Editorial: Continuing workload focus on 2018
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 2, 9 March 2018, p5
One commitment of the re-elected Palaszczuk government in this term is a “review of teacher workloads to address excessive and unproductive work of teachers”.
The commitment was given by Deputy Premier Jackie Trad in a response on behalf of the government to the QTU’s priorities in the lead-up to the 2017 election. The response says that the government is committed to addressing workload issues for teachers and principals, including consideration of the recommendations from the Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 2016.
The establishment of the review has already been addressed with the department and new Education Minister Grace Grace in meetings since the election. You can expect to hear more about this in weeks and months to come.
The QTU is also planning a quantitative workload survey in 2018 as part of the evidence for change.
The government’s promise of a review follows the QTU’s Workload and Wellbeing Month (WWAM) in November last year. Schools were invited to hold meetings to identify unnecessary workload and possible solutions during the month.
Some case studies of workload action are published on the QTU website, as are videos on workload and wellbeing issues commissioned by the QTU from Thea O’Connor.
This builds on the very successful Workload Wednesday posts on Facebook (even though they are not always about workload) and changes in the 2016 EB agreement that empowered local consultative committees to consider and address workplace workload issues.
National and international
Solutions to excessive workload are neither simple nor rapidly achieved, if the evidence of interstate and international efforts are any guide.
The AEU Federal Conference in Melbourne on 23-25 February devoted an afternoon to a panel session outlining the campaigns in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, followed by a popular workshop session where other states and territories contributed experiences and campaign ideas.
International speakers from the Japan Teachers Union and the National Education Union (NEU) in the UK also spoke about their own workload issues and campaigns.
Louise Regan, the National President of the newly formed NEU (an amalgamation of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)), perhaps summed up the challenge of the campaigns best: “All the posters, and charters, and agreements (of which we have many) are worthless unless they are implemented at the local level”.
From looking at national and international experiences, the key to successfully dealing with excessive workload seems to be an elusive cultural change.
Outcomes of the AEU Conference workshop will be published when available.
Principal workload and wellbeing
QTU Conference in July last year adopted the recommendations of the 2016 Principal Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey conducted by Dr. Phil Riley of Australian Catholic University and colleagues as part of the revised QTU Principal Support and Involvement Strategy. Consideration of its recommendations also formed part of the QTU’s claims on prospective governments before the state election last year.
The 2017 survey results were also recently released. At the time of writing, the implications of the report (as opposed to newspaper reports) had not been considered by the QTU. A report will be considered by the first meeting of State Council in March.
The report provides invaluable longitudinal data, not only on workload but on the wellbeing of principals as a basis for action and campaign.
“When will we value children and safety more than the right to own guns?”
There is no more searing criticism of the state of American politics than that question in the wake of the school shooting in Parklands, Florida.
Out of that atrocity has grown a student-led and teacher-supported campaign for change that offers hope, notwithstanding dim-witted alternative proposals such as the arming of teachers.
The salvation of American students and teachers lies in American hands, and only theirs. But we stand in solidarity with those students and teachers, in their sorrow, and in their hope for change, and will offer any useful support we can.