Enterprising schools

Harvard Professor, Richard Elmore once asked ‘is it possible that schools can continue to operate in the 19th century while the rest of society moves into the 21st century?’ The simple answer is no – although the adversarial position historically adopted by unions suggests otherwise.

NSW and ACT Catholic employers are currently in the process of discussions with staff and the union on a new enterprise agreement that we believe reflects the need to create contemporary working conditions relevant to a twenty first century model of schooling.  This conversation is not limited to teaching profession, it is happening in most professional organisations around the world.  Federal education minister Christopher Pyne recently said that education is one of the last bastions in the working world where length of service is still rewarded.  Length of service in any profession does not guarantee that you are the best you can be.  It simply means you lasted the distance.

We want all teachers no matter what stage of their career to develop high level skills and knowledge in their work.  I know the majority of teachers want greater control of their working lives.  As John Hattie states ‘schools need to collaborate to build a team working together to solve the dilemmas in learning, to collectively share and critique the nature and quality of evidence that shows our impact on student learning, and to cooperate in planning etc.’

This calls for a new professional maturity that provides teachers with greater autonomy but acknowledges the need for all teachers to adopt a rigorous and intellectual approach to improving teacher practice. In 2018, Australia will have a new national teachers standard administered by AITSL.  This is one of the foundations of the new Catholic schools enterprise agreement. The standards are imminent and non-negotiable.

What is negotiable under a new enterprise agreement is how each local school community structures and shapes learning and teaching.  For more than a century the working lives of teachers have been controlled by bells, timetables and externally imposed agenda. Do we continue to defend an industrial model of schooling in the face of the irrefutable and overwhelming impact of a knowledge age or do we embrace the opportunities for teachers to chart new waters?

Enterprise is defined in the dictionary as a ‘readiness to embark on adventures with boldness and energy.’  Educational expert Yong Zhao believes the time has come for schools to be enterprising, for students to be entrepreneurial and for teachers to be bold in re-shaping the educational agenda.  This is what the new enterprise agreement is about.  It challenges teachers to think about new ways of working together to improve the quality of learning and teaching in schools.

We don’t just want teachers to last the distance, we want them to shape their profession and to continually raise the bar of excellence for themselves, the school communities and most of all, the students they teach.

If twenty first century schools are enterprising schools, then we need a contemporary enterprise agreement which reflects a 21st century teaching profession.












The proposal for an enterprise agreement stems from a recognition that a new century requires new ways of working in schools.  It aims to increase collaboration at a local level by supporting leaders but most of all, it aims to bring alignment in the standards





Enterprising schools need enterprise agreements.  It’s time for educators to be bold and to lead the way with imagination and initiative on how we want to work.



2 thoughts on “Enterprising schools

  1. It appears that all stakeholders, unions included, support what the research says about the importance of quality teaching. The AEU also quotes Hattie. I imagine the transition from ‘years of service’ to a ‘performance based’ reward model would be complex in the transition period, especially in the context of a limited budget. All power to those who are working through the issues.

    There are other enterprises and professions worldwide that still systemically promote and reward on the basis of longevity of service. Some, including the political profession, even reward after service is completed. Still, teaching needs to move forward as you say.

    The AITSL standards are an excellent framework for guiding, evidencing and rewarding good teaching. I would happily pay higher school fees if I knew my children were part of a learning environment that rewarded teachers on the basis of such standards. I don’t think I would be alone on that. Perhaps governments could consider doing likewise in the context of Gonski so there is equity in both quantitative and qualitative terms.

    You are right to mention that elements of the industrial school model apparatus prevail. Bells continue to ring, test scores continue to be ranked and, in many systems, children continue to hand in assignments without having engaged anyone in the development process. Some of these factory model hangovers need to be addressed at a system and political level so that quality teachers can flourish without barriers. We also need to educate the community and leaders on how we identify excellent student outcomes – beyond the tabloid traditions of test results. The community has an issue with itself if it on one hand demands quality teaching input standards but fails to demand the articulation and recognition of holistic student outcomes required in our world today, soft skills included.

    Meanwhile, some of our political leaders could say and do things that elevate the status of the teaching profession in the Australian community.

  2. Standard 1: proficient.
    Use teaching strategies based on knowledge of students’ physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics to improve student learning.

    Standard 1: Highly accomplished.
    Select from a flexible and effective repertoire of teaching strategies to suit the physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students.

    I believe it to be impossible to make a rigorous, accurate, reliable & reproducible assessments of whether thousands of different teachers across hundreds of schools, assessed by legions of different assessors meet either the first or second of those those statements.

    And unless these assessments are all rigorous, accurate, reproducible and reliable the the distinction between one and another (and hence your salary) will be based on the opinions, biases and budgets of those doing the assessing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.