Urgent reform to help teachers do their job

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A new Grattan Institute survey of 5,442 teachers and school leaders across Australia found that 92% say they ‘always’ or ‘often’ don’t have enough time for themselves. prepare for effective teaching.

Our survey shows that many obstacles stand in their way. About 86% of teachers thought the workload for “effective” teaching was too high. About 68% said they lacked enough protected planning time. Three-quarters said there was not enough support for struggling students with complex needs, and the same again highlighted frequent new initiatives that hinder classroom readiness. Equally worrying, head teachers said they felt largely powerless to make a difference.

About 86% of teachers thought the workload for “effective” teaching was too high.

The good news is that there are changes that could make it easier for teachers to focus on quality teaching. Our research identifies three key directions for reform.

First, we need to let teachers focus on teaching. The non-teaching workforce in schools has increased significantly. We need to better deploy this workforce in a way that frees up teachers to focus on teaching. A practical option is to use more non-teaching staff to oversee extracurricular activities, such as field trips, clubs and special events, as well as yard duties. When we tested this option with teachers, nearly 70% were in favor, believing it could save them two hours a week, which they could devote to better classroom preparation.

Second, we need to help teachers work smarter by reducing unnecessary tasks. Teachers spend about a third of their working hours on teaching-related activities outside the classroom, such as lesson preparation and correction. All this time is not productive. Just over half of the teachers in our survey said they spend too much time “reinventing the wheel” when it comes to lesson preparation. On average, teachers estimated they could save three hours a week if they had high-quality teaching resources prepared in advance, so they didn’t have to create their own.

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Third, we need to reconsider the basic ways of organizing teachers’ work. Well over half of the teachers and principals in our survey favored small increases in class size (three additional children), if the costs saved were invested in two additional hours of planning each week. And 58% of teachers believed that providing two or three extra planning days during the school holidays would reduce the workload during the term. Principals need more flexibility to apply these strategies in their schools.

One thing we don’t recommend is locking in a universal reduction in teachers’ face-to-face teaching hours through industry agreements. It would be very expensive, and it doesn’t make much sense when more cost-effective options are available. Given limited state government budgets, such a cut could also make it more difficult to fund other reforms, such as raising teacher salaries at the top to keep it competitive.

It is not enough for governments to declare bold aspirations for schooling and then expect overburdened teachers to magically respond. If we want our children to succeed in school, we must help our teachers to succeed in their work.

We recommend that state and territory governments, as well as the Commonwealth, systematically test these three directions for reform, as well as any other promising approaches. A $60 million investment between governments – less than 0.1% of annual recurrent funding for Australian schools – would be enough to get off to a good start and signal Australia’s true commitment to spending more time on better teaching. .

Dr. Jordana Hunter is director of the education program at the Grattan Institute.

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