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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Victorian Institute of Teaching completes its first year of operation

Wendy Bradly
Group Manager, Communications & Research, Victorian Institute of Teaching

In January 2004, Roy Morgan Research released the findings of a survey which placed teachers fourth on the list of professions rated as having high or very high standards of ethics and honesty. The first three professions were nurses, pharmacists and medical doctors. Ranked below teachers were judges, dentists, engineers, police and university lecturers.

The challenge for the teaching profession is to ensure the community respects teachers' professional expertise and specialised knowledge in the same way it respects their ethical standards. The Victorian Institute of Teaching may be expected to play a central role in this regard.

The Victorian Institute of Teaching is an independent, professional body for the teaching profession. It is a statutory authority operating along similar lines to other professional bodies, such as the Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria, the Legal Practice Board and the Nurses Board of Victoria. The Victorian Institute of Teaching Act 2001, proclaimed on 31 December 2002, established the Institute as a separate authority with its own business and reporting responsibilities.

The Institute is governed by a twenty member Council, the majority of whom are practising teachers. Teachers working in government, Catholic and independent schools are represented on the Council. Teachers and principals together elect eight teachers and two principals to the Council

As with other professions occupying positions of trust and responsibility, teachers are now required to be registered in order to practise. The Institute is the body responsible for implementing and maintaining a register of teachers working in Victorian government, independent and Catholic schools.

The work of establishing a register of teachers has been a primary focus for the Institute, and a major accomplishment, given that prior to this point there has never been a comprehensive register of Victorian teachers. By the end of 2003, over 90,000 teachers were registered to teach in Victorian schools. The Institute assessed more than 10,000 applications for registration, covering new graduates, experienced teachers and teachers from interstate and overseas.

The Institute is also commissioned to

  • accredit pre-service teacher education courses to ensure teachers are prepared for teaching according to guidelines issued by the Institute; so far seven courses have been assessed and approved
  • develop standards for full registration that provisionally registered teachers must meet on completion of their first year of teaching
  • confirm that each provisionally registered teacher has met the required standards for full registration
  • support the professional development needs of teachers to ensure they maintain high standards of professional practice throughout their teaching career
  • investigate instances of serious misconduct or incompetence against a teacher, ascertaining their continued fitness to practise and, where appropriate, impose sanctions, including deregistration.
The achievements of the Institute's Council and its secretariat, in its short history, have been substantial. Two State-wide consultative teachers' forums have been held in over 40 locations across Victoria. The Institute's Standards and Professional Learning Project has involved graduate teachers, experienced teachers and principals in a year-long program to develop more effective induction and mentoring practice. More than 6,000 teachers and key stakeholders contributed to the development of the standards for full registration, subsequently approved by the Minister for Education and Training, Lynne Kosky, MP, in November 2003.

The Institute's remit includes promoting the profession of teaching in Victoria. The major promotional activity in 2003 was the celebration of World Teachers' Day on 31 October, with colour features in The Age, the Herald Sun, and regional and multicultural newspapers. The advertisements achieved excellent coverage for the teaching profession, with messages of support from high profile Australians and community leaders affirming the contribution that teachers had made to their lives and to society. This year, the Institute expects to celebrate the day at a national level, with the support and involvement of interstate teacher registration and accreditation authorities.

In 2004, the Institute is continuing its programs for the support of new graduates and the experienced teachers who mentor them. Forums for new teachers are to be held in 30 regional and metropolitan locations, starting in Term 2. A two day mentor training program has already begun in cooperation with the Department of Education & Training and the Catholic Education Office, and with the support of the Association of Independent Schools of Victoria.

The publication and dissemination of professional standards of teaching practice through school councils and parent organisations provide the community with an authoritative, transparent and objective source of information about the elements of good teaching practice. This inspires community confidence in the professionalism of teachers, and contributes to raising their status.

Teachers may be assured that their colleagues on the Council of the Victorian Institute of Teaching will continue to find opportunities to promote the complex and highly specialised nature of teachers' work to the broader community.

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Subject Headings

Education and state
Education policy
Professional development
School principals
Teacher evaluation
Teacher training
Teachers' employment
Teaching and learning
Teaching profession