Super Teachers

Many of my teaching friends have criticised the move by the Department of Education and Training to introduce the new role of Highly Accomplished Teacher in NSW schools.

On face value I could see why: the potential to alienate teachers by only elevating a select few (an eventual total of 100 across the state) to the ranks of HAT is huge.  And the salary for these teachers – $98,000 – is higher than the salary for a KLA Head Teacher, and just under that of a Deputy Principal.  Weird.

However, as my school was once of the first to gain one of these positions, I am here to testify.

It’s easy to be upset and feel unappreciated because someone who used to sit next to you in the faculty staffroom is all of a sudden getting paid up to an extra 50% (and for a smaller teaching load at that!)  But you have to remember that these positions are different to that of an rank-and-file teacher.  Curriculum Head Teachers get paid more for doing less teaching too, but we are used to that – we understand that their role is different to ours.  And they sure do earn their crust; on days when HSC, School Certificate and NAPLAN data are released there is no way I would trade my job for theirs.  And as for sitting around in boring Executive meetings planning school targets and discussion policy issues…well, most teachers would rather not do that too.

Is the position of HAT any different?

Why shouldn’t someone get paid more for doing a harder job?

I suspect the issue is that many teachers currently don’t believe that the HAT role is very difficult.  But let’s consider what the HAT in my school is taking on as we blog:

  • Classroom observation and team teaching with beginning teachers, and later with each faculty in turn
  • Developing the resources and in-school PD for refining the literacy and numeracy focus across all KLAs
  • Establishing research partnerships with local universities (and later co-ordinating and leading the school side of the action research)
  • Liasing with university education faculties to build formal mentoring structures for the influx of pre-service teachers that our school will now enjoy
  • Leading the school in its new role as Centre for Excellence by building relationships with surrounding public schools to ensure the quality teaching practices that our school is refining are spread far and wide to benefit the wider community
  • And still teaching!  Albeit a much smaller load.

Sounds like schools just got someone in who can do the cool stuff that we teachers never get time to do. Aren’t you excited about having fellow teachers, rather than admintrators and bureacrats, helping you to develop your teaching quality?

Of course, the success of someone in this role will depend on whether they are the right person for the job.  But this is true of all promotions.  In my school the teacher who got the HAT role was an English teacher already in the school.  She was my mentor in my second year of teaching, and she is one of the warmest, most patient, most hard working, professional and reflective teachers could ever hope to meet.  You can read Luisa’s statement on why she teaches on our school leadership blog.

Personally, I am excited by the idea that there is a career in schools now that I can look forward to.  I have always wanted to be a teacher AND a researcher, but other than working crazy part-time roles in both, there was nothing on the horizon.

The other benefit of the HAT scheme is that teachers who love teaching in public schools and who are really, really good at it don’t have to end up lost to administration roles if they want to earn a higher salary.  I love teaching, and I am commited to teaching in public schools.  I don’t want to be a Principal.  Or a Deputy Principal.  I’m not even sure I want to be a Head Teacher.

But I sure would like to be a HAT 🙂


  1. #1 by Troy on February 11, 2010 - 4:44 pm

    But you are already a HAT. I too: “I don’t want to be a Principal. Or a Deputy Principal. I’m not even sure I want to be a Head Teacher.” Is it the old style Leading Teacher, or is the new HAT replacing HT teaching and learning? How does a school get a HAT? Or do those schools just keep expecting more from HAT who are just, regular everyday exceptional teachers? Except, not everyone is a regular every teacher and we all know it.

  2. #2 by kmcg2375 on February 11, 2010 - 6:14 pm

    Ha – another stumbling block. Calling them ‘Highly Accomplished Teachers” does imply that the rest of us aren’t. Perhaps it would be better understood if they were called Head Teacher Quality Teaching and Research. Or, to emphasise their role of building their own school as a PD ‘hub’ for other local schools, a DET Quality Teaching Liaison Officer…?

    The role is not a HT T&L one. Perhaps it is similar to the old Leading Teacher – not sure (?) But badging the new HATs as just another brand of Head Teacher I think pigeonholes them as administrative, rather than practitioner focused. Attaching them to the DET generally, rather than a specific school, would have the same effect (as well as diminishing the sense of in-depth connection you get being within a school community).

    So, is the problem with the role itself, or the semantics of the title?

  3. #3 by Troy on February 11, 2010 - 6:31 pm

    I have no problem with the position: every school should have one. I hate it when a HT of a KLA is pigeonholed in the adminstration side, rather than the professional development of staff.

