Government inquiry an exercise in what teachers already know
A federal government inquiry into the status of teachers has heard teachers are increasingly under workload pressure and frustrated by a data-driven learning environment that impinges upon autonomous teaching.
The matters raised at ongoing public hearings will be of no surprise to IEUA-QNT members who have long-raised concerns over the erosion of teachers’ ability to make professional judgements in the interests of students.
The inquiry is headed up by federal MP for Bowman Andrew Laming who once dubiously asked on social media during school holidays: “Are teachers back at work this week, or are they ‘lesson planning’ from home? Let me know exactly.”
According to its terms of reference, the inquiry aims to identify opportunities to improve outcomes in a range of areas including:
- Increasing the attractiveness of the profession for teachers and principals, including workplace conditions, and career and leadership structures;
- Provision of appropriate support platforms for teachers, including human and IT resources;
- Identifying ways in which the burden of out-of-hours, at-home work can be reduced; and
- Investigating ways to increase retention rates for the teaching profession, and avoid 'burn out' among early-career teachers.
At a hearing in Brisbane this week, the inquiry heard practising teachers report that:
- Teachers and principals worked over 55 hours a week and most weekends;
- Teachers had to deal with emails from working parents from 7am;
- There was a frustration with meeting set statistical achievements; and
- Many young graduates were disappointed that teaching was more administratively complex than they were led to believe.
IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the inquiry should be treated as a significant opportunity to listen to practising teachers.
“If it is to truly meet its terms of reference, this inquiry should provide greater scope for teachers to make autonomous professional judgements,” Mr Burke said.
“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.
Mr Burke said successive governments had exacerbated these problems by conflating education funding with NAPLAN results and PISA outcomes.
“What has always baffled education professionals is how the government expects meaningful data to be drawn about a student’s progression from one particular test, conducted at one particular point in time, that in no way reflect the vast array of skills that form a well-rounded education.
“Teachers have a fundamental task in their classrooms and that is to craft, differentiate and deliver learning experiences for each student.
“A standardised test cannot measure the impact of these interventions and indeed when administrative exercises become too onerous it is at the expense of true teaching practice.”
Find out more about the inquiry here.
Read a copy of our union’s submission to the inquiry (#83) here.