Collegial approach takes headache out of accreditation process

In house PD incorporated into the daily routine is a great idea.

All schools would do well to take a leaf out of the Clancy Catholic College approach to maintenance of accreditation, IEU Rep Adam Scicluna said.

Rep at the western Sydney school for four years, Adam said the school’s collegial approach to tackling the accreditation challenge was welcomed by staff.

The school volunteered to be part of a pilot program run by the Sydney Catholic Schools office called Collaborative Experts in Schools.

The school schedules a program of PD at the beginning of the year that will make a huge contribution to meeting its teachers’ needs for 20 hours of registered activity throughout the year.

This PD is part of the day to day activities of the school, rather than an ‘add on’.

Moreover, the school assists teachers aiming for Highly Accomplished or Lead Teacher accreditation, by allowing them to present some of the PD. It is therefore a win win situation. The implementation of the PD by proficient teachers becomes the evidence for the accreditation of the HAT and Lead Teachers.

“By scheduling the year in advance, the college is able to go and get everything recognised as registered professional development.” Adam said.

“The school’s annual improvement plan is done with an eye on standards.”

From an industrial perspective, this move has been a relief to teachers, who no longer feel burdened by seeking out hours in their own time and at their own expense.

Adam has collaborated in the development of this plan by making sure the meeting times fit in with the 10 hours per term allocated under the award.

“I keep a close eye on what constitutes a meeting and what is professional custom and practice. The pilot makes practical use of meetings.

“For example, a literacy day for staff was registered. Two teachers seeking Highly Accomplished status who had done some external PD also presented it.

“Meetings become not just another KLA meeting but something teachers can use to add to their hours. Sixty per cent of the meeting time at the school is allocated as PD people can use for accreditation.

“ I think all schools need to think in this collegiate fashion.

“Many teachers, especially in rural schools, struggle to fulfil their allotted hours, so in house PD incorporated into the daily routine is a great idea.”

Adam said the new enterprise agreement currently being negotiated by the IEU must include clear definitions of what constitutes an official meeting as part of the 10 hours under the award.

Triple win situation

Champagnat Catholic College in Pagewood has also developed a model which recognises and accredits work that teachers are already undertaking to improve student outcomes as a part of their professional practice.

Principal Michael Blake said their model builds on the strong professional learning culture that exists at the college.

“Professional learning opportunities are embedded into existing meeting structures and day to day routines,” Michael said.

IEU Rep Adrian Di Qual said staff worked closely with their subject coordinators and the executive to develop a sustainable model that builds the professional practice of teachers as they work towards and maintain their accreditation.

“By using existing school structures the real dangers of teacher burnout are minimised,” Adrian said.

Michael said was proud of the way the whole teaching staff had worked together to identify the challenges faced by staff around accreditation workload and “together designed a professional learning framework that built capacity for staff in an understanding and supportive manner”.

“The key elements of the framework include the removal of administration from meetings to ensure that they were built on collegial dialogue focused on student outcomes” he said.

“Staff have the flexibility to design their own learning plan based on where they are on their teaching journey. The accreditation of all school based professional learning is QTC registered with NESA rather than teacher identified.”

Adrian praised the work of the college executive in getting school activities board accredited so that attendance and engagement at existing meetings now contributes to 26 hours of accredited PD hours a year.

“Over a five year cycle every one of the AITSL standards will be covered. The college provides opportunities for teachers to achieve the requirements to maintain their accreditation in a time efficient manner.

“Teachers have two annual goals, one set for the school in their KLAs, and their own self directed goal for which they get a meeting a fortnight where they can be part of a team of other teachers working towards the two specific goals.

“The model is based on the Performance Growth in Action (PGiA) process introduced through Sydney Catholic Schools.

“This recognises that one off professional learning days have limited impact unless there is significant time for professional dialogue with colleagues and for building new skills into professional practice.

“Accreditation then becomes a process for how this is recorded and staff are given time to do this within existing structures.”

Michael said the process allows staff to “measure the impact of their professional learning in relation to improved student outcomes and critically reflect on how to further strengthen their professional practice within a cycle of continuous improvement”.

“High quality, relevant professional development is provided that address school wide, faculty based and individual needs both within the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and in regard to other identified goals within the school improvement plan.

“The model also enables staff to gather evidence towards the voluntary levels of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher by supporting their colleagues in a mentoring role.”

Adrian, who recently attended the IEU’s Activist Conference, said the model fitted with the IEU’s agenda of reducing workload and costs for teachers.

“Most teachers at Champagnat College already have 36 hours of accredited PD recorded with NESA over the last 18 months, all completed on site at school, so no time is lost travelling across Sydney. The accredited PD courses at school are more cost effective and provide a better focus on the needs of our school community.

“It is a triple win, for the needs of the teachers, the school and most importantly the students. It’s a really good sustainable model, working smarter not harder.”