Workload reduction continues to be top priority
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 1, 12 February 2021, page no.11
The QTU has established its priorities for 2021 that we will work with members to achieve. In accordance with decisions of the 2019 State Conference, the top priority remains workload reduction.
To date the QTU has called on members to work less than 42 hours per week. These weekly hours include the 25 hours of rostered duty time per week, with no work being completed over the school holidays. Successive workload surveys and reviews show that classroom teachers, heads of programs and school leaders all work beyond these hours every week.
How then do we get the workload of QTU members below this “tipping point”?
Over the past two years, the QTU has engaged members in a number of strategies.
The right to disconnect, which frees members from having to reply to emails or other communications before or after a set time per day or over weekends and holidays. Some schools have now clearly advised their communities that members will not reply to emails after 4.30pm, explaining that unless the matter is urgent, the member will reply within three school days. They have also removed the email addresses of employees from their website (something the QTU suggests that all schools do for privacy and safety reasons).
QTU members have also worked to:
- remove the expectation that members provide before school supervision of students
- establish data plans (and implement them)
- refine reporting expectations
- push back against regional data collection that was not part of the school’s data plans or programs (this list is not exhaustive).
2020 workload reviews
Members will work with the QTU to implement the outcomes of the Term 3 workload reviews. The revised data joint statement, including mandatory data sets linked to teaching and learning, was released at the start of the year. This statement requires schools to review their data plans and is clear that schools are not required to have data sets that extend beyond that in the data literacy framework. These reviews also require the revision of a number of joint statements so that they can reflect the agreed planning, preparation and reporting requirements, the use of data, the conduct and implementation of the outcomes of school reviews and the use of department online platforms.
One of the core elements of the reviews is that the department will consult on any initiatives to be implemented in schools and support any workload implications through appropriate resourcing. They also expect that when something is “added”, something else will stop.
Workload Advisory Council
The Workload Advisory Council is due to meet in early February to consider findings from the WAC submissions. The initial focus will relate to the priorities of the new senior assessment and tertiary entrance (SATE) system, the workload of instrumental music teachers/instructors, and department bureaucracy.
Members are also encouraged to participate in the review of SATE by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority. It is important that QCAA understands the workload associated with the new system, as well as the issues experienced in 2020.
Members should not feel exhausted when thinking about the year ahead. Unless addressed, this feeling can lead to significant psychological injuries. Programs promoting things such as resilience may address the symptoms of workload pressure, but do not address the cause. To ensure safe and healthy workplaces, the department must address the issues that contribute to workload pressures as a priority. Supporting member wellbeing will also be a major priority of the WAC.
New e-learning system
In 2020, the QTU became aware that the department was preparing to decommission The Learning Place, and we are now urging members to ignore any request to undertake training, familiarisation, or use of the new e-learning system that will replace it. Despite the existing system’s faults, it is supported by banks of innovative teaching and learning resources contributed by Queensland teachers and school leaders that support colleagues’ professional development and practice, connect local and global learning communities, and connect students to different times and places.
Changes in technology result in systems upgrades, but the department failed in its obligation to consult with the QTU on this systemic change. The QTU demanded a briefing, at which we insisted on guarantees that the 18 years of resources that members have contributed would migrate to the new e-learning ecosystem. At the start of the 2021 school year, we remain unconvinced.
The introduction of a new e-learning ecosystem amounts to a change in practice and QTU has insisted that the department meet its industrial obligations to ensure central allocation of funds to schools to support professional development and training related to the new system. The QTU does not accept that our members should have to undertake unfunded and additional systemic change in their own time. Furthermore, as this is a systemic change, professional development should be system funded and not deducted from school budgets.
The new e-learning ecosystem is destined to be an IT white elephant unless the department ensures appropriate release time and funding of professional development. Until that occurs, there is no obligation for any teacher, head of program, or school leader to use the new system.