It's our profession

IEUA members know what needs to be done when it comes to reinforcing the status of teachers in Australia, IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke writes.

At public hearings for the federal inquiry into the status of teachers held at the beginning of 2019, by the then LNP Federal Government, it came as no surprise to IEUA members to hear story after story of teachers increasingly placed under significant workload pressures and frustrated by a data-driven learning environment that impinges upon professional autonomy in teaching.

IEUA members have long raised concerns about the erosion of teachers’ ability to make professional judgements in the interests of students and these were outlined in detail in our federal Union’s submission to the inquiry.

The full findings of the inquiry were never released due to the closure of the 45th Parliament of Australia ahead of the federal election.

Instead, only a short four page paper was published which simply outlined the many and varied concerns IEUA members, and our respective union colleagues in the public sector, have been raising for over a decade.

Real change is needed to restore and reclaim our profession and reaffirm the unique and critical role of teachers in our schools and our society.

Empowering teachers in the classroom

Teachers have a fundamental task in their classrooms and that is to craft, differentiate and deliver learning experiences for each student.

A standardised test cannot measure the impact of these interventions and indeed when administrative exercises become too onerous it is at the expense of true teaching practice.

This means it is time to re-assess the current teaching culture, which includes too great a focus on standardised testing, data reporting and additions to the curriculum without an appropriate consideration of teacher workload and students’ best interests.

All too often the Federal Government has used 'edu-business’ led research to justify unwarranted impositions on the profession.

Successive governments have exacerbated these problems by conflating education funding with NAPLAN results and PISA outcomes.

How can any government expect meaningful data to be drawn about a student’s progression from one particular test, conducted at one particular point in time, that in no way reflects the vast array of skills that form a well rounded education?

Instead, teachers need to be empowered as the professionals they are to make autonomous judgements about what is best for their students, while being freed from the unnecessary administrative burden of data reporting for reporting’s sake.

Community support critical

At the same time we need to build greater understanding within the broader community of just how hard teachers work to provide quality education to every student in Australian classrooms.

For too long, we have seen an erosion of the professional respect for teachers and it is time for that to change.

It is critical that our governments, both state and federal, as well as parents and the broader community, acknowledge the needs of teachers and their students to support meaningful learning in classrooms and respect teachers’ professionalism.

Our judgement and perspective must always inform our profession because teaching is our profession.