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Victorian Coat of Arms

Victorian Institute of Teaching

Ordered to be printed

VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT PRINTER December 2011

PP No 93, Session 2010–11

The Hon. Bruce Atkinson MLC
President
Legislative Council
Parliament House
Melbourne
The Hon. Ken Smith MP
Speaker
Legislative Assembly
Parliament House
Melbourne

Dear Presiding Officers

Under the provisions of section 16AB of the Audit Act 1994, I transmit my report on the audit Victorian Institute of Teaching.

Yours faithfully

Signature of D D R Pearson (Auditor General)

D D R PEARSON
Auditor-General

7 December 2011

Audit summary

Background

Registration by professional bodies allows the community to be confident that those we depend on to provide us with specialist services are appropriately qualified and fit to do so. Teacher registration has been a requirement in Victoria and has been administered by a range of bodies for over 20 years.

The current regulatory body, the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) was established in 2001 and now operates under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (the Act). VIT is a statutory authority regulating all teachers in Victoria, covering government and non-government schools. Its functions include registration, investigation, professional development, ensuring standards of professional practice are met, program accreditation and stakeholder education.

VIT is governed by a council of 12 members who are drawn from teachers, employers, educators and parents. The council is supported by a secretariat. The Act provides for the establishment of a committee to accredit undergraduate teacher education programs and of panels to conduct hearings into a teacher’s conduct, competence, fitness or ability to teach.

Recent national agreements under the Council of Australian Governments have led to a move towards national harmonisation of teacher regulation across states and territories. National standards for accrediting undergraduate teacher education programs and for teachers’ professional practice have been developed. They are expected to be implemented by each state and territory from 2012. VIT’s core role will remain unchanged as it will keep responsibility for checking that the new standards are met.

This audit assessed the efficiency and effectiveness of VIT’s practices for regulating teachers and promoting its role and activities. The approach adopted involved VIT self‑assessing against criteria developed for this audit and validation of that assessment by this office.

Conclusion

The community can be confident that teachers in Victorian schools are appropriately qualified, suitable to teach and competent in the English language. VIT is a sound regulator and its registration practices give a high level of assurance that only those teachers who meet the regulatory standards are registered and that any unregistered practising teachers are identified. There are, however, areas for particular attention.

VIT has recognised that relying on teachers to self-declare that they comply with registration requirements is a risk in the regulation system. VIT has put processes in place so that teacher declarations can be relied on. It will need to assess these processes for ongoing effectiveness.

Further, the nature of the registration system, which puts the onus on teachers to initiate registration, means that it is critical for all teachers and principals to be clear about what they need to do and understand VIT’s role. It is VIT’s responsibility to communicate this. VIT has recognised that only around a quarter of teachers have a positive attitude to it, and that it needs to foster an improved appreciation of the regulator role. In this respect VIT has drafted a new communication strategy to effectively inform registrants and education stakeholders. The strategy is designed to promote the personal responsibility and accountability of teachers and principals in the registration system.

Finally, VIT does not adequately measure its efficiency and effectiveness as regulator. It needs to develop relevant and appropriate performance indicators directly aligned to its mission and goals. This is a gap in VIT’s ability to acquit its accountability obligations to its stakeholders.

Findings

Teacher registration, investigation, education and program accreditation

Registration

VIT has sound practices in place to fulfil its regulatory responsibilities. It has recognised and is managing the risk posed by the reliance on teachers to self-declare that they meet registration requirements. Since 2008 VIT has periodically cross‑checked the employment records of schools against its register of teachers. These checks are a key mechanism for detecting practising teachers who have not registered with VIT, for detecting schools employing unregistered teachers and for deterring non-registration. VIT also audits a sample of teachers to check the evidence supporting their self-declarations about required professional practice. Assessing the ongoing reliability and usefulness of these checks, however, needs to be better integrated as standard practice.

Investigation

VIT conducts inquiries into allegations made against registered teachers regarding misconduct, serious misconduct, serious incompetence or lack of suitability to teach. Hearing panels are used as part of this process.

VIT complies with the legislative requirements with respect to this function, however, it has yet to use its expanded disciplinary hearing powers which came into effect in January 2011. The delay in hearings is not due to VIT but rather to delays by government in approving panel members to hear cases. Appointments to the pool by the Governor in Council were made in October 2011. However the delay in conducting hearings has led to a backlog of cases which VIT is now addressing.

Educating stakeholders

Communication is an important activity for VIT and underpins teachers’ understanding of their statutory obligations to register. VIT also has a legislated obligation to promote its role and activities.

VIT surveyed teachers in 2008, 2009 and 2011 on their attitudes to it. The general pattern across these years showed that only about a quarter of respondents viewed VIT positively, indicating that better communication of the role and relevance of VIT was required.

VIT has developed a new communication strategy aimed at effectively informing registrants and education stakeholders. It will focus on VIT’s regulatory role, teachers’ obligations and the implications of non-compliance.

Implementation of the new strategy is expected to commence after it has been reviewed by VIT’s incoming council, which took up its role in November 2011. It will be important for VIT to monitor the impact of its new strategy and make adjustments as necessary so that the teaching profession has both a clear understanding of the regulator role and its own responsibilities.

