Teachers and support staff throughout NSW and the ACT are at breaking point with escalating workloads and increasing demands now at unmanageable levels.
Work intensification has for too long been taking a toll on the wellbeing of staff. In addition to this pressure, members are anxious about being taken away from the vocation they chose and are passionate about.
A recent survey by the Guardian newspaper in the UK reveals that almost half the teachers in England are planning to leave teaching within the next five years. The reason, unrealistic work demands that have little to do with quality teaching and learning. The survey found that 82% claim unmanageable workloads and that three quarters are working between 49 and 65 hours per week.
The IEU at its Council meeting in March echoed these sentiments with members citing instances of work impact on the physical and mental health of themselves and their colleagues.
Council identified a range of areas where pressure had been increasing on teachers and support staff due to new demands or where resourcing did not keep up with expanding exigencies.
These areas included students with special needs or challenging behaviours, compliance burdens, the impact of technology, excessive programing requirements, unsupported curriculum initiatives, over assessment and data analysis.
All this they observed was growing at an alarming rate while their RFF was being eroded through demands for various meetings and collaboration exercises. In many cases class sizes were increasing, generally with no additional resourcing.
Members also reported that the little PD opportunities available to them were taken up with school and system PD priorities, with scant regard to accommodating the professional learning needs identified by staff during their own goal setting.
Council resolved to prioritise a campaign to address workload issues during 2016 and set some immediate objectives. In the Catholic sector, Council sought an urgent review of current work practices arrangements to identify gaps and deficiencies and to remedy those deficiencies. Additionally, an extensive survey of members will be undertaken to provide both evidence and distinguish priority areas to inform bargaining claims for both Catholic and independent schools.
It is certainly time to re-evaluate what work we want teachers to do and what should be done by other staff. It is time too to provide the additional resourcing and staffing to allow that work to be done well and within a reasonable span of hours. Recent years have seen an exponential growth in new work and new demands which are added onto rather than replacing existing tasks. This is true of both teachers and support staff.
Perhaps it is time that every school had a compliance and data officer appointed to cope with the burden of new work in those areas. Maybe we also need a senior teacher appointed to streamline programing, assessment and reporting. Whatever the answers we, as a Union are saying no more, enough is enough, it’s time to seriously prune back expectations and let us get back to our core work.
Addressing the causes and impact of work intensification will be our priority campaign issue this year and we will press it until we see immediate and tangible results.