by school systems.
What teachers know and do is one of the most important influences on what, and how, students learn.
And we know that high-performing education systems value their teachers, and understand the complexity of the teaching profession.
They attract high quality candidates into teaching and develop them as effective teachers; and build a career structure that rewards quality teaching.
These systems focus on professional learning and building teaching capacity so that their students do better and achieve more.
These systems also provide
o high quality initial teacher education, with mentoring that continually improves teaching practice;
o view teachers as researchers;
o and promote effective teachers, giving them greater responsibility for the ongoing improvement of teaching and learning.
Finally, they recognise that developing teaching and learning takes time, so they make provision for professional learning opportunities.
Providing high quality professional learning and development to teachers can make a very real difference to how an education system performs.
I strongly believe that some of the proposed changes to the New Zealand Teachers Council go against this high trust model being trumpeted internationally. If these proposals go ahead we will not be trusted to vote for our own representatives on the Teachers Council or to determine what our own professional development needs are.
What should be the focus and responsibilities of a body created to lead the development of the education profession?
The main focus should be exactly that – leading development of teaching practice. This should include providing modelling of what professional development is. From my perspective, I would like to see the Teachers Council provide examples of what teaching as inquiry could look like. Then they could support teachers undertaking inquiry into their own practice. Continue to provide opportunities like the Linking Minds Award which allowed teachers from across different sectors to spend time discussing educational leadership. Perhaps also extending this to include online depositories of resources, videos, forums etc. where teachers across the different sectors can discuss and extend their thoughts on professional issues. These discussions could be continued in person at an annual/bi-annual expo focusing on best practice professional development.
What needs to be included in the name of the professional body to reflect its strengthened role?
I have no strong thoughts on the naming of this group. If there is to be a change of focus onto the practice of teaching, then perhaps a change to Teaching Council could reflect this.
In what aspects should the body be accountable to the profession and on what issues should it be accountable to the Government?
If the main purpose of the group is to extend the education profession then it should be accountable to the profession on all counts. The body will have reporting accountability to the Government and should be transparent in it’s spending but the main accountability must be to the profession it represents and potentially leads.
What skills, knowledge and experience should be required on the board governing a professional body for education?
Current teaching practice is essential. Education is a dynamic affair and people who were last in a classroom 5, 10 or even 20 years ago will struggle to understand the current complexities of the environment in which we operate. There should also be an educational research knowledge base so that the body may help extend the teaching profession in this manner.
A high quality, high status professional body needs to be resourced adequately. In light of the fees required by other professional bodies, what are your thoughts on membership fees and what you might expect in return?
At the moment, I feel that I am one of a select few that has actually got my money worth out of the Teachers Council through the Linking Minds Award. Otherwise, there is very little in return for your money. If fees were to rise I would expect to see the leadership result of this. Journals of effective practice highlighting great teaching and latest educational research that will be of use to teachers. Perhaps more opportunities for members to meet and discuss these issues facilitated by the new board.
What changes should be made to the current registration and practising certificate processes? What changes should be made to the process of assessing a teacher’s competence against the Registered Teacher Criteria?
Competence and Registration need to be shifted from the tick box affair that currently occurs in most schools to more of a teaching as inquiry approach. Where teachers demonstrate their competence by undertaking research into an aspect of their practice twice a year. The evidence required for demonstrating competence would come out of their research and in this way the criteria are utilised in a useful manner. It is incredibly important that the attestation of this remains at a school level to reflect the importance of relationships and context in the complex world of education. The local understanding of the context assists the mentor to see the relevance of the evidence provided by the teacher.
What are your views on the proposal to introduce an Authority to Educate to allow for more flexibility to employ people with specialist skills alongside registered teachers?
I oppose all moves to increase the presence of unregistered teachers in our profession. We would not allow unqualified health workers to undertake medical care on our children, so why should we allow unqualified teachers to practice on them. Teaching is an art that not everyone is able to do effectively. I have known some incredibly intelligent and practical people that just did not have the ability to motivate, nurture or transfer their knowledge to others.
What other observations and recommendations would you like to make?
I oppose all moves to centralise PD funding as this goes against trusting teachers to understand their specific context and know what the professional development needs are that will assist them in aiding their students.
One of the key points of the Review was about teacher ownership of the Council but the proposals remove all agency in selecting our representatives. Small voter returns for the Teachers Council does not mean that all democratic process should be removed. There is small voter turnout in local body elections (and even national elections when compared internationally) but we still maintain the importance of a democratic system of government. Why should that be removed in this case? By having all members being Ministerial appointments there is a real danger of cronyism or corruption occurring – or at least being claimed and undermining the work of the body. Ministerial appointment will also continue the politicisation of education and could lead to professional leadership and development being implemented on an ideological basis rather than on true best practice.
Teachers are New Zealand’s 12th most trusted profession. This is not good enough and we must make improvements. But the power to do this comes from within the profession. We need to be empowered to make the changes that we, as professionals know can occur. Do not take away our ability to transform education for our students by removing our agency over our own professional development and representation.
Thank you for taking my thoughts into consideration,