TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (10:46): Can I begin by thanking the very many teachers that we have in this great state for their ongoing professionalism and indeed their leadership not just in terms of the school community but in the communities in which they live. And can I also call out the fact that even after leaving the service so many teachers continue to make a significant contribution in their communities, and well into their retirement. When I go around my electorate, which is Western Victoria, many of the community organisations in various settings are often led by them, and indeed retired teachers are at the forefront of teaching community capacity building. I think once you are a teacher, you are always a teacher, and I think all of us benefit from that.
Just turning to the bill that is before us today, can I thank those who have contributed to the debate. I will attempt to try and deal with a number of the questions that have been raised, but it is heartening to see that in the Assembly in particular there was strong support for this bill. And indeed there has been an indication by most here that there is support for this bill in the Council.
As we know, this bill is to establish the Victorian Academy for Teaching and Leadership as an independent statutory entity in the education portfolio. The academy will be dedicated to delivering teaching and school leadership excellence and raising the calibre and the status of the profession through the design and the delivery of high-quality professional learning. Victorian teachers and school leaders access a large amount of professional learning, predominantly from market providers. However, in the 2019 Victorian Auditor-General’s Office report they found little evidence about the quality of these programs. Further, professional learning opportunities of the kind the academy will design and deliver—that is, elite-level professional learning for our most exceptional teachers—are very limited outside of lengthy university postgraduate courses.
This bill will improve the quality of professional learning programs accessed by Victorian teachers and school leaders through the direct provision of high-quality professional learning programs for teachers and school leaders, including the teaching excellence program; monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness and the impact of the academy’s professional learning programs on teaching practices and student outcomes; and publication of guidance to enable providers to develop high-quality offerings and schools to select high-quality professional learning. This investment in Victoria’s exceptional teachers and emerging school leaders will also expand the high-calibre pool of new principals, which will also be vital to address the principal supply issues and ensure new principals bring to their new role the expertise necessary to achieve school improvement.
The academy will provide impartial, expert advice to the Minister for Education; partner with organisations, professional associations and others to optimise the impact of teaching practice on student outcomes; and evaluate the impact of its own programs on teacher practice and student outcomes. The academy will be governed by an independent seven-member board with both advisory and decision-making responsibility, supported by a CEO employed by the secretary of the Department of Education and Training under the Public Administration Act 2004. The board will be directly accountable to the minister for the academy’s performance and its functions, and it is intended that the bill will commence on or before 1 January 2022.
A number of members have sought further information on how the government will know if the academy is having a positive impact on the quality of teaching and in turn is contributing to improved student outcomes. I can confirm that monitoring and evaluation of its professional learning programs and their impacts on teacher practice and student outcomes is a legislated function of the academy, the outcomes of which will be published, for instance, in the academy’s annual report.
Given the academy’s expanded remit for all school sectors, monitoring and evaluation will seek to understand differential impacts for different schools to ensure programs are responsive to the diverse needs of the profession and local school communities. The academy’s monitoring and evaluation functions will strengthen the evidence base about what works to improve the quality of educational leadership and teaching in every Victorian school and inform expert advice to the Minister for Education and the department.
Some members have also sought information on the specific focus of the teaching excellence program, the academy’s flagship professional learning program. I can share the following with you. This excellence program will enable 500 of our most exceptional teachers from all school sectors to deepen their knowledge and practice in their chosen discipline specialisation through access to contemporary research and best practice—that is, for example, exceptional English teachers deepening their expertise in the teaching and learning of English.
The program will enable participants to develop their teaching expertise in one of the discipline areas of the Victorian curriculum, including English, mathematics, science, technologies, languages, the humanities, the arts and health and physical education. The program will be delivered via a range of approaches, including masterclasses and collaborative learning communities. A strength of the government’s program is its practice-based, classroom-focused approach, which includes working with peers to use data to identify problems of practice in classroom contexts and trialling, modelling and evaluating the impact of different pedagogical and instructional approaches to better meet student needs.
Several members also sought further information on how the academy will ensure diversity of participants in the teaching excellence program and the academy more generally. I can confirm the following: for the teaching excellence program a panel will be convened, comprising of government and non-government school sector representatives to ensure that participants are drawn from all sectors. Consideration will also be given to participants from a diverse range of educational settings and local communities. This will ensure that the program is responsive to the diverse needs and informed by the diverse expertise and experiences of the entire teaching profession.
The board of the academy will comprise two members of the non-government school sector, each nominated by the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria and Independent Schools Victoria. This will ensure that the academy’s strategic directions, including resourcing and funding decisions and program design and delivery, meet the needs of the entire teaching profession for all Victorian schools. The bill also empowers the board to establish subcommittees, to which educational experts and a broader, more diverse range of community representatives may be appointed. This will ensure the academy can meaningfully engage specific educational or community knowledge and expertise beyond the academy’s seven-member board to support it to perform its functions.
Further to this, a legislative function of the academy is to work collaboratively with a diverse range of partners, including schools and professional and community organisations to identify the needs of the teaching profession and support the design and the delivery of the academy’s programs. This will ensure that the academy’s functions are responsive to the diverse needs of the profession and the local communities in which they serve.
There are a couple of other things that I also want to raise. One is in relation to a comment that Ms Lovell made, and that is that the current Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership—and I think it was reflected by Ms Maxwell—is a division of the department. Together with the school leadership programs it delivers it will be transferred to the academy upon its establishment as a statutory entity on 1 January 2022. The academy will include current, expanded and new programs. In recognition of the esteem in which the Bastow Institute is held, the Bastow brand will continue to be used in relation to its leadership programs for aspiring, emerging and current school leaders, but they will now be delivered by the academy.
Dr Bach raised some issues about evaluation in particular. Evidence of best teaching practice will be paramount in the workings of the academy. This will ensure that programs delivered by the academy reflect current practice. Evaluation will draw on multiple sets of data sources, Dr Bach, including the Programme for International Student Assessment and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, so they will not be excluded at all, which is the suggestion that you made in your contribution. A robust evidence base is integral in keeping our teachers and leaders at the forefront of education nationally and internationally.
It is also important to indicate to the member that in response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System the Minister for Education requested that wellbeing and learning be placed at the centre of the framework for improving student outcomes and that increased wellbeing be reflected throughout the broader framework, which will enable schools to focus on what matters most to improve every student’s learning and wellbeing outcomes. This government does recognise the pastoral care and needs of students as well as the content and the skill of the delivery of what is required by students.
I also want to refute a number of other points. Firstly, Victorian year 3 students were at the top of the class in reading, numeracy, grammar and punctuation in the recent results. Year 5s led the nation in reading, numeracy, writing, grammar and punctuation. Year 7 students improved reading, writing and spelling compared to 2019, and year 9s topped the nation in spelling. So I call out the efforts of Victorian students in developing further skills that will hold them in good stead into the future, and I also of course call out the professionalism, the excellence, the leadership and the quality of the teachers that we have here in Victoria. We are very proud of the contributions that they make, and we look forward, with this bill’s passage, to there being further excellence and greater quality embedded in our education system here in Victoria. I commend the bill to the house.
Motion agreed to.
Read second time.