Accreditation of teacher education programs

Undergraduate teacher education programs are delivered by higher education providers. A component of these programs requires students to undertake supervised teaching practice in a school, known as a practicum. In accrediting these programs VIT needs to be satisfied that the program will enable undergraduate teachers to:

VIT has sound practices, including accreditation criteria, for approving undergraduate teacher education programs and for assuring ongoing compliance by program providers with the accreditation standards.

However, independent research projects dating back to 2004 have identified two problems with undergraduate programs for teachers: how to reliably assess program effectiveness and whether adequate resources are made available by course providers for the practicum component of programs. These problems are risks to the preparation of new teachers. Although the main responsibility for addressing these risks rests with the course providers, VIT has a role in providing feedback to them on areas of concern. VIT has taken appropriate action, commensurate with its responsibilities as course accreditor. It has monitored programs and participated in research into programs and acted where it was within its control to do so.

VIT needs to continue to monitor the operation of undergraduate teacher education programs, including the practicum component, and act to address risks to its successful operation where it is able to do so.

Performance reporting

Since VIT was established it has developed three strategic plans with the current plan covering July 2010 to June 2013. Its current mission is to serve the public interest through the efficient and effective regulation of teachers.

VIT has a suite of key indicators to measure performance but they do not align with its current strategic plan. In March 2011 VIT adopted six high-level indicators but only one is relevant and appropriate. As a result, the current suite of indicators do not reliably measure the extent to which VIT performs as an efficient and effective regulator.

VIT intends establishing a benchmarking regime which should help measure its performance.

Recommendations

That the Victorian Institute of Teaching:

     
    • further develop its risk mitigation practices relating to teacher self-declarations that support their registration application through adopting a structured process of continuous improvement
    • annually cross-check the completeness and accuracy of its teacher register against the employment records of all schools and use the results to inform identification of opportunities to improve teacher compliance with registration requirements
    • promptly resolve the backlog of disciplinary hearing panel cases
    • progressively evaluate the effectiveness of its communication strategy and use the results to better target communication with the teaching community.
    • develop a suite of relevant and appropriate indicators to reliably represent its efficiency and effectiveness in performing its regulatory functions and achieving its mission, in addition to implementing its benchmarking regime
    • report on its performance to relevant stakeholders.

Submissions and comments received

In addition to progressive engagement during the course of the audit, in accordance with section 16(3) of the Audit Act 1994 a copy of this report was provided to the Victorian Institute of Teaching with a request for submissions or comments.

Agency views have been considered in reaching our audit conclusions and are represented to the extent relevant and warranted in preparing this report. Their full section 16(3) submissions and comments however, are included in Appendix B.

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1. Background

1.1 Teacher registration in Victoria

1.1.1 Regulatory bodies

Teacher registration has been a requirement in Victoria and has been administered by a range of bodies for over 20 years. In the past the registration function for teachers in government schools was undertaken by the Teachers Registration Board which was replaced in 1993 by the Standards Council of the Teaching Profession, a part of the then Department of Education. Teachers in non-government schools were regulated by a separate body, the Registered Schools Board. Over time the Standards Council gradually broadened its role from an advisory body which issued information on professional standards, codes of practice and professional development, to one which sought to impose greater regulation by, for example, setting competency standards for new teachers and accrediting teacher education courses.

Under the Victorian Institute of Teaching Act 2001, the Standards Council was abolished and replaced by the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT). This Act established VIT as an independent regulatory body with universal coverage for compulsory teacher registration in Victoria under a common standards-based system. From January 2001, VIT became responsible for the registration of teachers in government and non-government schools. It became fully operational from December 2002.

The Victorian Institute of Teaching Act 2001 was subsequently repealed and replaced by the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (the Act).

1.2 The Victorian Institute of Teaching

1.2.1 Legislative functions

VIT's mission is to serve the public interest through the efficient and effective regulation of the teaching profession. Its main legislated function is regulating members of the teaching profession.

VIT’s other functions include to:

1.2.2 Governance

Council

VIT is governed by a council which administers its legislative functions. Under amendments to the Act, from November 2011 the council reduced from 20 members to 12. Five members, drawn from employers, educators and parents, are appointed by the minister, and six members, drawn from teachers in government and non‑government schools, are elected by registered teachers. The Secretary of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, or a nominee, is the 12th member of the council.

Secretariat, committees and panels

The council is supported by a secretariat to which it may delegate some of its powers. The secretariat comprises four branches—Registration and Accreditation, Standards and Professional Learning, Inquiries and Litigation, and Corporate and Communications.

The Act provides for the establishment of an Accreditation Committee to assess and approve undergraduate teacher education programs and to recommend to the council criteria for assessing those programs.

VIT is also empowered to appoint panels to conduct hearings into a teacher’s competence, fitness to teach or their conduct. A medical panel can also be established to hold a hearing into a teacher’s ability to practise as a teacher. Appointments to hearing panels are drawn from a pool of persons approved by the Governor in Council.

1.2.3 Financial

VIT’s main source of income is from teacher registration fees which are set annually by the minister. For the financial years 2009–10 and 2010–11, registration fees amounted to $9.2 million and $9.1 million respectively, or 88.7 per cent and 92.1 per cent of VIT’s total income. The individual fee for a teacher applying for initial registration in 2011–12 is $160 or $140 depending whether they hold Victorian or other state or overseas qualifications. The fee for renewing a registration is $74. Other fees may be payable: $30 for late payment, $29 for a criminal record check, $22 for replacement of a registration card.

