The celebration of 50 years of teacher registration in Queensland is not just a celebration of an organisation or a process, it is a celebration of the growth and development of teaching as a profession. It is interesting to note that registration came about in part because of a push by teachers themselves to see their work recognised as an occupation that should be carried out by qualified staff, adequately trained for their role. That is not to dismiss the wonderful work done by teachers in earlier times who did not always have the formal training of today’s teachers but speaks instead to the solid foundation they laid.
It is interesting to reflect that almost as soon as Queensland became a state in 1859, legislation was passed dealing with the operation of schools but it would be almost another 20 years before much thought was given to the professional aspects of teaching, with the introduction in 1876 of a pupil teacher scheme in which the head teacher was responsible for the training of teachers. It would take almost another 40 years before the first teacher training college was established and more than 50 years after that for teacher registration to be introduced.
The registration system has given recognition to teaching as a profession with high standards that must be met. Through the Queensland College of Teachers and its predecessor organisations, Queensland has been able to develop a cross-sectoral system that recognises the professional integrity of our teachers and also calls out those few who do not meet these high standards. These two aspects of registration are equally important and give confidence to the families who entrust the education of their children to our schools every day. They are also important for the confidence of the broader community who need to know that young people are engaged a high-quality education system that can prepare them to be positive contributors to society.
Teacher registration makes a significant contribution to student protection as it provides the mechanism to remove from classrooms and school communities, teachers who do not have the best interests of students at heart. After the long years of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse there is a heightened focus on the systems and structures that ensure children are safe at school and in other institutional settings. The Royal Commission shone a light on the need to be able to act quickly and to share information when teachers or others in positions of authority fail in their duty of care. Having a system of teacher registration where those few who do not meet the standard cannot simply move from school to school or sector to sector provides a high level of reassurance to school communities that their registered teachers are people of integrity.
We are fortunate in Queensland to have an education system where the State, Catholic and Independent sectors work closely together and in strong partnership with our respective parent organisations and in association with industrial and professional bodies. This is reflected in the make-up of the QCT. The many perspectives that Board members bring to the discussion of teacher registration issues have ensured that the system is robust, fit for purpose and responsive to change.
The responsiveness of the QCT was put to the test in 2020 with the onset of the pandemic as we navigated our way through the unknown. For those in their final year of teacher training there was great uncertainty about how or whether they could complete their professional practice prior to graduation and provisional registration. The QCT’s willingness to revisit the requirements for these students in a way that recognised the difficulties the students faced while maintaining the integrity of the system points to a contemporary organisation and system that can operate successfully and adaptively in the 21st century context. The next 50 years will no doubt offer as many or more challenges as the last 50 years but the QCT and our Queensland teacher registration system stand ready to meet them head on to support the teaching profession. Ultimately that means our students and their families face each school day in the knowledge that learning is taking place in the presence of registered professionals whose conduct is held to the highest standards.