“Front of mind throughout the whole project was ensuring teachers and professional leaders would have access to a platform that would make life easier for them,” says Lesley. “We wanted to enhance teachers’ experience with us: applying will be quicker and intuitive, application processing faster, lines of communication open and responsive.”
New registration and certification
Alongside the launch of Hapori Matatū, there is a new policy for registration and certification. The Teacher Registration, Practising Certification and Limited Authority to Teach Policy was developed in consultation with teachers and has simplified the process so teachers and professional leaders can more easily understand what is required to register and apply for certification.
By the start of June, about 1,163 teachers had submitted applications and 143 of these had already been approved, with certificates issued through the new online system Hapori Matatū/Online Community. A digital certificate was launched in June and can be carried on a device or printed out.
Hundreds more applications were in the pipeline and Lesley says that educators are already impressed with how much easier and faster the application process is – for most teachers it takes only 10 minutes to submit an application for endorsement.
“The Teaching Council has put its services online, with funding from Government not teacher fees, because we needed to find a way to free up our time and teachers’ time to do things that were important,” says Lesley.
“We had a very old paper-based system with multiple pages, which took teachers days, if not weeks, to complete. The new system can be done anytime on any kind of device, you can save it, come back to it. You don’t have to find a person to sign it, it will happen through the online system. The police vet doesn’t need to be requested separately – it will be done in parallel.
“Now we push the data to them – we hold data in our database, so when they log in, they’ll get what we currently have, they can add to it, they can edit it.”
Educators involved in design
The Council wanted the online platform to be ‘designed by teachers for teachers’ and about 600 educators responded to a call to be involved in its development. Lesley is confident that the system is now responsive and intuitive due to their input. There are more improvements to the system scheduled this year and the Council encourages teachers to send in constructive feedback.
A group of beta testers helped iron out the kinks. Their involvement at the design stage highlighted some key issues such as confusion about which of eight possible application forms should be completed.
“Teachers told us ‘we don’t know which forms to fill in – it doesn’t make sense to us’. But now, once they log onto the platform via their Education Sector Logon, they answer two or three questions and then the system works out the right form for them to fill out.”
Teachers will be able to track the progress of the application online. This could be a game-changer for teachers and the Council.
“In the past, about a third of our calls or emails were asking where a person’s application is up to. Now with tracking, they can log into their profile and it will show where in the process their application is up to.
“With the paper-based forms, all we did was help get them through the process end to end,” says Lesley.
“Now for most teachers it will be pretty straightforward, but some teachers will need additional support and we’ll be able to spend our time working with those few.
“Our job is about lifting the quality of teaching and to do that, we need to give support to the right people. Now we’ll be able to nuance our process and focus on different types of teachers who need support.”
Safe online community
Once teachers log into the secure Hapori Matatū platform via their Education Sector Logon they can track the progress of their applications in real-time, engage in any conduct or competency issues and join an online community with more than 100,000 of their peers.
“Hapori means community or family in te reo Māori and we hope to foster a welcoming and caring environment for teachers to share best practice and discuss high-quality teaching and leadership in the community. Teachers are just about always in a state of learning themselves and they don’t always get to share that,” says Lesley.
“I believe this is the first platform of its kind for teachers to network, discuss and share their expertise as professionals in a trusting and safe space. As we have seen during lockdown, working online has incredible potential to help build strong and meaningful relationships, so the ability to discuss topics of interest, set up groups, run polls and have teachers working together across the country sharing best practice and knowledge is timely.”
Teaching Council research showed there were several key barriers to teachers engaging in online forums. Teachers would watch but not participate.
“One of the biggest barriers was, they didn’t feel safe. People posting online don’t always use their real names and you don’t know if a person is qualified to be talking about an issue or holding a position on a particular matter,” says Lesley.
“The credentials aren’t there and so we wanted to create a space that really allowed teachers from across the whole of New Zealand to be able to reach out and talk to their colleagues across the country about what was happening in our unique context of education.
“Registration and certification or discipline cases are our bread and butter. Of course, it should be digital, easy, fast and sensible.
“Hapori Matatū brings together all 100,00 plus registered teachers in New Zealand in a digital community to discuss what works and what doesn’t as they continue improving their practice.
“It will be great to really get the workforce at the heart of our education system informing us, which we can then take up to policy makers, or legislation makers,” she says.
Easy and intuitive system
Northland School principal Jeremy Edwards was one of the beta-testers for Hapori Matatū. He says it was a privilege to be part of the testing and see its development based on user feedback.
“I know how easy and intuitive the system is and I think that teachers and principals will really appreciate the simplicity of the step-by-step process,” he says.
“The beta testers overwhelmingly told us the good things about the platform are the speed,” says Lesley.
“They told us: ‘These are not new systems. We live in a digital age, we do most of our business in a digital world’. They have high expectations that we should be doing our business like that. Overwhelmingly the positive feedback is ‘oh my, goodness, it’s so fast and easy’.”
Find out more at: Teaching Council NZ – Hapori Matatū | Online Community.
This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Education Gazette.