This is a copy of Dr Marie Martin's address to the PTCWA 2012 Awards Ceremony.
APEA (1994) – PTCWA (2012)
We are here to celebrate exemplary teachers who contribute to their students’ learning, their schools, their systems, and their professional associations.
We know that these people give untiringly. We also know that involvement in educational leadership at this level has many rewards – of which nomination for these awards is just one.
Individually and collectively these people provide
- Leadership – giving others a sense of direction,
- Vision – reducing confusion,
- Skills – reducing anxiety,
- A sense of purpose – reducing resistance,
- Resources – reducing frustration, and
- Collegiality – reducing isolation and loneliness.
Their efforts are a central component in the management of educational change.
Supporting educational change has been a mandate of professional associations since their inception. I note that, for example, what is now Early Childhood Australia began in 1938, the Science Teachers Association began in 1946, the WA Primary Principals Association in 1953, the Mathematics Teachers Association in 1956 and the Australian College of Educators in 1959.
Advocacy for teachers and education, provision of professional learning, development of learning and teaching resources, collegiality and recognition of quality teachers have been some of the purposes of professional associations regardless of whether they were supporting teachers of a particular area of the curriculum, a phase of schooling, a group of students or a level of responsibility.
Most of the time, professional associations operate with the energy and commitment of members who see the benefits of their association and dedicate time to achieving its goals: advocating, offering, sourcing or supporting professional learning and writing resources and attending meetings of the committee which oversees these activities.
At various times, associations have received financial or operational support from sources other than members. The Department of Education, Association of Independent Schools, Catholic Education Office, universities and businesses have provided small and large grants – all of which then require oversight, management and accountability, forming another function of the professional association committee.
But external support of associations has always been chequered. Smaller associations often have more difficulty sourcing support than larger ones. Cross disciplinary associations often find it harder to have a voice when curriculum is divided into subject areas. Specific subject associations find a new lease of life when subject-oriented curriculum returns. Early childhood associations always feel that curriculum is dictated by secondary education.
So, let us go back to 1994 when the Federal Government made available National Professional Development Project funding for professional associations to support the implementation of the Student Outcome Statements (as they were known in WA and what was to be the Curriculum Framework). Limited albeit generous, funding required professional associations to work together in a new ‘learning area’ arrangement, bringing together professional associations who had different philosophies, focuses or territories. A great deal of work went into developing projects that were inclusive of professional associations that previously had been competitors for funding and membership.
As the project officer for the early childhood project, Strengthening the Early Years – Improving Outcomes, I know that we included the Australian Early Childhood Association (what is now Early Childhood Australia), Early Childhood Teachers’ Association of WA, Early Years in Education Society (WA), Independent Pre-School Teachers’ Association, Institute of Early Childhood Educators (W.A. Chapter), Junior School Heads’ Association of Australia (W.A. Branch), Meerilinga Young Children’s Foundation, Inc., Organisation Mondiale Pour L’Education Prescolaire (O.M.E.P.) and the Western Australian Chapter of the Australian College of Education. Like other NPDP projects, the incentive of project funding helped people to come together in the same room and reach agreement on the direction, content and processes of a highly productive professional development project.
Energy and excitement built.
And then, six weeks before the applications were to be submitted there was a ruling that the projects needed to come under the umbrella of an Education Department NPDP project if the Education Department was to be a project partner.
Our early childhood project was exempt from this requirement because we were a national project involving Northern Territory, ACT and Tasmania.
But the other projects had no choice. The funding was to be channelled through the Department and some of the funding was to be used to oversee the projects.
The projects began and they were successful and productive. Some would say it was because they were brought together under a project manager who oversaw the whole project for the Department. Others would say that their collegiality came from their own initiatives and the hard slog that had gone into bringing project partners together.
Arts Accord, the combined arts education association, pushed for associations to work together more cohesively in recognition of the facts that
- there were general educational issues that concerned or interested all associations,
- there was increasing pressure on associations to provide high quality professional support to teachers, and their current organisation made it difficult for many associations to meet the demand,
- small associations desperately needed the economies of scale available through cooperative organisation.
On 23 April 1994, an initial meeting of association representatives discussed the concept and need for an Affiliation of Professional Education Associations in WA.
I might add in passing that the very name of the association required great diplomacy. Affiliation recognised that the groups were coming together for mutual support in an area of common concern with no hierarchy and an agreement that the groups could be convened but not chaired and certainly never presided over. Professional was a way of honouring those working with children and young people at a time when teachers were struggling to be seen as professionals. Education recognised that there was a role for principals, parents and para-professionals in the education of students. Association reinforced the voluntary nature of the group. We were associates. Nothing more.
At this time, the government was investigating the idea of a Centre of Excellence for Teachers. The fledgling APEA saw the potential for the support of associations in this proposal and through heavy lobbying won approval to work with the Department of Education to find a suitable site. Unfortunately every site that was suitable ended up not being possible. With the prospect that nothing would ever happen, APEA determined to find their own site.
In 1995, the Minister for Education Norman Moore gave his verbal support for the Affiliation and at the end of 1995 some of the National Professional Development Program funding was approved for APEA to develop an operational centre at 2A Mayfair St (behind Meerilinga).
