Many of my teaching friends have criticised the move by the Department of Education and Training to introduce the new role of Highly Accomplished Teacher in NSW schools.
On face value I could see why: the potential to alienate teachers by only elevating a select few (an eventual total of 100 across the state) to the ranks of HAT is huge. And the salary for these teachers – $98,000 – is higher than the salary for a KLA Head Teacher, and just under that of a Deputy Principal. Weird.
However, as my school was once of the first to gain one of these positions, I am here to testify.
It’s easy to be upset and feel unappreciated because someone who used to sit next to you in the faculty staffroom is all of a sudden getting paid up to an extra 50% (and for a smaller teaching load at that!) But you have to remember that these positions are different to that of an rank-and-file teacher. Curriculum Head Teachers get paid more for doing less teaching too, but we are used to that – we understand that their role is different to ours. And they sure do earn their crust; on days when HSC, School Certificate and NAPLAN data are released there is no way I would trade my job for theirs. And as for sitting around in boring Executive meetings planning school targets and discussion policy issues…well, most teachers would rather not do that too.
Is the position of HAT any different?
Why shouldn’t someone get paid more for doing a harder job?
I suspect the issue is that many teachers currently don’t believe that the HAT role is very difficult. But let’s consider what the HAT in my school is taking on as we blog:
- Classroom observation and team teaching with beginning teachers, and later with each faculty in turn
- Developing the resources and in-school PD for refining the literacy and numeracy focus across all KLAs
- Establishing research partnerships with local universities (and later co-ordinating and leading the school side of the action research)
- Liasing with university education faculties to build formal mentoring structures for the influx of pre-service teachers that our school will now enjoy
- Leading the school in its new role as Centre for Excellence by building relationships with surrounding public schools to ensure the quality teaching practices that our school is refining are spread far and wide to benefit the wider community
- And still teaching! Albeit a much smaller load.
Sounds like schools just got someone in who can do the cool stuff that we teachers never get time to do. Aren’t you excited about having fellow teachers, rather than admintrators and bureacrats, helping you to develop your teaching quality?
Of course, the success of someone in this role will depend on whether they are the right person for the job. But this is true of all promotions. In my school the teacher who got the HAT role was an English teacher already in the school. She was my mentor in my second year of teaching, and she is one of the warmest, most patient, most hard working, professional and reflective teachers could ever hope to meet. You can read Luisa’s statement on why she teaches on our school leadership blog.
Personally, I am excited by the idea that there is a career in schools now that I can look forward to. I have always wanted to be a teacher AND a researcher, but other than working crazy part-time roles in both, there was nothing on the horizon.
The other benefit of the HAT scheme is that teachers who love teaching in public schools and who are really, really good at it don’t have to end up lost to administration roles if they want to earn a higher salary. I love teaching, and I am commited to teaching in public schools. I don’t want to be a Principal. Or a Deputy Principal. I’m not even sure I want to be a Head Teacher.
But I sure would like to be a HAT