The sMAG (School Music Action Group, Victoria) welcomes the recent release of The Report after the Review of the Victorian Institute of Teaching. We welcome the government’s response, and look forward to significant improvements and innovations into the near future. A comprehensive approach to resolve perhaps some of the VITs most profoundly challenging, and sometimes controversial dilemmas will be welcomed into the future.
Relevant Pubic Documents:
1. Victorian Government Media Release https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/strengthening-child-safety-to-protect-our-students/
2. Review, Report and Government Response: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/about/department/Pages/vit.aspx
While our interest group is Music education specific, the 32 government-supported, broad and overarching recommendations, if implemented, will benefit all education delivery throughout Victoria. We are pleased that the review identified the importance of the VIT moving beyond a narrow focus on compliance to broaden the auspices, including working with the profession to educate teachers and the community about 'quality' in teaching.
The inclusion of Instrumental teachers in VIT regulation processes will support Recommendations 1 – 8, which are intent on the safety and care of students. The VIT has, in recent policy, chosen to distinguish between ‘Classroom’ and ‘Instrumental’ teachers with the explicit intention of excluding Instrumental teachers from VIT regulation. It is sMAG’s strong belief that this has added to lower professional standards and a lower expectation of appropriate qualifications. Only teachers recognised as “Classroom” have come under the VIT regulatory auspices. Subsequently, instrumentalists have been employed en masse as Education Support Staff and have been delivering educational programs unsupervised, have been teaching in groups and large ensembles, have been contributing to curriculum development and writing reports. All clearly the duties of a teacher. Significant risk can be alleviated with tertiary trained instrumental teachers ALWAYS being required to be VIT registered or have VIT Permission to Teach, meeting all the necessary requirements, and then employed with the status “Classroom” professionals.
We welcome the inclusivity within the government’s media statement:
· Explicitly stating in the VIT’s governing legislation that the safety and wellbeing of children and young people must be considered when performing its regulatory functions
· Reforming the VIT disciplinary system that deals with allegations of teacher misconduct or incompetence. This will include compulsory training for all disciplinary board members to ensure their roles and responsibilities
· Improving its registration processes including migrating to online registration and renewal processes
· Expanding its activities to include proactively educating teachers and the community about teacher quality
· Better information sharing and greater alignment between teacher registrations and the Working with Children Check.
With all such requirements also applying to the instrumental community through the VIT PTT policy or VIT teacher registration processes, the standards can be met, and be inclusive of all specialist instrumental teachers. It is essential that any teacher delivering against the Victorian Curriculum while alone in an instrumental room be VIT registered. Despite the 2017 VIT Permission to Teach Policy going some way to eradicate the practice outlined, 60% of all advertised instrumental positions on Recruitment online remain as Education Support Staff status. It behoves all school employers to preferentially advertise and employ the instrumental teacher with the appropriate “Classroom” status.
· Recommendations 9 – 15, and government responses. Any improvement in VIT internal processes, policies and procedures to align with VRQA frameworks, and contemporary workplace expectations is overdue.
· Recommendations 19 and 22, where collaborations with ITE providers with a view to improving regulatory compliance is set to be a key feature.
· Recommendations to improve the leadership, culture, strategy, staff morale and relationships throughout the VIT with a view to improving outcomes. Significant structural reform, complying with contemporary expectations will lift esteem throughout the teaching profession.
sMAG particularly welcomes recommendations to improve stakeholder engagement.
We commend the Victorian Government for instigating this independent review. We welcome the recommendations and look forward to a speedy implementation. The profound and complex challenge of regulating workforce capability, i.e., regulation of classroom teachers and specialist instrumental teachers, when improved, will substantially improve teacher efficacy throughout the State.
STATEMENT FROM PROF. GARY MCPHERSON
“Instrumental music education within Victorian public schools is now, sadly, well behind other Australian states.
Nowhere in Australia is instrumental music treated so poorly within the system, and music teachers provided with so little support and recognition for the valued work they undertake in our schools. I’m alarmed that highly qualified musicians and music teachers are currently devalued to a point where the system is willing to push the classification of Education Support Staff - with a pay cut - at the expense of VIT registered teachers who have equal status with other teachers within schools. Not only is this short-sighted, but it will impact on the education of a whole generation of students who are interested in music as a school subject.
Unless addressed, the current situation will reach a point whereby music education within Victorian public schools will in no way compare with what students in independent schools are able to experience, and students in other state public systems are offered to enhance their overall education. While the recommendations from the VIT review and report are encouraging, unless the salary and status of instrumental music teachers in government schools is immediately addressed, we stand to continue to lose good professionals to the independent schools system.
The situation must be addressed soon so that Victoria is no longer regarded in music education as the sad cousin of all other Australian states.”
Professor Gary McPherson
Ormond Chair of Music and Director
Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
The University of Melbourne