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Professional Growth as Protection

Estimated reading: 3 minutes

Summary: Mick McCarthy explores the less obvious benefits of full engagement in professional growth and incident reporting processes.

The evidence across Australian jurisdictions and internationally is clear: to keep teachers healthy and teaching reducing their workload must be a priority in every system. In the year ahead, we will have an opportunity to, once again, move the industrial levers we have in the NT on teacher workload to try and reduce maximum class sizes and increase non-contact time when we go back into enterprise bargaining. The other piece of work already underway at the Department, closely monitored by AEU NT, is the Teacher Workload Review Project, with a focus on things that can be done now and are in the Department’s and its schools’ control. More to come on this important work as the year develops!

The primary purpose here though is to promote two vital pieces of teacher, support staff and other employees paperwork that, despite the keenness of some to dismiss or ignore it – do have to continue.

Incident and accident reporting

All employees have a responsibility, set out in policy, and underpinned by work health and safety legislation, to report any accidents, incidents and near misses involving them. By recording, monitoring, and investigating incidents, we can learn and put in place measures or changes to prevent them from happening again.

AEU NT and the Department know there is already an under reporting of actual incidents, and that each unreported event is a learning opportunity lost.

Every employee, student or visitor who arrives at a school deserves to leave as fit and healthy as when they arrived. So, it is up to everyone to record incidents, both for themselves and everyone else.

Professional growth plans (PGPs)

Since their introduction in 2019, the current Department ‘staff performance management’ measure of PGP’s has been increasingly taken up but, notably, this has not happened everywhere in the NT’s system. With work pressures increasing, AEU NT is concerned they may be seen as optional by some.  It is important to note they are underpinned by clause 79, Staff Performance Planning and Review of our Enterprise Agreement.

Both managers and employees are expected to engage constructively in the PGP process. Most of the time, when PGPs are approached in the manner suggested in clause 79, they provide a positive space for teachers to reflect on current practice and career goals then authentically use the results for professional development. They also serve to reduce misunderstandings and misperceptions of performance that do occur and, if left to fester, can prove far harder to debunk later and significantly erode workplace relationships. Smart school leaders accept personal responsibility for making sure their school has a strong culture around PGPs.

Thus, PGPs provide protection for both teachers and school leaders from falling into a position where underperformance is present, potentially leading to the formal Managing Underperformance Procedure (MUP). Beware that failing a MUP invariably leads to a teacher losing their job, in turn leading to a referral to the Teacher Registration Board and, ultimately, a possible loss of registration. In short, a MUP can be a career-killer.




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