The top teachers helping principals lighten the load

The top teachers helping principals lighten the load

Australia’s growing contingent of nationally certified Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers (HALTs) have been a driving force behind student learning, peer professional growth and school improvement, new research shows.

The research paper, commissioned by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) and authored by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), was the second stage of a three-year collaborative project with QUT that delved into how HALTs evidenced the impact of HALTs in the classroom and beyond.

To date, 86 Queensland independent school teachers have achieved HALT standing. They are among almost 900 nationwide. More than 70 other Queensland independent school teachers are currently working towards certification at the two most advanced levels of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers – Highly Accomplished and Lead.

ISQ CEO, Chris Mountford, said the research undertaken by QUT has identified the powerful role Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers (HALTs) play in their school communities, particularly as middle leaders.  

“This research and school experience has shown that HALTs are important pedagogical leaders in their schools,” Mountford told The Educator.

“They often act as the bridge between school leadership teams and classroom teachers - translating the strategic direction and education mission of their school into impactful classroom teaching practice.”

Mountford said quality teaching that enhances student outcomes is “the ultimate goal all schools and their leaders strive for”.

“ISQ’s HALT program advocates that independent school principals encourage two or more teachers undertake HALT certification because this shared 18-month professional journey can lead to the creation of a powerful professional learning community that inspires and influences other teachers in a school, creating a ripple effect of teaching excellence,” he said.

“HALT certification also allows Principals to put forward teachers working at the top of their profession for a nationally recognised credential that recognises and values their vital role in the classroom. “

‘HALTs help turn principals’ vision into reality’

QUT School of Teacher Education Associate Professor Jill Willis is one of the study’s authors. She says HALTs are helping to support the busy and complex role of principalship across Australia, and in turn, improve their wellbeing and performance.

“HALTs are connected to the heart of schools – teaching students. They work closely with teachers providing experienced advice and encouragement. They lead from the middle, connecting a principal’s vision to the daily work,” Associate Professor Willis told The Educator.

“When HALTs are supported by principals they propose and lead inspiring practice within a school and HALTs have expressed a desire to do more as middle leaders”.

Associate Professor Willis said HALT certification is more than well-deserved recognition of individual excellence.

“HALTs are a catalyst for immediate quality improvement in schools when they are supported by leaders and equipped within a collective professional learning approach like that designed by ISQ,” she said.

Associate Professor Willis said that instead of a one-size-fits all approach, local excellent teachers can immediately share successful practices tailored to diverse geographic, social and cultural contexts across Australia.

“They provide experienced leadership for colleagues and students and early career teachers, and at the same time experience professional renewal”.