At June 2011 there were around 115 850 registered teachers in Victoria, an increase of around 2 800 from the previous year.

VIT’s main expenditure items for 2009–10 and 2010–11 were $4.7 million and $5.0 million respectively for employee benefits, and $4.6 million and $3.6 million respectively for supplies and services.

For the financial years 2009–10 and 2010–11 VIT reported an operating surplus of $0.11 million and $0.03 million respectively.

Commencing from the 2011–12 financial year, VIT is expected to be a fully self-funding body.

1.2.4 Organisational review

In 2002 the government committed to reviewing VIT after five years of operation. Accordingly, a review was completed in March 2008. The terms of the review were to determine whether:

The review found that while VIT has successfully undertaken its regulatory functions, there were some ‘incongruities’ between some intended functions of VIT and what could reasonably be expected of a regulatory body. This primarily related to the tension between VIT’s role as the regulator and its role of promoting the teaching profession.

In response the government made a range of amendments to the Act to strengthen VIT’s regulatory functions. Key amendments included increasing VIT’s disciplinary and investigatory powers through the conduct of informal and formal hearings, and the appointment of medical panels to deal with sensitive health issues. VIT’s function of promoting the profession was also changed to promoting its role and activities.

1.3 National developments

Recent national agreements under the Council of Australian Governments have led to a move towards national harmonisation of teacher regulation.

VIT has been working collaboratively with the Australasian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership to develop a single set of national accreditation standards for undergraduate teacher education programs. These standards were released in April 2011.

National standards for teachers’ professional practice were also released in February 2011 and will be trialled in the latter part of 2011.

It is expected that commencing January 2012, the states and territories will be required to implement these standards through legislative change and revised administrative practices. VIT will retain a role in checking that standards are met.

1.4 Audit objective, scope, method and cost

1.4.1 Objective and scope

This audit assessed the efficiency and effectiveness of VIT’s practices for regulating teachers in Victorian schools and in promoting its role and activities.

It focused on VIT’s performance in fulfilling its functions relating to:

The audit also examined VIT’s approach to self-review and to monitoring its performance in discharging its regulatory functions.

1.4.2 Method

The audit was undertaken in accordance with Australian Auditing and Assurance Standards. The audit approach involved a self-assessment by the audited agency of:

The self-assessment results and supporting evidence was then presented in a written report for verification by VAGO.

VIT’s practices were assessed against expected practice derived from:

1.4.3 Cost

The audit cost $220 000.

1.5 Report structure

Part 2 of this report deals with teacher registration, investigation, education and undergraduate teacher education program approvals, and Part 3 examines VIT’s approach to performance reporting.

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2. Teacher registration, investigation, education and accreditation

At a glance

Background

The Victorian Institute of Teaching’s (VIT) main legislated functions are to regulate members of the teaching profession, investigate the conduct, competence and fitness to teach of teachers, promote VIT and accredit education programs.

Conclusion

The community can be confident that only those teachers who meet the regulatory standards are registered. VIT has met the legislative requirements relating to its investigatory responsibilities as far as it can but delay by government in approving panel members to hear cases prevented VIT from establishing hearings.

VIT faces a challenge to better communicate with teachers and principals about its role and to promote understanding by these stakeholders of their registration obligations.

VIT has sound practices, including accreditation criteria, to approve undergraduate teacher education programs.

Recommendations

That the Victorian Institute of Teaching:

  • further develop its risk mitigation practices relating to teacher self-declarations
  • annually cross-check its teacher register against school employment records
  • promptly resolve the backlog of disciplinary hearing panel cases
  • progressively evaluate the effectiveness of its communication strategy.

2.1 Introduction

In this Part of the report we examine whether the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) has:

VIT’s practices were assessed against expected practice developed by audit with reference to relevant legislation, VIT’s policies and procedures, recognised standards for risk management and quality assurance, and relevant best practice publications.

2.2 Conclusion

VIT’s registration practices provide a high level of assurance that only those teachers who meet the regulatory standards are registered and that any unregistered practising teachers are identified. Sound processes have been implemented by VIT to address risks related to primary reliance on teacher self-declarations of their compliance with regulatory requirements. However, the ongoing effectiveness of these processes needs to be further developed.

VIT complies with the legislative requirements relating to its investigatory function. However, it is yet to use its expanded disciplinary hearings powers which came into effect in January 2011. A delay by government in approving panel members to hear cases prevented VIT from establishing hearing panels. This has led to a backlog of cases which is now being addressed.

Although VIT has been improving the effectiveness of its stakeholder communication activities since 2008 it still needs to do more. An effective communication strategy is core to promoting the personal responsibility and accountability of teachers and principals to comply with registration requirements.

The effectiveness of the new strategy, including actions to redress the existing communication challenges, will need close monitoring.

VIT has sound practices, including accreditation criteria, to approve undergraduate teacher education programs. Its approach to assure ongoing compliance with the accreditation standards over the programs’ duration is also adequate.

Nevertheless, ongoing issues with the practicum component of undergraduate teacher education programs delivered by higher education providers, and difficulty with reliably measuring their effectiveness, are risks for VIT. Although these risks are not within VIT’s direct control it needs to continue to closely monitor them and to respond appropriately. This could include bringing an issue to the attention of the appropriate body.

Our assessment of VIT’s practices against expected practice is shown in Figure 2A. The assessments are indicated as follows:

Figure 2A
Assessment of Victorian Institute of Teaching practices

VIT practice

Assessment

Registration

Policies and procedures

Developed with reference to legislation, expert advice and other regulatory bodies

A

Process for capturing stakeholder issues and concerns

A

Reviews are periodically undertaken and inform continuous improvement

B

Staff support

Guidance is available for staff on the registration process

A

Staff are properly trained

A

The work performed by registration staff is quality assured

A

Communication of registration requirements

Registration information is publically available

A

Information is distributed and understood by stakeholders

A

Registration information and its distribution is periodically reviewed

A

Teacher register

Maintained in accordance with legislative requirements

A

ICT controls are in place and regularly tested to protect the register

A

The completeness and accuracy of data input is controlled

A

The register is periodically cross-checked against other externally held teacher data

A

Investigations of teacher conduct, competence and fitness to teach

Policies and procedures

Policies and procedures meet all legislative requirements

B

Process exists to capture staff and stakeholder issues and concerns

B

Apply principles of continuous improvement

B

Staff support

Investigators and panel members have relevant experience, training and qualifications

A

Documentation exists to guide staff

B

Work performed by investigation staff is quality assured

A

The VIT council has processes to assess advice and recommendations received from investigation staff

A

Compliance by investigators with delegated powers is assured

A

Informing stakeholders

Information regarding investigations is publically available

A

Affected stakeholders are informed of investigation policies and procedures

A

Investigation information and its distribution is periodically assessed

A

Investigation and hearing determinations

Sound evidentiary basis for policies and procedures

A

Educating stakeholders of VIT’s role and activities

Stakeholder communication

Communication strategy is in place

B

Stakeholders are consulted on their preferred methods of communication and frequency

A

Development and review of educational activities

Sound evidentiary basis for education strategies

A

Process for capturing stakeholder issues and concerns

A

Principles of continuous improvement applied

A

Educational activities

Impact of educational activity is assessed

A

VIT is measuring the extent to which it is building stakeholder confidence and awareness

B

Accreditation of undergraduate teacher education programs

Accreditation practices

Approval practices, including assessment criteria, have been developed with reference to sound evidence sources

A

The VIT council had a method for assessing accreditation criteria

A

A process is in place to capture stakeholder issues and concerns

A

The principles of continuous improvement are applied

A

Staff support

Accreditation staff have relevant qualifications, experience and training

A

Documentation has been developed to guide staff

A

The work performed by staff is quality assured

A

Compliance with accreditation standards

Ongoing compliance with accreditation standards is periodically assessed

A

Assessments include consultation with relevant stakeholders

A

Source: Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.

2.3 Registration

Teacher registration requirements are detailed in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (the Act) and are assessed by VIT’s registration branch. The Act also requires VIT to maintain a register of teachers that is available for public inspection.

To be registered as a teacher, an applicant must be appropriately qualified, suitable to teach and competent in the English language. Typically, graduates who have completed four years of approved tertiary study, including an approved education program, apply to become provisionally registered. These teachers become eligible for full registration when they have gained teaching experience and can demonstrate through an evidence-based process they have achieved the standards of professional practice.

Individuals can be granted permission to teach who may not have teacher education qualifications but have the appropriate skills and experience. An individual who is eligible for registration but who does not intend to teach can apply for non-practising registration.

All registered teachers are required to renew their registration annually by demonstrating they have met the renewal standards. These standards include a requirement to undertake professional practice and maintain their suitability to be a teacher.

The VIT register includes details of all registered teachers and those who have been suspended due to non-payment of fees.

Details of VIT’s conduct of teacher registration are provided below and its practices assessed against expected practice are summarised in Figure 2A.

2.3.1 Policies and procedures

Registration processes are guided by a range of documentation including the Registration Policy and Procedures Document, the Qualification for Teacher Registration Policy, the Specialist Area Guidelines, the Standards of Professional Practice for Full Registration and the Standards for Renewal of Registration.

VIT’s registration standards require graduate and existing teachers to declare whether they meet the requirements and to support this with evidence. VIT has processes to provide assurance that the self-declarations can be relied upon.

To approve new teachers for full registration a panel of three teachers, including a principal, assesses the provisionally registered teacher’s evidence against the standards and makes a recommendation to VIT for full registration. The panel process is intended to minimise the risk of an incorrect assessment as the decision is moderated.

VIT audits a sample of applications, and requests teachers to provide evidence of their professional practice which is then independently assessed against the panel’s recommendation. This process provides assurance that panels are making reliable and consistent judgements.

Fully registered teachers renewing their registration must demonstrate, amongst other things, they have maintained the required level of professional practice and that they continue to be suitable to teach. VIT audit a sample of teachers, requesting them to provide evidence of their teaching practice and professional development. The teacher’s principal may also be asked to endorse this evidence.

VIT is required to undertake a criminal records check of each teacher during their registration period which can be tested against a teacher’s declaration of their continued suitability to teach.

VIT’s processes for mitigating the risks with self-declarations are sound, and they have processes in place to review their ongoing reliability. For example, VIT consults with a reference group of key stakeholders twice a year and has regular meetings with other stakeholders to obtain their feedback on the effectiveness of its full and renewal registration processes. The VIT Standards and Professional Learning Committee has been used to develop and review processes and policies related to the implementation of the standards of professional practice for full and renewal of registration.

