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Non-contact time

The QTU member workload survey in 2018 demonstrated that, on average, classroom teachers work 44 hours per week, which is 19 hours above and beyond rostered duty time. 

While all members report that they work from home or arrive early and leave late from work, this amount of extra hours per week is not acceptable. The majority of that 19 hours is given over to planning, developing assessment, correcting assessment and writing reports. 

This statistic strongly supports the need to review non-contact time for all sectors. The amount of non-contact time for secondary schools was set in the 1970s, and the NCT for primary and special was established in the 1990s - they were not set with 21st century schooling in mind. Teachers are working with a curriculum designed for preparing students for life in the 21st century, and their conditions need to reflect this. 

In the first instance, the EB claim calls for NCT in primary and special schools to be increased to at least the level found in their secondary equivalents. Additionally, the claim calls for extra days per term for collaborative planning, data conversations and other professional discussions. While this won’t alleviate all of the additional hours teachers work beyond their rostered duty time, it is a start. It’s important that the government take steps to addressing the workload issue for all members in this EB. Some measures to deliver improved NCT and/or release time will send this message to members. 

Addressing workload through NCT, professional & planning time

Who is affected?

Allclassroom teachers and promotional positions accessing non-contact time

What’s in the claim?

The QTU’s EB claim includes:

  • increased non-contact time (NCT) for teachers in primary and special schools to achieve parity with their secondary colleagues
  • increased NCT for instrumental music teachers/instructors
  • NCT for year level coordinators and subject level coordinators
  • additional days per term for classroom teachers to undertake cooperative and collaborative planning, and to address professional needs

What’s the problem?

Secondary school teachers have had 210 minutes per week of NCT since 1972.Primary and special school teachers have had 120 minutes per week since 1997. This means that the 90-minute difference in NCT between the sectors has been in place for more than 20 years.

There are no sound educational reasons for this disparity. In fact, over the past 20 years, there has been increasing understanding among policy makers and governments of the importance of the early and middle years of formal education. This is evidenced, for example, by the introduction of the prep year by the Queensland Government in 2007, and the Australia-wide adoption of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians in 2008 (which specifically mentions strengthening early childhood education and enhancing middle years development).

NCT is the time allocated to a teacher on a weekly basis to plan, prepare and correct what is taught in the classroom. While what is taught in the classroom is determined by the curriculum, how the curriculum is taught is reliant on:

  • planning – including how curriculum is differentiated to meet the learning needs of students; analysing data (common data sets include assessment, observation, reflection on teaching practice and learning experiences and individual curriculum plans)
  • preparation – identifying and developingresources to support the planning and learning experiences
  • pedagogy – the actual teaching – how thelearning experiences are delivered
  • assessment – this can be in many forms,including in-class observations, running records, formal assessment, quizzesand homework
  • correction – including feedback on drafts, themarking of in-class quizzes and practice tests etc.

Thesetasks support face-to-face teaching; what NCT does not adequately cover is theneed for teachers to undertake cooperative planning and collaboration, andprofessional teacher development.

Schoolshave also relied on the goodwill of teacher to undertake additional duties suchas sports and year level coordination. While some effort is made in some schools to accommodate these extraduties with the provision of extra release time, this is not a consistentpractice across the state.

Additionally, on a proportional basis, instrumental music teachers and instructors receive less NCT than their classroom teacher colleagues. With the introduction of a new curriculum that requires assessment and reporting, NCT for IMIs needs to at least be proportional to that of their teaching colleagues.

What needs to change?

The last EB clarified the purpose of the award entitlement to NCT and ensured schools had processes to replace NCT lost due to planned school activities. This EB seeks to fix the disparity between NCT in the primary, secondary and special school sectors, provide a consistent practice in the provision of release time for those taking on additional duties, and ensure NCT accessed by IMIs is at least proportional to that of their teaching colleagues.

