Information to assist educators who have been asked to be a referee for an applicant for national certification


Being a referee is an important professional responsibility for teachers and school leaders. Applicants carefully consider their referees because they believe that their chosen referees have first-hand knowledge of their practice in relation to the identified Standards and/or Descriptors.

Applicants nominate 3 – 5 Referees, to verify their practice as described in their portfolio of evidence.

Understanding the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

On page 19 of the Guide to Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers in Australia, it states that,

It is important that applicants carefully select their referees, ensuring that each has the appropriate level of experience, knowledge of the Standards and knowledge of the practice of the applicant.

Preparing a portfolio is a rigorous process making it essential that referees have a sound knowledge of the APST, as the Standards are the basis for making judgements regarding the Certification of teachers.  Further information about the Standards can be found on the AITSL website.


One of the applicant’s referees must be their current Principal (or their appointed delegate). The other referees are nominated by the applicant.  Referees may include, but are not limited to:

  • Classroom teachers,
  • School leaders,
  • Education consultants,
  • Teacher educators, and
  • Other specialist staff with knowledge and understanding of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST).

All referees, (other than the applicant’s current principal, or the principal’s delegate), have the option to say no to an applicant’s referee request.

Applicants can select referees who they have previously worked with in school settings other than their current school, to verify their evidence of practice.

If the Applicant is applying for Lead Teacher career stage, at least one referee must have knowledge of the Lead Initiative led by the applicant.

Referees can also apply for certification at the same time as being a referee for an applicant.

Assessors can be a referee for an applicant however, they would need to declare their knowledge of the applicant as part of the conflict of interest process.

Classroom Observation Reports

Classroom observation reports may be compiled using existing observation tools and templates in an applicant’s school/system. If the existing observation frameworks, tools or templates don’t reference the Standards, the applicant must annotate the observation report to refer to and show links to the Standard(s)/Descriptor(s).  A template is available for applicant’s consideration. Please note this is not a mandated template.  
QCEC Classroom Observation template

Role of the Referee

The time commitment required by referees will depend on the content of the applicant’s portfolio. Some applicants may ask their colleagues to be a referee for a number of Standard Descriptors, while other colleagues may be a referee for only one Descriptor.

It is important that applicants meet with their referee to take them though their portfolio and discuss the evidence they are providing against the Standard Descriptors. Applicants need to be clear, by indicating on the Referee Statement template, which Standard Descriptors they would like the referee to verify.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to collate and include all signed Referee Statements with their application for certification submitted to the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) for Stage 1 assessment.
It is important that referees understand that they are not being asked to provide a character reference but rather a statement of how the applicant’s evidence of practice demonstrates the Standards. It is not the referee’s role to assess an applicant’s portfolio of evidence.

Certification Resources

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Certification Process

  • Referees provide a written referee statement for the applicant with reference to the Teacher Standards.
  • For referees to be able to verify the applicant’s direct evidence you must have seen the evidence to be submitted. Should an applicant not provide you with a copy of the direct evidence, please do not complete the written referee statement.
  • Referees are not required to read and verify the applicant’s entire portfolio of evidence, only the part(s) of the portfolio that they have been asked to verify by the applicant on the referee statement.
  • During Stage one, assessors will refer to Referee Statements as part of assessing the applicant’s practice.
  • Referee Statements are not considered artefacts or direct evidence of the Standards/Descriptors by assessors. They are used by assessors to verify an applicant’s practice.
  • Assessors may also contact referees by telephone if further comment on the application’s evidence is required.
  • If referees have also completed an observation report of the applicant’s practice, they are required to refer to this in their referee statement.
  • Referees may be required to have a professional discussion (with reference to the Teacher Standards) with the assessor during the Stage two site visit.

For more information please email: