There has been lots of discussion recently as many School Counsellors recognise the importance of maintaining their teaching accreditation with BOSTES.

Here is a basic breakdown of the issues, as I see them.  <READ DISCLAIMER AT THE BOTTOM>

School Counsellors are dually qualified as both teachers and psychologists (or at the very least are eligible to apply for provisional registration).

We are teachers primarily, with additional (or concurrent) qualifications in psychology. The title of School Counsellor under the Teaching Award is specific about this (REF 1).  While in independent schools a School Counsellor may be a person with a social or youth worth qualification, in NSW public schools the stipulation is about being a teacher (hence we get to enjoy the conditions that come with that).

Given the accreditation of teachers has been legislated for and implemented gradually over the last 12 years, we are now entering a new phase where the various personal circumstances of School Counsellors give rise to a range of contexts under which the maintenance (and in some cases attainment) of proficient level accreditation will be required. If we cannot maintain professional proficiency, we won’t be paid the same salary (REF 2), assuming we move over to standards-based pay like our teacher colleagues.

Q: Who needs to be accredited? From BOSTES page: Teachers who may teach outside the classroom, such as teacher counsellors, teacher librarians and teacher careers advisors.

// PRE-2004, THE OLD SCHEME, RECEIVED A ‘TEACHING CERTIFICATE’

In this scheme people received, generally after a year of teaching a Teaching Certificate, signed by the SED/Director/Boss of the Principal to say (basically) you showed up for a year and did stuff in a classroom that didn’t raise any eyebrows. You didn’t have to jump through the hoops introduced in 2004 whereby Teaching accreditation became akin to the competency meeting procedure many of us are familiar with via AHPRA.

If you have a Teaching Certificate you will automatically be recognised as proficient and placed on a 5-year maintenance period starting from the start of the school year in 2018. You cannot start this now, even if you wanted to. I asked them (in July 2016), they said no.

This means you have 5 years to complete the requirements outlined here: Pre-2004 Teacher Accreditation Scheme (unless you’re part time, then you have 7 years). This is 100 hours of PD, complete a report, have Principal approve it. Oh and pay your fees each year, have a WWC check etc.

But…Pre 2004 teachers who take a career break of 5 or more years at any time on or after the 1 January 2013 and return before the 31 December 2022 will need to go back and do provisional/conditional accreditation.

If you don’t complete this, in theory you have not maintained accreditation and are no longer eligible to teach in any NSW school. You don’t have to do maintenance, it’s voluntary (but the consequences should be obvs).

Q: But don’t I need to do a block of teaching to maintain accreditation?

The information from the BOSTES website is as follows

Maintaining Proficient Teacher Accreditation involves:

The current Award has stipulations about length of service to move up the standards-based pay scales, but defines it as “length of service” rather than teaching full time in a standard classroom (REF 3)We do, however, need to demonstrate a connection to pedagogy and assessment as well as continuing to demonstrate competent teaching practice.  If you have a look at the professional standards (aka competencies), you can identify a range of ways our work is linked simply.  There is the need to be vigilant (around PD hours) and in some places creative in the way we link back into the work of classroom teachers.

There are a huge variety of ways to do this: by running small group interventions, designing lessons which embed the social and personal capabilities, providing teacher in-servicing and capacity building. While this is open to interpretation, it’s my personal belief that things like inservicing teachers to increase their competence and upskilling parents count as demonstrating competent teaching practice. It also seems clear to me that an individual or small group intervention that includes psychoeducation, the development of skills, assisting students to generalise or link these to other areas (aka the old “cross-KLA planning”) and continual assessment/reflection about what the child has learned as well as planning for continued support and intervention is competent teaching. Didn’t we do this in classrooms as well?

Q: Why do I have to keep up with two accreditation pathways?

Because that’s what is required to hold the esteemed role (and conditions) of School Counsellor in a NSW Public School! We are expected to be both teaching and psych trained, two professions that happen to have rigorous standards. Maintaining both won’t be too hectic if you keep good records and select PD that is strategic to your PDP and APHRA PD goals. More to come in another post about this.

Whether or not being expected to keep up with the standards for two professions while earning the same pay as a non-promotion teaching position is ‘fair’ is an issue for another discussion.

