Maybe you’ve done blocks of teaching at different schools and been fobbed off when you mention the ‘a’ word. Schools are happy to schedule you for work, but you’re on your own when need an accreditation supervisor.
I’m in New South Wales and have taught a couple of days a week at a remote school for more than two terms, where the principal was counting down the days to retirement. No luck there for me in securing the crucial ‘yes’.
Next, was a small country school where I was offered regular work two-to-three days a week.
“Can you help me become accredited?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s a lot of work and I haven’t done it for years,” the principal said. “The other two teachers here have done it recently, they can tell you about it.”
That wasn’t the answer I needed. Swags of teachers are willing to help, but not supervise and sign. That’s the crucial difference.
A teacher friend of mine had managed to get a school to supervise, but had to write the Proficient Teacher Accreditation Report herself – which her supervisor should have done.
The newbie teacher also had to collect and annotate evidence for that report – that was her role. Then came a term wait until the principal, who’d taken leave, was available to sign it.
When I wrote about the issue on a casual teachers’ Facebook page, many responded with similar gripes.
One teacher said she’d managed to get her report together two weeks before the deadline. Bottom line is she had to ensure her principal was satisfied she’d met all the Proficient Teacher Standards.
But when I canvassed wider, seeking comments from accrediting bodies, principal representative organisations and the union, there’s no consensus about this issue, but it does seem to feature more in NSW than other states.
The NSW Educational Standards Authority (NESA), which accredits provisional teachers in that state, “understands the challenges casual and part-time teachers may face in working towards accreditation”, a NESA spokesman says.
“This is why these teachers are allocated additional time and flexibility to meet Proficient Teacher Accreditation requirements.”
NESA supports such teachers through its online information, including an evidence guide and program of online and face-to-face information sessions. As a guide, it says 160-180 days of teaching is needed, but a “component of casual and part-time teachers should include a continuous period of six to 10 weeks within a single school to assist in [making] the accreditation decision.
If the continuous teaching is part-time, a longer continuous period may be needed. There is no limit on the number of schools you can work in nor how many days in each school.
Hooking into a school’s professional development program, even offering to volunteer your time can help itinerant casuals get support for accreditation supervision, Dennis Yarrington, President of the Australian Primary School Principals’ Association explains.
“It’s another way of getting known and accessing professional learning opportunities,” he says.
Meanwhile, President of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Association, Chris Presland, says accreditation supervision would involve many hours of work for the head teacher through lesson observation and discussion, whereas the principal may only need an hour to check through the documentation and sign it.
“There’s no additional incentive or resource for schools to do it,” he says.
“I certainly know we’re all aware of this challenge and the NSW Teachers’ Federation is certainly working quite constructively with the [education] department and NESA in particular to come up with some workable solution.”
Maurie Mulheron, President of the NSW Teachers’ Federation, also weighs into the issue saying teachers and principals with experience “should provide important guidance to new teachers just starting out.
“The [NSW] Department of Education needs to ensure that all schools have the resources to be able to support all beginning teachers, including casual teachers, through the accreditation process,” he says.
So while it sounds like a NSW issue, it may be time to look at a national teacher accreditation body, says Rob Nairn, Executive Director of the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association.
“We have a transient workforce of people who move between states and territories. The lack of consistency in accreditation is an issue.”
I’m about to tackle another block in Term 4, and fingers crossed it sets me on the right path before my accreditation deadline of August 2019.