Editorial: A focus on workload
November is Workload and Wellbeing Awareness Month (WWAM) for the QTU and its members. There are a number of strands to QTU strategy, including workplace health and safety, climate control in schools, addressing domestic and family violence, and supportive working environments for LGBTIQ+ teachers. State Council endorsed the overarching strategy in May this year and work in each of these areas will be developed and emerge over time.
I want to focus on workload, as I have in a number of other editorials over the past year. It is not that the other areas are not important. Rather, it is because workload rated as the second-highest concern, and at unprecedented levels, when the Union last conducted its regular membership survey. And it is a persistent and seemingly intractable problem.
Maths and myths
Late last year I wrote about the maths and myths of teacher workload. The maths says that the standard 38 hour working week amortised over a school year averages out at 43.7 hours per week. That involves a demonstrably incorrect assumption that teachers do no school work on school holidays.
A survey of Victorian teachers in October 2016 showed that teachers there worked an average of 53 hours per week. Assuming the same average in Queensland, that represents an average of 9.3 hours per week, or 372 hours per year, or nearly 10 standard working weeks extra.
The discussion about teacher workload is not about clock-watching. But the extra hours that teachers work are a “gift”. It is a choice. And I wonder if the extra time is a gift to the students or a gift to the employer? How much say do you have over the amount of extra time you give and for what?
And what will parents say?
I spoke with Nansi Ellis at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) in London earlier this year about this issue. ATL (which has just merged with the National Union of Teachers to form the 450,000 strong National Education Union) has been addressing similar or worse issues in the UK.
Its experience when excessive workload of teachers was raised with parents was that parents asked why teachers didn’t just stop doing the extra!
In the lead-up to WWAM (see page 16), let’s start by identifying the time-wasters.
- Are meetings, number or length, an issue in your school? Are they well run – agenda and papers distributed before, starting on time and finishing at or before time etc.?
- Is data collection or entry a problem? Is it for a valid, worthwhile purpose?
- Is the playground supervision roster reasonable? Is the use of teachers for playground supervision minimised?
- How are decisions about change and the associated workload made?
- In the UK, they focused on unnecessary planning, marking and data collection. Are these issues in your school?
Some of these issues can be addressed at a local level. The local consultative committee in schools with 20 or more employees is the avenue for consultation around:
- workload (s 3.1.9 of the EB agreement)
- playground supervision (s16.3 of the award)
- the purpose, frequency and duration of staff meetings (s3.1.11 of the EB agreement)
- school data plans ( March 2016 DET/QTU joint statement)
- planning and preparation (November 2015 DET/QTU joint statement).
Perhaps the task for November is to hold a meeting to identify the one or two issues in your school that would make the most difference to workload, for discussion at the LCC in the first instance.
State election claims
In August, QTU State Council endorsed a list of claims that the QTU will present to parties and candidates in the lead-up to the next state election. The full list is available on page 13 and on the QTU website.
Priority claims relate to:
- additional HOC positions in primary and special schools
- teacher release for collaborative planning
- guaranteed proportion of VET funding to TAFE
- workload review of teacher and principal workload
- negotiation of conditions linked to federal funding
- improved climate control in schools.
Other major work of the QTU this term concerns:
- certification of highly accomplished and lead teachers
- Promotional Positions Classification Review
- conversion to and maximisation of permanency
- teacher transfers
- monitoring the implementation of new secondary curriculum and assessment and the Australian Curriculum
- federal government review into “achieving excellence in Australian schools”.
Please make sure you keep in touch with developments in all these areas.
Graham Moloney General Secretary
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 7, 6 October 2017, p5
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