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Home > News > 2019 > June > Teachers are overworked but the solution is clear

Teachers are overworked but the solution is clear

stressed_worker.jpgTeachers are struggling to deliver student focused education under ever increasing work demands that impose additional hours for data and compliance requirements, according to recent research by the University of Sydney.


The findings of the Understanding Work in Schools report are unmistakably clear: obstruction of teaching and students’ learning is a direct result of changes to work and workloads in schools.


The report found increasing workloads and work intensification are systemic policy-based issues across the broader education sector and cannot be viewed as simply school-based problems. 


Across the board there has been a steady increase in hours, additional expected duties and administrative tasks and these are severely threatening to overwhelm teachers’ professional focus on teaching and student learning.


The majority of teachers interviewed in the study attributed these to government policies and employer or school-based change initiatives.


Report co-author Dr Rachel Wilson, told Education Review both qualitative and quantitative data showed the onus is on teachers to keep absorbing new workload pressures by working longer hours and “resisting having those pressures impact the work that they really love: teaching students.”


“But we’ve reached a point where the pressures are really threatening that,” she said.


The report found that teachers are working 54 hours per week on average; 43 at school and 11 at home.


The solution is clear


Participants in the survey indicated positive ways forward, to address workload intensification.


These included:

  • Reducing face-to-face teaching time for increased collaboration on planning, programming, assessing and reporting;
  • Acknowledging professional judgement and eliminating processes that are unnecessary, cumbersome, extremely time-consuming, or focused only on administrative demands associated with compliance; and
  • Providing more specialist teacher support.

IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said a strategy to alleviate workload needs to be immediate and systemic.


“This research proves teachers are being overworked and overloaded in data and compliance regulations which ultimately affects student learning,” Mr Burke said.


“These findings are unsurprising and our union believes teachers need the capacity to exercise professional judgement for the best student learning outcomes.


“Teachers need more professional respect, time and support so they can do their fundamental task which is to craft, differentiate and deliver learning experiences for each student.


“It is time to re-assess the current teaching culture, which includes too great a focus on standardised testing, data reporting and additions to the curriculum without an appropriate consideration of teacher workload and students’ best interests.”


Findings mirror member concerns


The report findings mirror the rising concerns of IEU members who are becoming inundated with non-teaching tasks without a consistent or appropriate adjustment to formally allocated hours of duty.  


Teachers report that they are drowning in paperwork, feel like they have lost control of their own work and are increasingly confronting a cost to their mental and emotional wellbeing.


Catholic bargaining prioritises work-life balance and professional judgement


Striking a better work-life balance and regaining capacity for professional judgement in classrooms is a major priority for our union as we continue to bargain with Queensland Catholic sector employers.


Thirteen proposals identified by members to help ease workload pressures in schools have been tabled at the negotiations, including an increase in Preparation, Planning and Correction Time (PPCT), and decrease in contact time.


Chapters in Queensland Catholic Schools are urged to add their voice to the Bargaining with One Voice campaign.

A strong collective voice will be essential to win significant improvements to address work intensification and to strike a better work-life balance.


We need practical solutions focussing on the professional judgement of teachers and the best learning outcomes for students.   


Members can speak to their organiser or contact our union about a Chapter response to workload concerns at their school.  

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.