An Executive Officer was appointed, Mayfair St was fitted and furnished, a Professional Association Directory and Professional Development Calendars were published and APEA received a Ministerial letter from the then Minister for Education, Colin Barnett assuring APEA of his belief in its importance and value and acknowledging the need for support for an executive officer. The Education Department was requested to act.
At the end of 1996, funding was again in jeopardy. The Centre for Professional Excellence in Education was to be established in Fremantle. Support for professional associations was one third of its brief, the other two thirds being to offer professional development opportunities and to raise the status of teachers and teaching.
With limited funding for both organisations, it was in the best interests of CET and APEA for APEA to move their part time executive officer to CET and for CET to provide support and space for associations, including the establishment of a display and point of sale for association products.
In the meantime, on a national level, comparable state bodies were forming and communicating with one another. The Australian Joint Council of Professional Teaching Associations was able to attract funding that enabled APEA to ensure that all associations became “virtually visible” and contactable by virtue of a seeding project grant as part of National funding support for EdNA usage – Networking: Joint Councils Developing Links with EdNA and each other.
APEA provided training for association committees, and by purchasing a server and software enabling remote access for maintenance etc, enabled the free hosting of independent websites and the facilitation of listservs for associations. The APEA Executive Officer was part of the national website design and implementation team.
The funding for the APEA Executive Officer was taken over by CET and a project officer was employed to support the professional associations. The APEA Committee kept a watching brief on CET activities, aware that there may no longer be a need for APEA, but keeping contact with the Australian Joint Council. CET promised they would support professional associations and some professional associations received this support, but the smaller associations felt they were unable to meet the costs of residency or affiliation.
And in 2001, the Centre for Excellence in Teaching closed – and APEA rescued and returned association materials. From 2001 until 2006, APEA supported associations no longer able to be housed together and without a home, APEA’s office moved into private homes. APEA
- revised Association contact information, converting all contacts to electronic media.
- continued to provide free independent webspace to all associations.
- assisted associations with compliance to the Federal Government’s Privacy Principles Legislation requirements. Disseminated information on both state and national developments relating to certification and registration of teachers.
- negotiated for and obtained Public Liability Insurance cover for associations at greatly reduced rates.
- held forums to enable associations to contribute to the development of the National Framework for Standards for Teaching.
- promoted the existence and functions of professional associations whenever possible including providing materials on all associations to all attendees at the Beginning Teachers Seminar.
As an AJCPTA member APEA’s Convenor attended and contributed to national forums on Teacher Standards, Quality and Professionalism, Building the Education Profession to support Vocational Education, and the Quality and Educational Leadership National Standards Framework. Increasingly APEA was part of the national picture. In 2004 and 2005, the APEA Convenor and Treasurer were also the national AJCPTA office bearers, thus maximizing WA associations’ national representation
In 2006, the need to change the focus of the APEA into a more pro-active organisation promoting the value and status of professional teaching associations was clear. APEA needed to be more than an affiliation.
The Professional Teaching Council of Western Australia (PTCWA) was incorporated in August 2006, reflecting the nature of and the intended purpose of the organisation in the educational climate of the time. It also aligned the WA organisation more closely etymologically with the equivalent organisations in the other states and territories who were the other members of the Australian Joint Council of Professional Teaching Associations. And the term Council (meaning a body of people elected or appointed to serve as administrators, legislators, or advisors) better suited the evolving nature of this peak body of professional education associations.
Since then, PTCWA has facilitated forums and consultations and made four submissions to the National Institute for Quality Teaching and School Leadership, Teaching Australia the Australian Institute of Teaching and Leadership in regard to National Teaching Standards as well as submissions in regard to an Australian Certificate of Education, Accreditation of pre-service programs, national goals for schooling, a national curriculum board, post compulsory schooling, Codes of Ethics, the national Teaching Charter, success for boys, school leadership, language education and teaching for uncertain futures.
PTCWA has provided support for numerous associations on a wide variety of topics, including insurance, constitutional change, management, venues, caterers and potential partnerships for PD activities eg joint conferences.
Workshops for Office Bearers on management issues were conducted regularly, for example on publicity and the Media with Diana Warnock and on how to write effective nominations for Awards (state and national).
PTCWA has acted as a conduit for the dissemination of information from organisations such as the Australian Education Forum.
PTCWA has also coordinated the National Values Education Project and the Consumer and Financial Literacy project.
Today, PTCWA is more than just a group of educational associations. PTCWA bridges the gaps between professional teaching associations, teachers, authorities and the community. It promotes teachers and member associations to the wider community, is the central body for professional teaching associations in WA, connects WA professional associations with other associations on a national level and provides activities to improve the profession of teaching and professionalism of teachers. Media and Outstanding Professional Service Awards have been introduced, attracting media (TV & Radio) coverage for PTCWA and awardees and promoting a positive image of teaching and teachers.
Being part of APEA and PTCWA has been a privilege and a blessing. The dedication of the PTCWA committee, who are all active members of other associations as well, is also celebrated tonight – along with each and every one of you who work in the finest profession: teaching.