Workload and small schools

Small Schools Newsletter - December 2017

Small Schools Workload Survey

During terms 2 and 3 the Small Schools Restricted Committee conducted a short survey to gauge the specific impact of new technology on teachers’ workload. This survey sought to complement Federation’s central workload campaign (see below for further details on this action under the heading Teaching and Learning — Review of Workload).

The committee greatly appreciates those members who took time out of their busy schedules to complete the survey. Responses were collated and a summary forwarded to Federation’s Senior Officers for consideration.

The overwhelming theme of responses was the increasing workload of Teaching Principals and concerns about the lack of recognition for their role. Further, new technology that was purported by the Department to reduce workload, had the opposite effect and instead was aimed at greater compliance and monitoring and increased workload. In addition, the following main trends were identified:

  • There was general sense that consultation and training was completely absent or insufficient.
  • The implementation of the Learning Management and Business Reform (LMBR), in particular, was seen to significantly increase workload.
  • The increased administrative workload involved with new technology took teachers away for the core business of teaching and learning.
  • The cost of buying new technology to support the rollout of new programs has prevented that funding from being spent on teaching and learning resources or teachers’ professional learning.
  • The increasing roll out of new technologies, the increasing compliance requirements and the increasing need to use technology has negatively affected the ability of teaching principals to manage the school and support staff wellbeing.
  • The hardware to support the new technologies is inferior, almost immediately obsolete and represents an increasing concern.
  • The limited ongoing support to implement the new technologies was noted by respondents.
  • The ongoing technical failings of the new technologies, eg LMBR, timing out in applications.
  • The lack of bandwidth to cope with IT requirements.

The cost effect on small schools to attend mandated training was an additional financial burden on the school as a casual teacher often needed to be employed to replace the teaching principal in class. If the mandated training occurred on a day that, for instance, the librarian or school administration staff were not required to be at school, those staff members would need to be employed on an additional day to undertake the mandated training.

The Committee is always looking to support every small school and the workload survey is an example of how information provided from the “chalk face” can inform Senior Officers and the Executive of the union about the unique issues affecting small schools.

Teaching and Learning — Review of Workload

A research project commissioned by Federation has been completed with the release of the Final Report on Teaching and Learning – Review of Workload. The qualitative research undertaken by Sydney University Business School and School of Education and Social Work explored the sources and nature of workload experienced in schools in various geographic locations, with a diversity of student populations as well as school size and type.

The researchers found that despite the difference between the schools there was “a surprising uniformity in responses in relation to high hours of work and administrative sources of workload”.

The project reported an increase in workload over the past five years. The researchers found “a significant source of teacher workload is the ongoing institution of a range of reforms and policy requirements”.

The result is increasing, and often conflicting demands, creating “a general sense of low morale or stress with references to drained energy levels”. The report noted: “Teachers, it seems, are happy enough to work long hours if they are doing work they see the point of, and they value. Completing extensive administrative tasks and responding to apparently extraneous policy requirements that do not help them in preparing their classes are examples of activities that do not fit this category.”

The research identified that “overall increases in workload appear to be felt universally. This suggests the problem is systemic with a diverse and extensive policy settlement blanketing the entirety of the NSW public school landscape in a layer of increased requirements.” 

Next steps

Federation will commission a further research project involving a statewide survey during Term 1, 2018 and develop a campaign aimed at reducing excessive and often conflicting demands placed on all teaching staff in NSW public schools. See Education, “Take part in vital new research on workload”.

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