Australian research has shown that quality teaching is the greatest in-school influence on student engagement and outcomes, accounting for 30 per cent of the variance in student performance. An international comparative study of 15-year-old students showed the performance of New South Wales students in reading, mathematics and science has declined between 2006 and 2015.

The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (the Standards) describe the knowledge, skills and understanding expected of effective teachers at different career stages. Teachers must be accredited against the Standards to be employed in NSW schools. The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) is responsible for ensuring all teachers in NSW schools are accredited. As part of the accreditation process the NSW Department of Education (The Department) assesses whether public school teachers meet proficient accreditation standards and advises NESA of its decisions.

The School Excellence Framework provides a method for the Department to monitor teaching quality at a school level across four elements of effective teaching practice. The Performance and Development Framework provides a method for teachers and their supervisors to monitor and improve teaching quality through setting professional goals to guide their performance and development.

The Department has a strategic goal that every student, every teacher, every leader and every school improves every year. In line with this goal, the Department has a range of strategies targeted to improving teaching quality at different career stages. These include additional resources to support new teachers, a program to support teachers to gain higher-level accreditation, support for principals to manage underperforming teachers, and a professional learning program where teachers observe and discuss each other's practice.

The objective of this audit was to assess the effectiveness of the NSW Department of Education's and the NSW Education Standards Authority's arrangements to ensure teaching quality in NSW public schools. To address this objective, the audit examined whether:

  • agencies effectively monitor the quality of teaching in NSW public schools
  • strategies to improve the quality of teaching are planned, communicated, implemented and monitored well.

Key findings:

  • There is no review of principals' decisions to accredit teachers at minimum standards
  • The Department does not effectively monitor teaching quality at a system level
  • There are weaknesses in the teacher performance and development process, and insufficient guidance to ensure it is used effectively
  • The external validation process gives principals insight into teaching quality in their school
  • Strategies to improve teaching quality are informed by consultation, trialled and reviewed before wider implementation, but their overall impact is not evaluated
  • Guidelines support schools to implement strategies to improve teaching quality, but the Department is not monitoring their use of the funding
  • The purpose and role of highly accomplished and lead teachers in schools is not clear
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