The NSW government will try to revive a grueling program to identify the state’s top classroom teachers and has set itself an ambitious goal of increasing the number of them tenfold within the next three years.
The system that promotes teachers to “highly successful” or “leading” (HALTs) status so that they work as mentors for other teachers has been around for 10 years, but despite initial plans to have more than 1000 of them by 2022, there are only 274 in three sectors in NSW, and just over 1000 nationally.
Many teachers find the application process too complicated and expensive. To earn higher salaries, most leave the classroom and become principals or work at headquarters. High performance systems in countries like Singapore have many master teachers, or “teachers of teachers”, to enhance learning in schools.
Education Secretary Sarah Mitchell wants 2,500 HALT teachers by 2025. She said the application process would be streamlined to reduce bureaucracy and teachers would be given clearer guidance on how to provide evidence of their quality education, as well as feedback on their application.
“The quality of teachers across NSW is world class, but we haven’t seen that reflected in the number of teachers raising their hands for higher levels of accreditation, who also draw higher pay,” she said.
“This is something I want to see more of – teachers being recognized and rewarded for their impact – and I hope the number of HALT teachers will grow to at least 2,500 by 2025.”
Australian schools face a growing teacher shortage in many geographies and disciplines, and surveys have shown that some would-be recruits are put off by the lack of career advancement opportunities if they stay in the classroom, as well as relatively low pay compared to other professions. .
In NSW, assistant principals and headteachers earn $126,528.00, HALTs earn $117,060, and class teachers at the top of the pay scale earn $109,978. Many teachers have been put off applying for HALT status because they feel the extra pay doesn’t make up for the complexity of the application process.
When NSW adopted HALT certification – it was introduced nationwide in 2012 – it aimed to have 1,110 top teachers by 2022, but a report from the NSW Court of Audit said the target had been halved to 530 by 2019.