// POST-2004, THE NEW SCHEME: THOSE WHO COMPLETED ACCREDITATION

You jumped through the hoops and you got accredited in the new system.  It may or may not have been as tricky as getting through AHPRA rego (depending on if you’re in the old or new scheme in that system!).  Well done.

This is where my knowledge starts to get sketchy, as I am in the category above…

5 years after you complete accreditation you should be able to start a 5 year maintenance period. Some people are on a ‘leave of absence’ but I don’t really understand why you couldn’t request to start ‘maintaining’ by logging hours and taking steps to demonstrate connection to classroom practice (see above). Of course, with your base Principal being the one to approve your maintenance cycle report, they’d be the one you negotiate that request with.

My understanding is we are entitled in our role as School Counsellors to maintain accreditation and it is not onerous to do so. You simply start by following this link.

//POST-2004, THE NEW SCHEME: THOSE WHO HAVE NOT COMPLETED ACCREDITATION AT PROFICIENT LEVEL, USUALLY USYD DOUBLE DEGREE GRADS.

I don’t know, sorry.  It’s a grey area which requires leadership input and clarification. It has definitely been raised through the NSWTF to the DoE in 2014/5.

Pragmatically speaking, accreditation is a requirement to stay under the Teaching Award. For those who do not have accreditation there is now a position called ‘School Psychologist’ under the Government Services Act (see NSW Treasury Determination 4 from October 2015, made under section 52/1) that those who do not have accreditation could work under (this might include SCs who choose not to maintain via BOSTES).

I don’t know how they’ll work around this. Possibly by creating a differentiated way of demonstrating you meet proficiency standards? Maybe through local negotiations of team-teaching etc?

Many people in this boat are from the Masters of Teaching/Double Degree Sydney Uni cohorts, which has not (to my limited knowledge) addressed the burgeoning issue around accreditation of its graduates, many of whom take out big HECS/FEE HELP (see another example of schemes that change!) debts to complete/obtain.

My suggestion would be to form a group/committee/community and talk to the NSW DoE via the SP,Es but also the NSWTF (you’d need to be a member – join here) and the University.

Q: What about access to the Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher accreditation?

I’ve looked into this an attended information session on what is required.  I’ve also completed the BOSTES self-assessment (and paid $65 for the privilege).

Attaining Highly Accomplished level appears difficult unless you can negotiate taking on a more classroom based role and do mentoring of other teachers, set assessments, evaluate programs, do action research etc.

While I believe there is scope for this to be designed and negotiated (for example using the parallel with board endorsed supervisors of provisional psychologists with AHPRA) this is something that I personally don’t see of value or benefit in the present climate of change and disruption.

For now, after some thought and research - it’s in my too hard basket. There are several other issues impacting the School Counselling Service I feel are of higher importance to spend time, energy and resources on than attempting to get the HAT level (spending $900 to apply for it, and limitless time working on it, for a $6K pay rise that would mostly go in tax!).

If anyone has more to add on attaining Highly Accomplished, please let me know! (REF 4)

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DISCLAIMER// Please note, this is not definitive. It cannot address all concerns and situations. It should not replace doing your own research and investigations. I am not seeking to undermine or replace the knowledge provided by SP,Es, the NSW DoE or NSWTF on the matter.  If you want more information or clarification, you should ask them (or google).

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REF 1: Current Award (2014-2016) defines a School Counsellor as 2.52 "School Counsellor" means a teacher with an equivalent of four years training and a major in psychology who has responsibility for providing schools with advice and support in matters relating to student academic and personal development, welfare and discipline and provides psychological and other testing as required.

REF 2: Current Award (2014-2016) states 3B.16 The rate of pay for a teacher who does not maintain their accreditation at Proficient level will revert from the Band 2 (Proficient) rate to the Band 1 (Graduate) rate from the first pay period after the date of either the lapsing or the revocation of the teacher’s accreditation at Proficient’

REF 3: Current Award (2014-2016) states 3B.16 For the purpose of salary progression, one year of full time service is 203 days.

REF 4: Current Award (2014-2016) state: 3B.1 Standards based remuneration will not apply to School Counsellors and Education Officers.  These classifications will continue to be remunerated on the old incremental salary scale for the life of this award.