The QTU claim also includes three additional days per year to release classroom teachers for cooperative planning and professional conversations, and to focus on teacher development (similar days are provided to teachers in Victoria).

Co-operative planning is one of the high-impact teaching strategies recognised world-wide. It provides teachers of the same year/subjects the opportunity to work together to identify resources, strategies, assessment etc that may be used to support student learning. It provides opportunities for teachers with more experience or greater subject knowledge to mentor and develop colleagues. The outcome of co-operative planning is strengthened learning opportunities for students, the establishment of learning communities and networks, and enhanced teaching practice.

Teachers in Queensland have an increased focus on teacher development arising from systems expectations such as:

  • collegial engagement
  • annual teacher performance reviews
  • individualised student learning plans.
  • These and other professional expectations require time to reflect on teaching practice, receive feedback and establish development goals. In undertaking these activities, teachers will enhance teaching practice and provide varied learning experiences for students. Additional time is needed to deliver these system imperatives while mitigating their impact on workload.

    Over the past ten years, schools have been required to develop systems of collegial engagement in classrooms, develop and adopt individual curriculum plans and pedagogical frameworks, implement the revised system of annual performance reviews across all classifications, and develop and implement data plans. These are just some of the examples that impact on the work of teachers and school leaders every day.

    Consequently, the QTU claim for additional planning and professional days seeks to address the impost on teachers’ time of these professional obligations.

    What are the current provisions of NCT across the country?

    The rostered duty time of teachers and the provision of NCT vary across the country. The table below outlines the various conditions per state.

    Rostered duty time(1.0 FTE/Per week) Face-to-face teaching and NCT or equivalent (1.0 FTE/Per week)
    Face-to-face teaching and NCT (or equivalent) (1.0 FTE/Per week)
    Queensland 25 hrs
    + staff meeting if required
    20hrs 40 min 22 hrs 10 mins
    3 hrs 30 min 2 hours
    ACT For leave purposes, 36 hrs 45mins.
    Custom & practice is 32hrs 30mins attendance in most sites.
    Average 19 hrs per week (including sport if offered) averaged over the teaching year, exclusive of associated professional duties

    21 hours 30 mins
    Not specified Not specified
    New South Wales 32 hrs 30 mins per week Up to 18 hrs 40 min (plus 1¼ hrs teaching in lieu of two hrs sport supervision may be agreed by teacher and principal)
    NSW Award C1.16
    Not specified Not specified
    Northern Territory 36 hrs 45 min Years 8-12
    up to 21 hours and 20 minutes(practice is 18 hrs and 40 min)
    24 hours 40 mins
    Secondary 5 hrs 20 min
    (really 8 hrs)
    3 hours
    South Australia 21 hours 22 hours 20 mins
    5 hours 40 mins 4 hours 10 mins
    Tasmania 35 hrs 40 hrs per fortnight inclusive of sport, pastoral care, tutorials. 40 hrs per fortnight inclusive of sport, pastoral care, tutorials.
    2.5 minimum 2.5 hours minimum
    Victoria 38 hrs Subject to a max of 20 hrs,
    not to exceed an index of 480 pw
    derived fromactual hrs x no of students.

    22 hours 30 mins
    Not specified Not specified
    Western Australia 26 hr 40 mins 21 hr 20 min

    5 hrs 20 min duties
    other than teaching.

    Class sizes in complex settings

    Who is affected

    Teachers and students in:

    • special education settings
    • practical subjects such as home economics, agricultural services, VET in schools, and industrial technology and design
    • instrumental music
    • rural and remote schools 
    • communities with educational disadvantage.

    The problem

    Currently, the Department of Education and Training State School Teachers’ Certified Agreement 2016 acknowledges the fundamental importance of class sizes in contributing to the learning outcomes of students and the health and welfare of teachers.

    The agreement outlines maximum class size targets as: 25 students per teacher in prep, years 1-2 and years 11-12; and 28 students per teacher in years 4-10.

