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Running an open book puts paid to suspicion

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In NSW all teachers (as defined in the Teacher Accreditation Act 2004) are required to be accredited at Conditional, Provisional or Proficient teacher level. This is compulsory, and with the pre 2004 cohort of teachers accredited from 1 January this year, there are over 160,000 such teachers in the state.

There are also other higher levels of accreditation, namely Highly Accomplished Teacher (HAT) and Lead Teacher. These levels are voluntary and there is no requirement on any teacher to pursue or attain them. Since they were introduced in 2010 they have attracted very little interest and only about 150 have attained the HAT status and about half that conquered the Lead Teacher classification.

There are likely numerous reasons why the take up rate has been so low, general disinterest within the profession, the work load involved in demonstrating practice at these levels, lack of transparency regarding the benchmark for success, decision making by TAAs (often the employer), not by an single independent body committed to consistency and the lack of financial reward and the cost of the submission fee ($605 for HAT and $715 for Lead).

The minimal participation rate and the depressed success ratio is a source of embarrassment for those responsible for promoting the higher levels and in recognition of some of the administrative issues NESA commissioned research into the process and sought recommendations to improve the transparency and consistency of the assessment procedure.

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Adopting the recommendations, particularly the proposals to introduce an assessment panel and provide ongoing feedback to applicants, will likely address the transparency of decision making, however it will also increase the overheads of these assessments. No explanation of how the current submission fees were determined is available, but NESA suggests the real costs would be double the current fee, and that assessing these voluntary levels of accreditation should be subsidised by the compulsory fees we all pay.

There has been no consultation with the teaching profession on this matter and to date no proposal by NESA to initiate such a discussion. My view is that teachers in NSW already feel short changed by the obligatory fee and are not of a mind to bankroll the aspirations of those who seek accreditation at levels not required by legislation. But more importantly I believe that teachers should be asked what they think.

This is not an attack on higher levels of accreditation, not an argument against them or whether they add value to the quality of teaching and learning. Those things can be determined when and if evidence is produced. My position is simply that those who are taxed should have a say in how those taxes are used.

For the privilege of being accredited each teacher pays a $100 pa fee to NESA providing it with a war chest of some $16m. To date NESA has been suspiciously secretive about how these fees are spent, how the budget is determined and who sets the spending priorities. There has been no transparency and precious little specific information provided.

While NESA is smarting from their dysfunctional eTAMS platform debacle, they would do well to curry some favour from the teaching service with some honest answers to these questions and some discussion with teachers about spending priorities.

The following resolution was passed at IEU Council on 25 August: “That Council is opposed to the use of compulsory accreditation fees being used to subsidise the assessment costs for voluntary levels of accreditation in NSW and requests that this matter be raised with the general membership and their opinion sought. Further, that NESA be advised of the position of Council in regard to the matter. Council calls on the Executive to monitor this issue and report back to the AGM.”