    A similar situation with HT mentors: “DET generally (HT mentor case, a staff region or a number of schools), rather than a specific school”…practitioner focused, I like it. Mmm, I didn’t think the HATs were like HT teaching and learning, I think those two would work together nicely.

  4. #4 by Simon Borgert on February 11, 2010 - 6:31 pm

    I agree Kelli – the role of the HAT is potentially a very significant one – and like you think it is exactly the type of position I would like one day. Having said that the mood in our faculty staff room as they were reading the article in the Telegraph was less than complementary – but this is most due to misunderstanding the role. The name should probably be changed.

  5. #5 by kmcg2375 on February 11, 2010 - 8:11 pm

    If we didn’t have one at our school I’m sure our staff would be very cynical. It’s hard to conceptualise the role when there’s not one in your school I think. One for every school would be lovely!

  6. #6 by Ian Gay on February 12, 2010 - 8:10 am

    Several issues:
    1. Not all schools have one so how are the schools to have one selected? Your school has been selected; looking at your school website (Centre of Excellence, NAPLAN results etc) one could perhaps make an argument that your school doesn’t really need one and a better choice might have been a school not apparently succeeding.

    2. The selection of these superteachers. You are apparently quite happy with the choice made at your school but is everybody? Could there be a better candidate, not necessarily in your school, somewhere else? Having been involved over several years on both side of the merit selection debacle I have no faith in the system’s integrity or accuracy.

    3. Will they necessarily “earn their crust”? I have seen many executive who don’t earn their crust and remain unconvinced that being in a role like this ensures value for money.

    I’m sorry, I remain unconvinced as to the value or equity of such positions.

  7. #7 by kmcg2375 on February 12, 2010 - 4:04 pm

    Ian in the documentation it says that:
    “50 of these positions will be created in Centres for Excellence under the National Partnership on Improving Teacher Quality and the others may be created in schools which are part of the National Partnership on Low Socioeconomic Status School Communities.”

    The point of allocating HATs to Centres of Excellence is not to help great schools go even better (though hopefully this will be a pay-off), it is to help schools that are succeeding to share their practice with other local schools, and allow university research partners to work to that same end.

    I guess my question would be: what would you do instead? Good teachers are leaving public schools, even the profession completely, because the only way to get a payrise is to go into admin. As for issues relating to selection process, the fact that there are only 100 positions gives me hope that the process will have to be more transperent than usual…and, as I said in the post, there are always errors with promotion, not just in the education sector. Is the alternative to promote no-one in case we get it wrong?

    The other thinig about these positions is that you are only eligable to apply if you have achieved or applied for accreditation at ‘Professional Accomplishment’ or ‘Professional Leadership’ from the NSW Institute of Teachers. I know this opens up another whole can of worms for NSW-IT nay-sayers, but you must admit that does add another level of transperancy and rigour to the selection process, right?

    • #8 by Kaylene McCormick on February 13, 2010 - 8:46 pm

      The HAT position is a very contentious issue for alot of people. Without naming them, I know several well established teachers who begrudge the nature of this position simply because of the extra money. The HAT get the same as a head teachers but with a travel allowance taking the amount to just of $105k. The extra $10k is cover travel between the hub and various spoke schools etc.

      As someone who was going to apply for the MFHS HAT position, it was interesting the hear the the ground swell of opinion about the role once I decided not to go for the position. I was surprised at the level of animosity some teachers had for the position.

      Alot of people underestimate the degree of work involved in doing this sort of position. As the Teacher Mentor at MFHS I have found that I spend more than my alotted 2 periods a week doing what is required to successfully run the Collegial Support program. Unless you are tailing me around the school while I do my work in this role it is easy to assume that I am not doing much when in fact most of my free time is spent liasing with all the ECTs, their mentors and HTs.

      The HATs role is partly this and so much more. Ok they do have 50% teaching load but I can assure you all that the other 50% and more of their time will be spent doing the vast amount of work required to complete the position Kelli described.

      On top of that, the HATs will have to complete the accreditation for all 46 PT standards within one year of gaining the position. You do not have to have achieved accomplishment or leadership accreditation before you get the job. You just needed to have applied to complete accreditation at either of these levels and have received positive feedback and you must also complete the accreditation at either level within the first twleve months of being appointed.

      Unlike accreditation for competence they will have to have evidence for all 46 standards, have referees to verify you are meeting all of the standards and have a external assessor come and assess you for the standards you nominate them to assess.

