Reclaim your time: what are your hours of duty?
With demands on teachers ever increasing, knowing your hours of duty is the first step to having the grounds to say no when being directed to do more.
The recent Gonski 2.0 report is just the latest in a series of calls to change the way teachers work.
While teachers have always worked, as professionals, to cater to individual student needs, what the report suggests is a change to the extent of record keeping and documentation of planning to deliver increasingly personalised lessons.
In some cases (for example, students with disabilities covered by the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data), record keeping is not merely administrative, but can be tied to funding received by schools.
Further, in secondary schooling, pressure to support students through activities such as providing detailed feedback on multiple drafts of assignments is high.
Quite often, the time demands of the multitude of tasks teachers are directed to do exceed their allocated hours of duty.
This is not always acknowledged by those external to the profession. Many other professions work on the basis of billable hours; however, teachers increasingly work beyond the 30-31 hours per week specified in most agreements.
IEUA-QNT Branch Executive member and teacher Luke Vanni said taking ownership of one’s time is part of being a professional.
“There is this notion in education that time is infinite; that extra tasks can simply be allocated without any tasks being taken away.
“In reality, every task has an opportunity cost and teachers are increasingly finding they are either working longer hours or leaving some tasks incomplete.
“When new tasks are introduced, building a culture within Chapters of asking questions such as ‘where does this new task fit into our hours of duty?’ or ‘what is being taken away to create time for this new task?’ can remind colleagues and school leadership teams that time is a finite resource that should be used strategically and in a way that is respectful of teachers’ need to have a healthy work life balance,” Mr Vanni said.
As long as teachers continue to absorb the load of additional tasks by working unpaid hours, those who direct teachers to undertake additional tasks will take advantage of this situation — including employers and government agencies.
To draw attention to hours of duty constraints, teachers can say no to operating outside these hours.
In early 2017, Queensland Catholic school members were successful in securing provisions in agreements that supported the protection of the Planning, Preparation and Correction time (PPCT).
Members can use mechanisms that are already in place, such as these, to support their efforts to reclaim their time.
Members are encouraged to monitor their duties, keep records of time used to complete tasks and put limits on what does not fit into designated hours of duty.
Specific hours of duty calculators exist for each sector — our union’s Member Services team can assist you in accessing the appropriate calculator for your chapter colleagues.
Contact our union on FREECALL 1800 177 937 for assistance.