From the VP: Workload: how did we get here?
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 7, 2 October 2020, page no.9
The escalation in workload in the teaching profession has been insidious and rapid. As teachers, heads of program and school leaders try to respond to the expectations, it’s worth reflecting on how we got here.
In the early 2000s, Productive Pedagogies was released in response to The Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study, conducted in the state’s schools. It was evidence-based, and it was about our schools. For those not familiar with it, Productive Pedagogies was a suite of materials that elaborated on the practices of Effective Teaching and Learning that pre-dated it. The program had resources attached to it, and many regions trained facilitators and rolled out a program of training to explain and support schools in its use. At the same time, the banded curriculum of Outcomes Based Education was released in schools, in the areas of maths, English and science. These were systemic initiatives, supported by regions, that went into schools and reorganised curriculum. Was it perfect, no, but was it the start of accelerated curriculum change in our schools? I would suggest yes.
Roll on a decade or so, and the spectre of NAPLAN emerged, at the same time as the introduction of the Australian Curriculum and the development of the C2C suite to further support schools. Schools were in the grip of five-week data cycles, and some schools had shorter cycles than that. Some schools made the appropriate decision to adapt and adopt C2C, rather than use it in its entirety at a school level. At the same time, these same schools were in the improvement cycle for NAPLAN. So, while teaching a fantasy narrative, using the C2C guide to making judgements, they were also teaching the elements of writing aligned to the NAPLAN marking guide. This could involve writing tasks done in NAPLAN style, multiple times per term AND teaching a fantasy for a full narrative as a valued process.
This was at a time when, although local consultative committees had been in the certified agreements for some time, many schools did not yet have them established or working as efficiently as they might have.
So, workload. Was it a system, regional, school or individual requirement? The reality is that the pace was so quick, it is all of these. To stem the flow over time, and to arrest the tide of increased workload for all of our members, joint statements and other documentation have been developed cooperatively with the department. These are not instruments that the QTU developed and forced on schools independently.
Many of the practices currently happening in schools are not reflected as a systemic requirement of the P-12 CARF. But they do exist and have become institutions in their own way.
So, we need to again ask the question: why are we doing this? If there is a purpose and we can see it, that is fine, but what has to go from the current ways of working in school? How will this be resourced and supported? Is it sustainable? Perhaps another question to add to the mix is who wants this, and why do they want it? If it does not support teaching and learning, or other high-level systemic requirements, does it really have a place in our schools?
Many of us didn’t enter teaching to spend hours filling out planning documents and teaching to a test. We are professionals who can make decisions about our teaching in a professional way on how to best support the teaching and learning of the students we see on a day-to-day basis.