Extra demands mean less time for classroom preparation, teachers warn

Teachers have plenty of ideas about how their work could be better structured so that they could be given more time to devote to teaching and learning, a new survey commissioned by Federation reveals.

On Sunday, delegates to Federation’s Annual Conference heard from academics Susan McGrath-Champ from the University of Sydney Business School and Meghan Stacey from the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the university, who are conducting the research about workload for Federation.

Their survey work found that in some cases new, often administrative, tasks are having an adverse effect on core teaching and learning duties.

Teachers reported changes are always in addition to current workloads. One survey respondent said: “It’s like we’re fighting to go up a mountain with a massive rock on our back and then they’re like ‘by the way, do you mind taking mine as well?’”

Another teacher said: “There’s less time to effectively pay to students. The quality of teaching I think has in some ways depreciated because you physically don’t have time to plan engaging, interesting, exciting, high quality lessons as often as you used to be able to… You’re spending more time at the end of the day or in the morning catching up on the paperwork you have to do rather than spending that time researching new ways to teach or to engage students.”

Survey respondents’ suggestions about managing workload include:

  • time off from face-to-face teaching
  • fewer committees, meetings and better timing of meetings
  • additional teaching staff and/or increased administrative support
  • effective management of parent/teacher contact
  • resistance by school executive in embracing everything that’s new (as this increases workload).

Teachers suggest the Department of Education could:

  • eliminate ineffectual policy; seeking more feedback regarding what changes are working and what’s not working
  • institute fewer new policies, initiatives and changes
  • where new policy is needed, prior assessment needs to be done of workload impact on teachers; fact-to-face teaching needs to be reduced correspondingly and tasks need to be streamlined with other Department requirements
  • less frequent collection of data, form-filling and ‘tick box’ tasks
  • trusts teachers more and establish a more and establish a more positive attitude towards the teaching profession
  • reinstate curriculum support and consultants
  • provide more money for staffing, change the staffing formula to reflect complex student cohorts and reduce class size.

Twelve school leaders (three principals and nine other school executives) and 19 teachers took part in the study.

A full report will be made to Federation later in the year.