Changing perceptions of our teaching profession



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Barbara Ala’alatoa says the new Education Council is focused on growing respect for New Zealand’s teaching profession.

Barbara Ala’alatoa, Chairperson, Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand


Barbara Ala alatoaThe year in education will be remembered for:

This year has been a significant year for the education profession. The Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand came into being on 1 July. This is a momentous change – we now have an Education Council that is independent of any government or organisation. On our establishment, the message from the government was clear: ‘Your role is to work collectively to attain the highest professional aspiration – unconstrained by either industrial or political affiliations, policies or issues’. 

We are accountable to our profession, our peers and colleagues. 

Our mandate is to raise the status of the teaching profession, strengthen the regulatory and disciplinary regimes, and support strong systems leadership. We will set our own agenda, independent of any government. We will work with teachers, parents and the public to build a strong and resilient organisation dedicated to ensuring the teaching profession has the same respect as professions such as lawyers or doctors.


A significant achievement in the sector this year has been:

The education profession is constantly evolving and it needs to. As teachers we need to be constantly learning so that our practice is highly effective for all the learners we teach. The exponential growth of technology, and access to knowledge, means we need students with a strong moral purpose and sense of justice. More than ever we need to make sure the curriculum we design and deliver is relevant. We need students who are good at working together for the greater good.

We look forward to moving into an environment where schools are working as communities to strengthen the quality of what we can deliver, not just as an individual school, but as a collective.  We recognise that success for learners can’t be achieved in a vacuum. Building strong systems leadership through working collectively will result in tangible improvements over the coming years. The council is very excited about Communities of Learners, and is currently working out how we can make a powerful contribution to support it.

I also think our sector is working much harder to connect with parents, families and the community. We’re recognising that getting great outcomes for students is a collective responsibility – that society also plays a role in contributing to building strong, resilient and confident learners. We all benefit from creating sustainable structures and frameworks for lifelong learning.


The issue our members were most concerned about in 2015 was:

The status of the teaching profession needs to rise. The Education Council’s mandate is to change perceptions about the teaching profession. We want to grow respect for the profession so it attracts the brightest and the best and they stay because of the professional opportunities afforded, and the rewarding and challenging environments they experience. We look forward to developing standards with, and for, the profession. We will be ensuring the progression of these standards support career development. We will work with our peers and colleagues to build rich evidence and exemplars of the standards. 

We know in countries where teaching is held in the same esteem as the medical or legal profession the outcomes for learners are better and teachers are more committed, fulfilled, and connected to the education community. Teachers are lifelong learners – it’s not a one-way process.


Three education priorities for the coming year are:

Maximising the success of every learner through highly effective leadership and teaching is at the council’s core. Our three goals are collective responsibility for equitable outcomes for every learner, consistently high-quality teaching and leadership within and across learning environments, and for every teacher and leader to embrace improvement, innovation and change. We’ll do this by helping build professional capability, strengthening a self-managing profession and developing leadership of a coherent, high-performing education system. 

We also need to develop better systems for the selection, mentoring and appointment of professional leaders. That means developing standards for leadership that demonstrate what constitutes exemplary practice at the various stages of leadership. 

More generally speaking, we as a sector must remain focused on getting equitable outcomes for all learners, and focused on what works for our priority students, because that’s what usually works for all students. 

We work in an increasingly complex world. We need to remain focused on achievement, and elevate the competencies and values of our curriculum so students can go on to make and shape communities and society to be healthier, safer, happier and dynamic. 

Finally, it’s been a very exciting and challenging time for me as the first chair of this new organisation. I look forward to leading the Education Council over the next three years. It’s an exciting prospect.

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