Australian teacher professional standards explained

Professional Standards
Professional Standards

In Australia, accreditation and certification are relatively new to the teaching profession. While there have always been a wide range of views on what makes a great teacher, there hasn’t been a coherent framework across Australian schools. The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers were introduced to clarify what makes high quality teaching, to strengthen standards and provide consistency across the teaching profession.

Teaching in the 21st century is much more than knowledge of a particular subject. Today’s teachers must know what to do with their knowledge of learning and teaching to ensure that all students achieve success in their schooling. An effective teacher is able to cater to a variety of student learning needs and is confident that what they are offering students is resulting in improved educational outcomes.

The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers reflects this understanding of good teaching. Agreed to by all State Education Ministers, the aims and benefits include:

  • greater accountability - students, parents, policymakers and other stakeholders in education have increased confidence in the teaching profession
  • early career teachers have recognised standards to guide their practice
  • experts in the field are recognised, rewarded and celebrated
  • all students, regardless of location or background, have access to the same quality of education

See the animation Australian Professional Standards for Teachers on the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) website for a good overview of the standards and their impact.


Standards in brief 

Graduate level

The Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group’s 2015 report ‘Action Now: Classroom Ready Teachers’, found that program accreditation across Australia was inconsistent, leading to teaching graduates completing their training with differing levels of teacher preparation.

One of the early steps in applying national standards involved reforming Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and implementing national accreditation of these programs. This means all beginning teachers commence their careers at the same ‘Graduate’ level in accordance with the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

This strengthened approach to accreditation is focused on outcomes, with all providers required to produce evidence of the positive impact their programs have had on pre-service teachers. As a result, in 2016 ITE programs are receiving nationally consistent accreditation, ensuring that ‘all teachers are prepared to a high standard, and gain the knowledge, skills and experiences to make a positive impact on student learning’ (AITSL).

Proficient level

The next career stage a teacher must reach is ‘Proficient’, in which teachers are able to demonstrate that they meet the requirements in seven main focus areas. Their work must show evidence that they:

  1. know their students and how they learn
  2. know the content and how to teach it
  3. plan for and implement effective teaching and learning
  4. create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments
  5. assess, provide feedback and report on student learning
  6. engage in professional learning
  7. communicate professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community

In order to be a fully registered teacher it is expected that this level will be attained by all beginning teachers in the early years of their career. Guidance and information on how teachers can begin this process is available from the teacher regulatory authority in NSW - the Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES).

Since 2005, the Parramatta Diocese has had 100 teachers per year reaching the level of Proficient teacher.

Do all teachers need to be assessed according to the standards?

From 1 January 2018 all NSW teachers will need to be accredited according to the national standards.


Previously, those teachers who had worked in a NSW school since before 1 October 2004, and had not had a break from teaching of more than five years, were not required to be accredited. However, if they wish to continue teaching beyond 2017, these teachers must now apply for full accreditation at the ‘Proficient’ teacher level. There is a Simple three-step process for pre-2004 teachers, involving an online registration and annual fee ($100). Once accredited, teachers will need to maintain their accreditation including undertaking and recording regular professional learning from 2018.

Highly Accomplished and Lead levels

Progressing beyond the mandatory stages of the national standards, to Highly Accomplished (HA) and then Lead – is known as certification and is a voluntary process. The cost to the teacher is approximately $700. To apply for certification, the applicant must:

  • be an Australian citizen or have a permanent residency visa
  • have full registration with an Australian state or territory regulatory authority
  • have been assessed as satisfactory in their two most recent annual performance assessments (three for those applying for Lead)

Certification is available to teachers in a range of roles including school support professionals, regional support officers, consultants and advisory teachers and those in equivalent roles who work with students. For more detailed information on certification visit the NSW Teachers website.

Do I need to be in a leadership role to attain Lead certification?

Certification for Lead teachers is not specifically linked to positional leadership roles. Teachers are also encouraged to demonstrate how they lead and develop others whilst remaining a classroom teacher.

Since its implementation in late 2013, nearly 300 teachers have achieved national certification at the Highly Accomplished and Lead career stages of the Standards, and the number of applicants increases each year. In the Parramatta Diocese, 8 teachers are currently undertaking the certification process to be recognised as Highly Accomplished teachers.

Professor John Hattie, Chair Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), describes certification as ‘a powerful and enriching professional learning experience, that says to the education community…I am an expert at what I do’.

For an insight into a teacher’s experience of certification and more from Hattie, watch the video, National Certification - A Teacher's Journey.


Is certification like a Masters degree? Which one should I do?

Typically, a Masters degree acknowledges the academic commitment and achievement of the teacher. Certification at Highly Accomplished or Lead Teacher level acknowledges the practice of the teacher at an outstanding level. Both are valuable and are not mutually exclusive.

By its nature, certification at Highly Accomplished or Lead is not for all teachers; they are voluntary levels. All teachers have to demonstrate and maintain Proficient teacher accreditation but those who believe they have outstanding practice may seek certification. Both would be seen by the profession and community as powerful indicators of a teacher’s knowledge and understanding, both may lead to additional remuneration depending on the teacher’s experience and circumstances but they require different levels of evidence and learning pathways to achieve.




Posted By Samantha Rich at 27/10/2016 12:41:07 PM

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