Making a difference with workload
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 1, 21 February 2020, page no. 10
The new certified agreement contains a range of measures aimed at managing workload and maintaining it at an acceptable level. However, these strategies will only be effective when workload is at an acceptable level – currently it is not.
To tackle and eventually reduce workload issues, a number of approaches will be required.
Implementing workload reduction clauses in the certified agreement
There are three key workload reduction strategies in the agreement.
- The first is the reduction of flexible student free day hours from 15 to 10. This means that there are five fewer hours of twilight or additional student free day hours that have to be made up across the year.
- The second is the provision of one TRS day per FTE senior secondary teacher in semester two. This additional day is to assist in the introduction of the new senior curriculum, assessment process and QCE. Should schools wish to provide this time earlier, they can do so knowing that it will be reimbursed later in the school year.
- The third strategy is the implementation of the Workload Advisory Council, which will begin its work this term with a key focus on the introduction of the new senior assessment and tertiary entrance scheme and other departmental and systems policies.
Other workload reduction strategies contained in the agreement include additional non-contact time for first year teachers from 2021 and additional NCT for primary schools in 2022
However, to meet the QTU’s number one objective of actually cutting workload, we will have to go further: abandoning activities – old and new – that waste time or aren’t worth the time and energy that goes into them.
What can you do?
To help identify the workload problems that need to be addressed at your school, you may wish to use the workload entitlements checklist (https://www.qtu.asn.au/workload-entitlements-checklist).
You may also:
- Think about and list activities that appear to be “timewasters” or are low-value activities that you feel don’t produce enough benefit to justify the time and resources expended.
- Put out a suggestion box to gather workload reduction ideas (this is where the activities identified in “1” may be shared).
- Run a Union meeting to prioritise suggestions for reducing workload – what changes would reduce workload the most?
- Form a group of interested members to draft a submission to the Workload Advisory Council, (submissions will be invited in the first half of the year).
- List school-based changes for local consultative committee (LCC) meetings to consider.
- Get teachers to log their working time for a week (all the time spent on school work, whether at home or at school – not including travel to and from school on working days) and publish the figures. You should identify what tasks you are doing – these may be things that are not a necessity but which you choose to do – and consider whether you can change or stop doing them to improve your workload).
- If some of your workload issues are being caused by the region or the system, why not attend a branch meeting to raise these issues with colleagues in other schools to see if they are experiencing the same/similar issues?
It is important to use the workload management principles in the agreement to stop further workload creep.
According to these principles, effective workload management requires:
- understanding that all employees and managers are accountable for effective workload management
- that workload is discussed and reviewed, and allocation of workload takes into account the training, skill, knowledge, career and professional development of individual employees
- recognition that changes occur in workplaces on a daily basis and that managers are responsible for managing workloads
- a strong commitment by both employees and managers to ensure success
- equitable distribution of workloads and open and transparent decision making
- that decisions that take the work-life balance of employees into account are supported
- flexibility and discretion in applying workload management, to ensure delivery, work requirements and the effectiveness and efficiency of the department are met
- maintenance of safe work environments and safe work practices
- allocation of resources to ensure both the maintenance of workload at a reasonable level and the delivery of a high-quality service
- issue escalation processes are in place – the local consultation committee is a key mechanism for managing workload issues at the workplace level.
Here is a simple checklist. Does the proposal:
- exceed the face-to-face teaching time of teachers
- negatively impact on the workload associated with the teaching and learning program of teachers’ class(es)
- add to workload by increasing other duties related to the operation and organisation of the school
- take into account the potential impact on class size, curriculum mix, range of ability and age of students, demands and behaviours of those students, resources available and facilities?
Other considerations include:
- how much time will this take?
- is there capacity in the school to allocate the duties so that the time that it takes is evenly shared?
- if this is a priority, what other things will be removed or not be prioritised in order for the initiative to be implemented?
- do we have the capabilities/skills/resources within the school to implement the initiative?
- who will implement the initiatives and is it part of their role and responsibilities?