We are all in this together - Workload reduction at Kedron SHS
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 126 No 6, 3 September 2021, page no.9
Our school has long been monitoring and mitigating teacher workload through the local consultative committee (LCC), strategic leadership team (SLT) and executive team, and our strategic plan had already listed staff professional and personal wellbeing as a priority.
So, when our Union Reps brought the DOE/QTU Workload Review Joint Statement to the LCC in November 2020, we were ready to go. The exec team (principal, deputies and business manager) had time to digest it and bring it to the attention of the SLT at planning days.
We also needed to support members in understanding the document, its use and the timeline for implementation of change processes. This was evident from initial anxieties over differentiation planning, annual performance review processes, and teacher communication to parents.
Following the 2020 SLT planning days, the principal began a mapping exercise to examine what our areas of need may be, looking at what we do currently, what we don’t do, and space for comment.
Subsequently, the Union Reps used a complementary mapping tool to gauge an understanding of the impact on workload at our school, and an understanding of the context at our site. This turned the Workload Review poster into a writable PDF, on which members could list specific areas of concern and add text comments to contextualise. The PDF was emailed to members, and Reps also took it to staff rooms.
The feedback was released to staff, along with a calendar of voluntary meetings. These weekly meetings, which were to enable further consultation on the specifics of each area and the feedback thus far, consistently had exec team representation. The collated responses and the meeting notes were raised at Union meetings to provide feedback to members.
- Reporting changes: the removal of comments, to be reviewed annually.
- Alteration of differentiation documentation: a move away from a template with fixed point due-date to a set of baseline expectations, representing trust in teacher professionalism.
- Revision of whole-school moderation: development of plans using a common whole-school approach, including development of a consultative approach to development of due dates, moderation timelines and schedules.
- Engagement and consultation: exec, SLT and Union Reps align to produce a process effecting positive change for teacher workload.
- Despite outcomes that demonstrate the practical value of unionism for some members, overall there is still decreasing membership within the school.
- Engagement at the metro level: deputy principals and their delegates have been engaged to network across the region to start development of a differentiation tool.
The work is far from done. Consultation takes time and requires school leadership to support the Reps in creating that consultative environment for members. It also continues to highlight gaps in members’ understanding of the work being undertaken. The process of clarification around expectations for differentiation and what constitutes effective moderation are yet to begin.
We have an ongoing commitment to review the effectiveness of policy change that affects workload through our LCC and school leadership. We also recognise that this is not our struggle alone. All state schools will be tackling these issues. We have networked with members across schools, sharing our resources, and QTU Reps are supporting each other across schools to be conduits for consultation.
The metro deputy principal network’s work (which is unfunded and voluntary) is developing an easy-to-use tool that can track student differentiation and assist in NCCD data collection. The next step is to form a prototype that we might release statewide. Perhaps OneSchool could assist in better longitudinal tracking and group contact referrals for record keeping, something which we would like to explore further.
The reporting decision will be reviewed in 2022, in conjunction with alternative methods of parent communication, such as digital profiles which could be sent centrally following the roll-out of digital mark books.
The Workload Review Joint Statement has been a catalyst for how we can all work together more effectively. Reducing workload takes collective effort. It comes from an alignment and commitment from our executive teams, our middle leaders, our QTU Reps and our members to utilise collaborative, consultative processes to bring effective change while maintaining the high quality, high expectations we have for our community. Our experience is it can be done!