Opportunities for improvement

VIT’s review of the reliability of its risk mitigation processes can be more systematically applied in a structured approach to continuous improvement. For example, the results of audits by VIT could be used to better identify where to target future audit activity. This would assist in the effective use of limited resources. The results could also inform identification of where to focus efforts to strengthen teacher compliance.

2.3.2 Staff guidance, training and supervision

VIT meets expected practice in supporting staff to undertake the registration function.

All new registration staff undertake a 10-week induction program that includes training for their specific role and mentoring. New staff are also provided with an induction manual. A registration policy and procedures document that sets the steps involved in registering a teacher has been developed and supported with checklists.

VIT registration staff are provided with appropriate guidance, adequate training and have their work quality assured to confirm their compliance with all regulatory and other requirements.

2.3.3 Communication of registration requirements

VIT has adequately communicated its registration requirements to teachers and employers including each party’s respective roles and responsibilities.

VIT maintains a website that has a specific registration sub-page that provides information, forms and policies. An email box is available for general enquiries as well as two help desks – one for teachers and one for principals. Presentations are also undertaken for student teachers, union groups and principals.

2.3.4 Completeness and accuracy of the teacher register

VIT meets its requirement under the Act to maintain a register of teachers and an extract of the register is maintained for public access. The register includes:

Since October 2007 VIT has had legislative authority to require information from teachers which allows it to cross-check the employment records of schools against VIT’s register of teachers. An audit of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s employee records against the teacher register was undertaken in 2008 and a data-matching exercise to allow the same audit for independent and catholic schools was undertaken in 2009. An audit of all government, catholic and independent schools was undertaken in 2010 and again in 2011, and this is expected to be continued at least annually. The 2011 audit process had not concluded at the time of this audit.

These audits are a key mechanism for:

Opportunities for improvement

VIT’s audit process should continue and be conducted at least annually. Undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the audit results as part of a standard practice would assist VIT in identifying any opportunities to improve teacher compliance with registration requirements.

2.4 Investigations of teacher conduct, competence and fitness to teach

VIT’s Inquiries and Litigation Branch conducts inquiries into allegations made against registered teachers regarding misconduct, serious misconduct, serious incompetence or lack of suitability to teach.

The branch also investigates allegations of unregistered teaching. The branch undertakes or oversees all investigations, prepares reports for VIT’s Disciplinary Proceedings Committee (DPC) and prepares cases for consideration by informal, formal and medical hearing panels.

Details of VIT’s investigations function is provided below and its practices assessed against expected practice are summarised in Figure 2A.

2.4.1 Policies and procedures

VIT partially meets expected practice in undertaking its investigation responsibilities.

VIT has developed policies and procedures covering disciplinary inquiries including actions to be taken upon receipt of a complaint, conducting or supervising an investigation, decision-making procedures and the conduct of a hearing. The policies and procedures have been developed with reference to all relevant statutory provisions of the Act.

Legislative changes effective from January 2011 expanded VIT’s investigatory and disciplinary hearing powers. In relation to hearings the changes included:

The Act provides for the three types of hearing panels to be constituted by VIT from a pool of approved persons. Appointment to the pool is made by the Governor in Council, which, in October 2011, approved the appointment of 18 of a maximum of 30 persons to the hearing panel pool.

At the time of this audit VIT had not exercised its expanded disciplinary hearing powers in that no hearing panels had been established. This has led to a backlog of 47 cases which need a decision by the DPC before they can be finalised either though a hearing panel process or by agreeing on no further actions. The completed investigations have not been forwarded to DPC for decision as there were no panels to refer them to.

Since the announcement of the first set of hearing panel pool members, VIT has organised induction and training for the newly appointed members and expects DPC to begin to make referral for hearings at their November 2011 meeting. VIT expects to increase the number of disciplinary hearings during December 2011 and January 2012 to reduce the backlog.

2.4.2 Staff guidance, training and supervision

VIT has substantially met expected standards of practice in supporting staff to undertake investigations.

Documentation developed for staff includes an investigation procedures manual, a procedures manual for the branch and panels hearing unit, a training manual for sessional panel members and investigation guidelines.

VIT has begun to develop new induction and training material associated with its expanded disciplinary hearing powers. As at October 2011, VIT had drafted new procedures and training materials for the DPC, and is assessing changes required for the Inquiries and Litigations Unit procedures, including obtaining advice from legal counsel.

2.4.3 Informing stakeholders

VIT has adequately informed teachers, employers and other affected stakeholders of relevant regulations, VIT’s policies and procedures, and each party’s respective role and responsibilities.

VIT is required under the Act to provide written notification to the teacher who is subject to inquiry, as well as the employer and the complainant. Information regarding the disciplinary process, covering complaints, investigations, hearings and sanctions, and recent legislative amendments, is provided to relevant persons in the form of brochures and information sheets. This information is also available on the VIT website.

2.5 Educating stakeholders about the Victorian Institute of Teaching’s role and activities

From January 2011 VIT’s function to promote the teaching profession was changed to recognising and promoting the role and activities of the VIT. Since VIT’s inception it has undertaken a range of education activities as part of its compliance strategy.

VIT considered that raising teachers’ awareness of their statutory obligations would improve compliance and enable teachers to meet their obligations. The legislative change increased the prominence of these activities.

VIT has recently drafted a new communication strategy in response to its changed function.

Our assessment of VIT’s practices against expected practice is summarised in Figure 2A.

