Experienced teachers face skills tests

MORE than half the state's public school teachers may become subject to the same rigorous standards and testing used to assess and train new teachers, under NSW government proposals to improve teacher quality.

Teachers who entered the profession before 2004 have been allowed to progress through the salary scales based on tenure, with no requirement for them to demonstrate any improvement or upkeep of their professional skills.

Introducing an education discussion paper yesterday, the NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, said: ''Moving the teaching workforce not already part of the new scheme onto that scheme should be considered as a part of this process.''

The provocative paper suggests that because many senior teachers mentor and train new teachers, they should be made to undergo the same level of accreditation and ongoing training as those they supervise.

''Just as we want our students to be lifelong learners, the same applies to teachers,'' the paper, Great Teaching, Inspired Learning, says. ''As in every profession, not every individual is able to sustain the quality and commitment necessary over time to remain in the profession.

''We need to find ways we can better support these teachers and still ensure every child is inspired by great teaching.''

Unlike those before them, all teachers accredited after October 2004 are required to undertake 100 hours of professional learning and must have their accreditation with the NSW Institute of Teachers renewed every five years.

The discussion paper says there are few financial or career rewards for teachers who undergo training at the highest levels.

''If we want more teachers obtaining higher levels of accreditation, we have to provide better professional and financial incentives for them to do so,'' it says.

In NSW, 60 per cent of teachers in government schools are at the top of the teaching pay scale, most of whom have not been accredited.

The state government's new Local Schools, Local Decisions policy will link salary progression to professional standards.

More than one in five people studying to become teachers this year had university entry scores of below 60.

The vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, Greg Craven, said a debate about the quality of teachers is welcome but should not get bogged down by the entry scores to get into bachelor's courses.

Entry to a bachelor of primary education at the university varies from 59.45 for the Canberra campus to 74.05 for the Sydney campus.

''ATARs (Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks) are statistically notoriously unreliable the moment you go under 90,'' Professor Craven said.

''It's very convenient to universities and to anybody who wants a nice easy way of assigning a number to a student but its accuracy … is weak and everybody knows that.''

The dean of education at the University of Canberra, Geoffrey Riordan, said he supported Mr Piccoli's concerns about entry levels and said one method he championed was to move to a graduate model.

Greater incentives through better salaries and providing postgraduate professional development was also key to attracting high-quality students of teaching.

''The salaries for graduate teachers are comparatively high; the problem is seven or eight years into teaching,'' he said.

The story Experienced teachers face skills tests first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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