      Similarly, like ECTs, they too will have to maintain their accreditation every five years. How many hours of Professional Development they will have to do was still not decided in early December. There is some talk of 150-200 hours over 5 years.

      A lot of pressure for anyone with a job description that is as detailed as Kelli listed. I respect anyone who has jumped through the hoops to get these jobs as the DET will certainly be getting their pound of flesh from them.

      My concern is how quickly will such a position force existing teachers to join the institute? Anecdotal evidence suggests that many schools are chosing institute teachers before existing teachers because they have demonstrated and maintained competence. Where does that leave me – someone who has been teaching for 13 years????

      The two year time frame is a concern as well but given the nature of the position surely the HATs would be ready to jump to Deputy by then or at least across to HT Mentor.

  8. #9 by kmcg2375 on February 12, 2010 - 4:21 pm

    Incidentally, the research literature shows that whole school change takes *at least* 5 years. So the idea of giving a Super Teacher to a poorly performing school for a couple of years is another band-aid solution for such schools (or any school). The HAT scheme is one that seeks long term local inter-school partnerships, and my hope is that this will give ALL schools a better chance at securing whole school quality teaching in the long term.

  9. #10 by Hiba R on February 12, 2010 - 8:04 pm


    as someone who works at the same school as you, and someone who was formerly taught by the HAT you mentioned in the blog, I can vouch and say that no other teacher deserved that position more. Why? Because the HAT chosen was someone so passionate about teaching, so passionate about the students and she gelled so well with the school and the students. Yes, there might be someone else out there who may have more experience, bigger expectations and brighter ideas, but why go far when you have someone already comfortable in the environment and working well?

    Having said that, I was THE most sceptical person of these HAT position, because like others I was insulted by the title of Highly Accomplished Teacher, which COULD imply that other teachers are NOT highly accomplished. But it’s just a title, and after reading your blog and seriously considering what Luisa is doing now, I am slightly more optimistic than before. And this is only because it is someone I TRUST in that position. And I think thats were me and you have an advantage and insight over other teachers in the state, because we KNOW this particular HAT, and we KNOW how hard she has worked in the past and we are seeing first hand wat she is doing.

    My last point is about that article on Tuesday. The Daily Telegraph did Luisa and the school a HUGE injustice. She was quoted as saying that she wanted to break down the stereotypes of the school, and yet they referred to the school community as disadvantaged. Also, the whole crap about performance pay really annoyed me. Julia Gillard was quoted as saying that the new performance pay scheme would lift the spirits of our disadvantaged school. Firstly, we are NOT a disadvantaged school. Secondly, we have PLENTY of spirit. And lastly, how is paying one particular person $98, 000 a year going to lift the SPIRIT of a school (ignoring everything we just mentioned)

  10. #11 by dskmag on February 12, 2010 - 10:08 pm

    personally, I think the criteria by which DET filters out people is terrible on all levels. Since graduation, I’ve been on the list for a DET job … never got the call. The criteria assumes that DET is the whole world for just about all exec positions – and being out the system is almost certainly going to mean not making the selection panel. Looks very miopic in the walled garden. I have however employed several EdTechs recently – who are now ex-DET. Crazy times huh.

  11. #12 by Simon Job on February 13, 2010 - 5:55 pm

    What happens to the HAT after their two years? This is a temporary position. So, the Government acknowledges this person is worthy of a greater remuneration, but at a later point they go back to normal pleb salary.

    I think it’s essential that the accreditation process be accompanied by recognition and a remuneration that starts to reflect a professional’s salary. However, 100 HATs and 2200 schools – I don’t get why there cannot be more positions, except for funding.

    Are others concerned about the tiers of education being created in the public system? I work in a “normal” local high school, surrounded by sports, selective and performing arts schools; and now, Centres of Excellence — I just don’t understand why every school is not being given the same opportunities.

    • #13 by kmcg2375 on February 15, 2010 - 9:37 am

      I am absolutely concerned about the public schools hierarchy – my region is the same (selectives, sports, performing arts, technology and private schools). Incidentally, not all regions are as bad – I have found Illawarra/South Coast to be much less (explicitly) categorised. Though of course even when all of the local schools are ‘normal’, locals still will create a definite sense of where those schools sit on the ladder.

      One positive of the Centres for Excellence (NB: not Centres OF excellence, and the distinction is an important one) is that the goal is for resources and practitioner expertise to be shared between the ‘hub’ and ‘spoke’ schools. Existing specialists schools (performing arts, selective etc) have no such obligation.

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