First steps to reclaiming teaching and learning focus

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes has proposed a working group aimed at reducing the administrative burden on schools, arising from discussions with Federation on the initial and final findings of the research project “Understanding Work in Schools: The Foundation for Teaching and Learning”, commissioned by the union.

Federation’s August Council determined that participation in the proposed working group would be dependent on it examining the work activities identified by the teaching profession as too time consuming/cumbersome, focused on compliance, not teaching and learning, and requiring less time and resources, they being:

  • data collection, analysis and reporting associated with statewide strategies
  • providing evidence of implementing departmental policies and procedures.

However, Federation has made it clear to Mr Stokes that just focusing on administrative demands will not address widespread inefficiencies nor excuse the inability of the Department of Education to develop lasting, sustainable and systemwide initiatives to support teaching and learning. Federation maintains these inefficiencies are the result of the failure of the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy.

The union’s participation in the working group will not preclude direct negotiation and campaigning around professional and industrial issues associated with teachers’ work, and the strategies identified by the research project and Annual Conference aimed at supporting and prioritising teaching and learning. Meetings have been scheduled with the Department to discuss these issues, in addition to any discussion by the proposed working group.

Discussions with the Department have already resulted in reduced requirements for PLAN data and the A-to-Z tool.

What teachers said

Comments by teachers, executives and principals in response to the research project’s survey demonstrate the problems and concerns with excessive demands around data collection, analysis and reporting associated with statewide strategies, and providing evidence of implementing departmental policies and procedures:

  • A lack of clarity around actual requirements for evidence on a range of issues
  • The process of recording and maintaining records of data and/or evidence is time consuming; and/or the ‘tools’ are not fit for purpose or don’t work; and/ or the requirements are too detailed
  • There is often duplication, including maintaining both soft and hard copies of evidence and/or data
  • Too much focus on data collection, not analysis
  • Processes are disconnected from, and additional to, teaching syllabus
  • Processes require too many meetings.

It is also clear from the comments that the workload expectations on certain policies and procedures can differ between schools. For example, data collection in Early Action for Success schools, or evidence collection in schools undergoing external validation.

Joan Lemaire, Deputy President

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