Seven Things You Should Know About Annual Professional Discussions
It’s important you know your rights when you participate in an annual professional discussion.
Two documents guide how the discussions should work; the Enterprise Agreement (Section R3, p.90) and the Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines. Here are seven main points it’s helpful to bear in mind.
1. You can take a colleague with you for support
You may feel more comfortable with a colleague there to support you in the discussion. The guidelines state: “The principal or classroom teacher may ask the teacher's supervisor to participate in the discussion with them, as appropriate. The teacher may request that a colleague accompany them at the discussion.” (Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines, p.4) Your Sub-Branch President or another senior member of the sub-branch may be a good person to attend the discussion with you. Our union is all about being there for each other.
2. Decisions about transfer can be appealed
The pointy end of Annual Professional Discussions often concerns the end date of your placement at your current school. Be aware, as you participate in the discussion, that principals are obliged to notify you in writing of a decision concerning your end date and you can request that this decision is reconsidered by a panel that includes an AEU nominee.
The guidelines state: "The principal will advise the teacher in writing of any decision concerning their placement end date following the annual professional discussion and no later than the end of term 2. A teacher may seek to have the grounds for the decision concerning their placement end date reconsidered by informing their principal (or school network leader) within 14 days of receipt of the decision. The reconsideration will be undertaken by a panel comprising a school network leader, a principal from another school, and an AEU nominee." (Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines, p.7)
3. Transfer: it’s about you as well as the school
The decision about the end of your placement should be made against two criteria: i. the needs of the school, ii. the teacher’s circumstances and needs. Our enterprise agreement states: "The principal plans with the teacher the optimum time for them to transfer, with regards to the teacher’s career plans and the needs of the school to sustain and renew educational programs." (Enterprise Agreement R3.4, p.90)
The Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines state: "The annual professional discussion is a key process for achieving the objectives of teacher transfer, in particular:
- the professional empowerment of all teaching staff in career planning and development.
- workforce planning at the school level to sustain and renew educational programs.” (Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines, p. 6
Additionally, the Guidelines state: "The principal will give due consideration to a teacher's personal circumstances and needs in making decisions concerning teacher transfer or continuation of placement." (Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines P.7)
4. Transfer is not about performance
The Guidelines explicitly state: “Transfer must not be used to solve performance issues.” (Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines, p.6)
5. There is no limit on the number of times a teacher's placement at a school can be renewed
The ACT is a small jurisdiction where staff are easily able to transfer to different sites. Gaining experience at a range of sites is an important element of a teacher's professional learning and development. It's typically not in anyone’s best interest for a teacher to remain in the one workplace for their entire career.
Deciding when is a good time to transfer to another school is a matter for professional discussion between teacher and principal about the school’s needs and the teacher’s needs, circumstances and career development. There is no limit on the number of times a teacher’s placement at a school can be renewed. The Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines state that: "Subsequent placements (after the initial 5 years) are for periods of up to five years. There is no limit on the number of times a teacher's placement at a school can be continued for periods of up to five years." (Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines, p.6/7)
6. The discussion should be supportive
The principles set out in the Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines include the following."The annual professional discussion will:
- support classroom teachers to continually improve their performance
- be linked to the provision of professional development and support
- promote the professional empowerment of all teaching staff in career planning and development
- value individuals and their capacity to positively contribute to schools and the ACT public education system.” (Annual Professional Discussion Guidelines, p.2)
On p.5, the Guidelines state: “The discussion should focus on how well the classroom teacher is currently meeting expectations of classroom performance and professional responsibilities.” It also states: “The climate for discussion should be open and collegial, involving exploration of issues and evidence to reach mutual understanding.”
7. It’s an opportunity to advance your career
Section of R3.3 of our enterprise agreement states: “Opportunities are explored for the teacher to undertake professional roles and responsibilities within the school in accordance with their Professional Pathways and career plans.” (Enterprise Agreement R3.3, p. 90)
The annual professional discussion is an ideal time to discuss your suitability for accelerated incremental progression (where you advance an extra increment in the pay scale on the basis of outstanding performance).
Section O.8.7 of our enterprise agreement deals with accelerated incremental progression. At O.8.7 (a) it states: “through the annual profession discussion, the principal, in consultation with their school network leader, may recommend that a teacher undertake assessment for accelerated incremental progression on the basis of outstanding performance.” (Enterprise Agreement, Section O.8.7(a), p. 85)
Enterprise Agreement (Section R3, p.90)
Thanks to John Hood, retired AEU member, for assistance with this post.