2.5.1 Communication strategy and its effectiveness

VIT needs to improve its communication with its key stakeholders, teachers and principals, so that they better understand the role of the regulator and their statutory obligations and purpose.

Communication is an important activity for VIT. Its original function to promote the teaching profession was changed in January 2011 to one of promoting the role and activities of VIT. Communication also plays an important part in VIT’s teacher compliance strategy in that raising teachers’ awareness of their statutory obligations should improve compliance.

VIT surveyed teachers in 2008 and 2009 on their awareness and acceptance of its regulatory and promotional roles, and teacher attitudes towards registration. Results across the two surveys showed moderate improvements but only about a quarter of respondents had a positive view of VIT. The results suggest VIT’s corrective actions aimed at improving its communication had minimal impact.

In developing a new communication strategy for its changed communication function, a review, including a teacher survey, was undertaken during 2011. This work identified that VIT still faced challenges with its communication activities and recommended a range of mitigation measures.

Importantly that review identified the need for more active stakeholder engagement to facilitate regulation, and the need for key messages that focus on VIT’s regulatory role, teachers’ obligations and repercussions for non-compliance. For example the 2011 survey found that 50 per cent of teachers have a neutral attitude to VIT, 26 per cent positive and 24 per cent negative. These results are fairly consistent with the survey results for 2008 and 2009.

It is expected implementation of the new strategy will commence after it has been reviewed by VIT’s incoming council which took up its role in November 2011.

Opportunities for improvement

VIT faces a significant challenge to improve its communication activities. It is vital that VIT closely monitor the impact of its draft communication strategy when implemented and promptly intervene where it is not achieving the required outcome.

2.6 Undergraduate teacher education programs

One of VIT’s key functions is to assess and approve all undergraduate teacher education programs offered by Victorian higher education providers.

These programs are expected to produce graduates who:

A component of these programs involves students undertaking supervised teaching practice in a school, known as a practicum.

The Act requires the VIT council to establish an Accreditation Committee to perform this function and to advise or make recommendations to the council about the criteria for assessing courses. This committee is supported by VIT’s Accreditation Unit.

Higher education providers applying for program accreditation submit documentation that describes the education program, how it meets VIT’s program standards and how graduates will be prepared to meet VIT’s standards for graduating teachers.

In line with the move to national accreditation standards for teacher education programs, from January 2012 VIT’s current standards, as well as the review and approval processes, will be revised.

An assessment of VIT’s performance against expected practice is summarised in Figure 2A.

2.6.1 Approval practices

VIT meets expected standards of practice in approving undergraduate courses.

The VIT Accreditation Committee reviews, assesses and approves all undergraduate teacher education programs at least once every five years. An Accreditation Committee Review Panel consisting of three members examines each application for program accreditation and identifies issues for clarification with the higher education provider. The panel makes a recommendation to the Accreditation Committee that may accept the application, call for further information or reject it. In 2010–11, the Accreditation Committee re-accredited eight continuing teacher education programs and accredited three new programs.

VIT has examined a wide range of independent research and undertaken extensive stakeholder consultations to develop its current, 2007, standards and processes for accreditation of undergraduate teacher education programs.

The research identified problems with education programs, including reliably assessing their effectiveness, and the adequacy of resourcing allocated by higher education institutions to the practicum component of programs.

Since releasing its 2007 course accreditation standards, further independent research has identified that problems with the practicum component of undergraduate teacher education programs have continued. For example, research commissioned by VIT in collaboration with other stakeholders and completed in October 2009 identified that:

Although VIT is not responsible for delivering education programs and does not have authority over the resourcing of the practicum component, it subsequently took action to address these issues where it was able to exercise influence.

VIT is involved in a three-year research project that is examining the effectiveness of teacher education for early career teachers in diverse settings. It is expected the research will provide valuable insight into how to improve the effectiveness of initial teacher education programs.

Under the 2012 national program accreditation standards, education program providers will be required to provide VIT with annual reports on the effectiveness of their programs in order to maintain accreditation.

Opportunities for improvement

Notwithstanding the introduction of national program accreditation standards in 2012, determining the effectiveness of undergraduate teacher education programs and resourcing the practicum component of these programs will remain risks for VIT. This is because an effective practicum is a prerequisite for an effective teacher education program.

VIT needs to exercise close scrutiny of programs, including the practicum component, and promptly act to redress risks.

2.6.2 Staff guidance, training and supervision

VIT provides accreditation committee members and support staff with appropriate guidance and training, and quality assures the work performed by this group to confirm that the committee and support staff have complied with all regulatory and other requirements.

VIT has determined that similar to the practice of past accreditation bodies, and those of other jurisdictions, the accreditation function was best served by those with professional expertise, employers and teacher educators. Before commencing program reviews, all committee members undergo review panel training to understand the accreditation standards. Ongoing professional development is provided through Accreditation Committee meetings.

All documentation relating to the functions of the Accreditation Committee are outlined in a handbook. A proforma approach has been developed to assist panels with program reviews and to assist providers to prepare documentation for review.

2.6.3 Compliance with accreditation standards

VIT has adequate processes in place to periodically assess whether higher education providers have complied with the accreditation standards for their undergraduate teacher education programs over the accreditation period.