    These class sizes were established as the maximum in general class settings – they do not take into account the challenges of a number of complex education settings.

    Research has confirmed that where class size decreases, the individualised attention students receive from the teacher increases, as does their engagement. Additionally, research also links smaller class sizes to increased opportunities for teachers to monitor student learning and provide individualised re-teaching suited to a student’s individual ability.

    We need a formalisation of processes to review class sizes in complex settings to avoid negative impact on teacher workload, student and teacher wellbeing, and student outcomes.

    There is also a need to review the class sizes for year 10 as Queensland transitions to the new system of senior assessment and tertiary entrance.

    What needs to change?

    There is no formal process for determining class sizes in special education settings, where our members are educating students in an extremely complex environment, even though research suggests that smaller class sizes allow teachers to vary their instructional techniques to suit individual student needs. 

    There are no reduced class size targets for practical subjects, where our members often have between 25 and 28 students undertaking high and extreme risk activities across workshops, kitchens, science labs and numerous other practical areas. For example, under the current system, a teacher could be teaching 25 year 11 students how to use a welder, metal lathe and guillotine in the same class. A teacher could be expected to supervise 28 year 7 students in a cooking class, even if the students can’t physically fit in the kitchen facilities. It seems clear that smaller class sizes in practical subjects, where teachers are often working with individual students on practising and honing procedural tasks, would be of substantial benefit to student learning and teacher wellbeing.

    There is no room for differentiating class size targets to assist instrumental music teachers/instructors in addressing classes of various combinations of instruments or in managing large ensemble rehearsals in excess of 28 students. 

    There is no scope for differentiation for schools with a low index of community socio-educational advantage or rural and remote schools, which can often further disadvantage the students and teachers in these already complex and often isolated environments. Research in this space suggests that smaller class sizes produce greater gains for students who have traditionally been disadvantaged in education and that having smaller class sizes accelerates curriculum differentiation. Curriculum differentiation is critical when considering the number of rural and remote educators in small schools, who often find themselves in front of a class which is within the class size targets but which also involves teaching multiple ages and multiple grades simultaneously. 

    How you can be involved

    Members are encouraged to tell us what impacts reduced class sizes would have in practical subjects, special education settings, schools with a low index of community socio-educational advantage, rural and remote schools or in instrumental music settings.

    Further reading

    Biddle, B. J., & Berliner, D. C. (2002). What research says about small classes and their effects
    Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., & Brown, P. (2008). Do low attaining and younger students benefit most from small classes? Results from a systematic observation study of class size effects on pupil classroom engagement and teacher pupil interaction. In American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting.
    Glass, G. V., & Smith, M. L. (1978). Meta-analysis on the Relationship of Class-size and Achievement. Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development.
    Handley, P. (2002). Every Classroom Teacher's Dream. Educational Leadership, 59(5), 33-35.
    O'Connell, J., & Smith, S. C. (2000). Capitalizing on small class size.

    The history of class sizes in Queensland

    Year Class size (targets) NOTES
    1950s 50 - 60  
    1970s >40 in most classes  
    1974 36 Threats of strike action moved these decisions along to drop class sizes with a promise from govt. to reduce targets.
    1975 34  
    1971 32  
    1979 Recommended but not adopted
    Yrs 1-3 = 1:25
    Yrs 4-10 = 1:30
    Yrs 11-12 = 1:25  
    Ahern Select Parliamentary Report recommended

    30 (Years 4 – 10)                   

    25 (Years 1,2,3, 11 &12)

    Ahern Report recommendation adopted by govt. in 1982-83 over four years.
    2003 Reduced from 30 to 28 for Years 4 – 10 (middle schooling) phased in.  
    2007 28 (Years 4-10) Fully implemented by Feb 2007 as a result of 2003 EB (Beattie govt).  
    2016   2016 EB agreement determines that targets are only to be exceeded in exceptional circumstances, and only after consultation.

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