There are two pieces of work that need to come together but one seems very coy and has yet to poke its nose out of the burrow.
The Report of the Review of the New Zealand Teachers Council is seemingly either flawed or proposes radical changes for it to be taking the time it is, to be out in the open and therefore open to wide discussion.
This should happen before the legislation for Charter Schools (Partnership Schools Kura Houora) returns to the House. The review could have in it the solution to a key characteristic of the Education Act Amendment Bill that establishes the Partnership Schools Model – the capacity to engage a wider skill set of teaching competencies in bringing increased pathways into the programme.
This clause that has resulted in some hysteria about the likelihood that such Partnership Schools might engage “unregistered teachers”. But they are “unregistered” only in the sense that they could not be registered under the old closed shop definitions of the rules that the Teachers Council worked under.
Not only did you have to be a fit and proper person to teach (no police record, previous issues etc) but you had to have a university degree (or face financial punishment) and have undergone a specific teachers college programme (or be paid the education minimum wage). Furthermore, there were sector specific variations on the theme which seem more to relate to the pipeline created towards different professional organisations.
Did such a system work? No, it did not.
The number of teachers who are terminated due to unprofessional conduct are relatively few, a tiny proportion. But many of them are registered teachers. A system or registration is no absolute guarantee that the perverted will be kept out of the schools. Nor is dishonesty driven from the schools by it. The best that can be hoped for is that a rigorous process will work with zero tolerance and be effective in both detection and punishment.
Will the review of the NZ Teachers council address this? It would be good to know so that those issues can be taken out of the Charter Schools (Partnership Schools Kura Houora) discussion as they would be no more relevant to that category of school than they are to all schools.
That leaves the issue of the relevant set of qualifications required for the teachers to impart knowledge and lead novice learners at all levels to a point where their skills are secure and they see a future in which their pathways are clear, for which they are well-prepared and in which they will have appropriately qualified teachers with the requisite and up-to-date skills.
There needs to be a distinction between a person’s being fit and proper to teach and the instructional skill sets that they have. The conventional approach to the registration of teachers has restricted the category of “registered teacher” to a person with a relatively narrow range of experience and skill. A Partnership School that intends to tackle the wider issues of student achievement will need to have access to a wider set of skills than those of the conventional teaching force. Whether the extent of this can be captured in a “number” or “percentage” of the teaching positions is a moot point.
Clearly that is not the case at present. Too many students are not getting the basic skills of language and mathematics, too many students have no clear idea of a pathways, and too many students are ill-prepared.
Now getting into what has been called duelling with statistics is pointless. The effectiveness of the current registration processes cannot be said to be robust simply because “only a few” teachers are ratbags. Similarly, current school programmes cannot be said to be effective simply because “only a few” students fail (actually this is far from the truth, “quite a few” fail).
Unless we resolutely continue to ignore the evidence and continue to work in the same old way and only with teachers with the same skill sets, the results will continue to disappoint.
If we are to have in the school teachers who bring different backgrounds, work and industry experience and practical skills coupled with a flair for sharing them, the pathways into teaching will need to become much more accepting of different qualifications and of what constitutes “training” for the job.
Undertaking a programme in a college of education in a university will always be one way to move into teaching. But it can never be more than one way when the entry criteria to such courses exclude students without a degree from the same kinds of institution. And who presents themselves at the gate is the result of a myriad of checks and hurdles. Large portions of the population are excluded from the prospect of being a teacher let alone the actual chance to become one.
If New Zealand is to take note of successful education systems in other countries, it will need to recognise that getting the right people into teaching and getting the students into the right courses is paramount.
Perhaps the Review of the NZ Teachers Council will set us off in a good direction. But while the report is not released we still do not know.