Recommendations

  1. That the Victorian Institute of Teaching:
    • further develop its risk mitigation practices relating to teacher self-declarations that support their registration application through adopting a structured process of continuous improvement
    • annually cross-check the completeness and accuracy of its teacher register against the employment records of all schools and use the results to inform identification of opportunities to improve teacher compliance with registration requirements.
  2. That the Victorian Institute of Teaching promptly resolve the backlog of disciplinary hearing panel cases.
  3. That the Victorian Institute of Teaching progressively evaluate the effectiveness of its communication strategy and use the results to better target communication with the teaching community.
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3. Performance reporting

At a glance

Background

The Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) is a public body under the Financial Management Act 1994 and is required to comply with that Act and associated legislative requirements. Although not subject to it, VIT has adopted the governance principles under the Public Administration Act 2004.

Conclusion

VIT does not have a system to reliably measure its performance in fulfilling its regulatory functions. This is a gap in VIT’s ability to acquit its accountability obligations to stakeholders.

Findings

  • VIT reports to stakeholders on its financial performance and its compliance with associated legislative requirements but does not have a suite of indicators that reliably indicate its efficiency and effectiveness.
  • VIT is establishing a benchmarking regime but has not yet set a timetable for implementation.
  • VIT’s quality assurance and risk management practices align with recognised standards.

Recommendation

That the Victorian Institute of Teaching:

  • develop a suite of relevant and appropriate indicators to reliably represent its efficiency and effectiveness in performing its regulatory functions and achieving its mission, in addition to implementing its benchmarking regime
  • report on its performance to relevant stakeholders.

3.1 Introduction

In this Part we examine whether the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) has:

VIT’s reporting practices were assessed against expected practice developed by audit with relevant best practice publications including the Chartered Secretaries Australia good governance guide.

3.2 Conclusion

VIT does not have a suite of key performance indicators that reliably indicate its efficiency and effectiveness in fulfilling its regulatory functions. This is a gap in VIT’s ability to acquit its accountability obligations to government and other stakeholders.

3.3 Performance reporting

VIT is a public body defined by the Financial Management Act 1994 and is required to comply with that Act, the Standing Directions of the Minister for Finance and the Financial Management Certification Framework. Although VIT is not subject to the Public Administration Act 2004, it has adopted the governance principles set out in that legislation.

In the 10 years since VIT was established, it has developed three strategic plans that set out its vision, mission, values and strategic objectives. VIT’s current strategic plan states its mission is ‘to serve the public interest through the efficient and effective regulation of the Victorian teaching profession as they engage with school age students’.

Our assessment of VIT’s practices against expected practice is summarised in Figure 3A. The assessments are indicated as follows:

Figure 3A
Assessment against expected practice

Performance reporting

Assessment

Monitoring and reporting framework

Efficiency and effectiveness of VIT’s performance is measured

C

Performance reports are issued to stakeholders

B

Standards for regulators

Documentation is compiled that evidences compliance with standards for regulators

B

Quality assurance practices

A quality assurance framework is in place that aligns with recognised standards

A

Risk management

A risk management framework is in place that aligns with recognised standards

A

Risk management practices are regularly reviewed and inform continuous improvement

A

Resource allocations are made with reference to risk management and quality assurance considerations

A

Source: Victorian Auditor-General’s Office.

3.3.1 Monitoring and reporting framework

VIT’s monitoring and reporting framework has not been updated to reflect its current strategic plan. Accordingly its suite of key performance indicators is not aligned to its objectives and does not provide appropriate information to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of VIT in achieving its objectives.

After VIT adopted its second strategic plan in 2006 covering the three-year period to 2009 it commenced developing a suite of key indicators to measure its performance against the plan’s strategic objectives. In 2007, VIT engaged consultants to assist it to further develop these indicators. A suite of key performance indicators were ultimately adopted by VIT in 2007 but were only used internally.

The current strategic plan, which covers the period July 2010 to June 2013, details four strategic priorities covering regulation, communication, leadership and organisation.

At the time of adopting the plan, VIT decided to continue using the 2007 indicators. However, the 2010 strategic priorities do not directly align with the objectives of the previous strategic plan.

In March 2011 VIT adopted six indicators to measure its performance against its current strategic plan. Only one indicator meets the test of being ‘relevant’ and ‘appropriate’. This indicator is: That external reviews of performance or decisions of the Institute or panels concerning registration or disciplinary proceedings confirm compliance with legislation and fair and consistent decision-making.

The other five indicators are effectively ‘activity measures’. For example, one indicator covered implementation of the recommendations from the government’s 2008 review of VIT. While the recommendations are broadly aimed at improving VIT’s efficiency and effectiveness, implementing a recommendation is not the same as directly measuring efficiency and effectiveness.

VIT is only able to report to stakeholders on its financial performance and its compliance with associated legislative requirements.

Appendix A sets out the VIT strategic priorities and indicators along with audit comments on indicators. The problem with indicators not being relevant and appropriate also flows down to monitoring at the branch level. Performance indicators used by VIT’s branches are better described as measures of activity. No branch has established indicators that measure their efficiency and effectiveness in fulfilling VIT’s regulatory functions.

VIT is establishing a benchmarking regime in line with a recommendation from the March 2008 review to improve its operational efficiency. A timetable for implementation has not been set and VIT has not yet decided which activities are to be benchmarked or reached agreement with potential participating agencies.

Opportunities for improvement

VIT needs to fill the current gap in its accountability obligations to its stakeholders by developing a suite of relevant and appropriate indicators to reliably represent its efficiency and effectiveness.

3.3.2 Alignment with recognised standards for regulators

Two of the government’s standards for regulators, established by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission, are for regulators to demonstrate they are efficient and effective in performing their functions. At present VIT does not have a suite of indicators that reliably measure its efficiency and effectiveness.

3.3.3 Quality assurance and risk management practices

VIT has adequate quality assurance and risk management practices.

VIT has a range of quality assurance practices aimed at assuring it uses its resources well and carries out its regulatory functions to a high standard. VIT has implemented and maintains risk management governance, systems and reporting requirements in accordance with the Victorian Government Risk Management Framework.

Recommendation

  1. That the Victorian Institute of Teaching:
    • develop a suite of relevant and appropriate indicators to reliably represent its efficiency and effectiveness in performing its regulatory functions and achieving its mission, in addition to implementing its benchmarking regime
    • report on its performance to relevant stakeholders.
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Appendix A. Strategic Plan 2010–13

Figure A1
Victorian Institute of Teaching Strategic Plan 2010–13

Vision

A Victorian teaching profession maintaining the highest standards of teaching practice and conduct.

Mission

To serve the public interest through the efficient and effective regulation of the Victorian teaching profession as they engage with school age students.

Strategic priorities

Regulation: Effectively uphold professional standards by:

  • delivering a contemporary standards based regulatory framework which recognises teaching professionalism through the effective administration of Part 2.6 of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006
  • managing a sound, comprehensive and responsive registration and annual renewal process, including permission to teach and non-practising categories of registration
  • delivering in a fair, objective and consistent manner determinations that reflect expected standards of conduct, and
  • further enhancing and developing the professional learning framework for teachers.

Communication: Further build awareness and confidence by:

  • extending the community’s and the profession’s understanding of our regulatory role and activities
  • promoting the profession’s standards of practice, and codes of ethics and conduct
  • providing consistent and relevant information in an accessible and timely manner
  • utilising contemporary communications technologies including providing improved online services, and
  • actively seeking data and feedback for continuous improvement.

Leadership: Show leadership by:

  • identifying and responding to relevant professional issues
  • engaging proactively with the profession and stakeholders in a timely and meaningful way
  • proactively participating in the national agenda regarding adoption of national professional standards, and
  • providing expert advice to the profession and stakeholders.

Organisation: Enhance our organisational capacities by:

  • valuing and developing our staff
  • exercising fiscal and managerial responsibility
  • implementing improved information technology to maximise the operations of the Institute and to provide improved services to teachers and stakeholders, and
  • ensuring that the Secretariat administer the operational activities of the Institute under the governance of the Council.

Source: Victorian Institute of Teaching Strategic Plan 2010–13.

Key performance indicators

Figure A2
Assessment of key performance indicators

Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) key performance indicator

VAGO comment

1.

That the Institute implement the recommendations arising from the government response to the King review that relate to it, and the secretariat report to council on progress on a six monthly basis.

Does not tie into specific priorities.

An activity measure, not an indicator of VIT’s efficiency and effectiveness in performing its functions. Specifying the expected outcome/s from implementation and benchmarking and reporting would improve this indicator.

2.

That external reviews of performance or decisions of the Institute or panels concerning registration or disciplinary proceedings confirm compliance with legislation and fair and consistent decision-making.

Relates to priorities 1.2 and 1.3.

The usefuleness of this measure depends on the scope and frequency of external reviews.

3.

That the Institute benchmark against other regulatory authorities to ensure efficient delivery of services and the secretariat reports to council on a six monthly basis.

Relates to priorities 1.1 and 3.1.

An activity measure, not an indicator of VIT’s efficiency and effectiveness in performing its functions. Specifying the expected outcome/s from benchmarking and reporting would improve this indicator.

4.

Development of a media/communications strategy for presentation to, and endorsement by, council within six months.

Relates to priority 2.

An activity measure, not an indicator of VIT’s efficiency and effectiveness in performing its functions. Specifying the improvements expected as a result of each action under this priority would improve this indicator.

5.

That the secretariat report to council at each meeting on the status of national agenda initiatives and the Institute’s implementation of them.

Relates to priority 4.4.

An activity measure, not an indicator of VIT’s efficiency and effectiveness in performing its functions. Specifying the expected outcome/s from reporting would improve this indicator.

6.

Demonstration of responsible and responsive fiscal and resource management, recognising foreseeable changes and potential risks.

Relates to priority 4.2.

An activity measure, not an indicator of VIT’s efficiency and effectiveness in performing its functions. This relates to organisational prioritisation. Articulating how good fiscal and resources management would be demonstrated (for instance, through a balanced budget and low staff turnover) would improve this indicator.

Source: Victorian Auditor-General’s Office based on data from the Victorian Institute of Teaching.

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Appendix B. Audit Act 1994 section 16—submissions and comments

Introduction

In accordance with section 16(3) of the Audit Act 1994 a copy of this report was provided to the Victorian Institute of Teaching with a request for submissions or comments.

The submission and comments provided are not subject to audit nor the evidentiary standards required to reach an audit conclusion. Responsibility for the accuracy, fairness and balance of those comments rests solely with the agency head.

RESPONSE provided by the Chairperson, Victorian Institute of Teaching
RESPONSE provided by the Chairperson, Victorian Institute of Teaching - continued
RESPONSE provided by the Chairperson, Victorian Institute of Teaching - continued
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