NCCD: The proof is in the survey

In the September issue of Newsmonth we outlined the IEU’s response to member concerns regarding the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) process. Here’s an update on the work so far.

After consultation with the IEU’s NCCD Working Group, the NCCD survey was launched on 15 September and closed during the September holidays. In order to gauge the level of concern across schools, rather than within schools, the survey was directed to the learning support teachers or co-ordinators in each school who carry the major responsibility for the NCCD.

A total of 320 members engaged with the survey. Although the survey was fairly extensive, more than 90 percent of respondents completed it. Since only one member per school could participate, and the overwhelming majority were sounding the alarm on workload issues, the survey clearly demonstrates that concern about the NCCD process is widespread.

The survey participants were highly engaged and provided approximately 850 comments in addition to the objective data. Analysis of this data will continue during Term 4. The preliminary examination included collating quantitative data with the help of our external consultant, Michael Elphick, and identifying some recurring themes from the comments.

As a way of acknowledging the time and efforts of the respondents, survey participants were invited to attend one of two online meetings offered in Week 3 and Week 4 of Term 4, to hear feedback on the initial data analysis. The objective data clearly demonstrates two significant factors:

the bulk of this essential work is being undertaken by a part-time work force, and

the overwhelming majority of respondents also indicated they were spending between 2-14 hours per week of unpaid time outside of school to complete the task.

While there is no doubt that participants in the survey support a nationally consistent process for the collection of data to inform the funding for students with special needs, the comments provide a clearer picture of the reality of implementing the process at the school level.

While the analysing of the comments continues, recurring themes that were shared with the survey participants include significant workload intensification. Participants are clearly indicating that this intensification is independent of the pandemic, and that the increase in workload has been building for some time.

While the impact on personal health and wellbeing was raised repeatedly, most respondents identified it as their primary concern due to the way it interfered with their core work – supporting students with special needs and their teachers.

There are inconsistent guidelines and confusion around the amount and type of evidence required for the submission. Respondents report conflicting advice and changes in the requirements from year to year, and even within the year.

The survey clearly demonstrates that concern about the NCCD process is widespread.

The evidence and data expectations beyond the task required by the NCCD itself is a concern. Employers adding layers of evidence, or finding additional uses for the data, seem to be the source of the additional requirements.

There are concerns that the platform was unreliable. Duplication caused by the need to save data in more than one place, and the inability of the platform to handle the volume in peak times, were notable issues.

Irregular and insufficient release time results in a significant component of work out of school hours. Even where release time is provided, it seems to be woefully inadequate.

There’s a lack of faith in the efficacy of the process. While there does not seem to be any argument that a nationally consistent collection of data process is needed, respondents question the return on their investment in time and effort and raise concerns about the transparency of the process.

Participants in the online feedback sessions indicated that the bulk of the data collected across the 320 schools correlated closely with their own experience.

While the majority of survey participants were the learning support teacher or co-ordinator in their school, and they were highly motivated to raise concerns that impacted them personally, many repeatedly raised concerns about the workload impacts on their classroom teacher and support staff colleagues. Solidarity was clearly on display.

An online meeting was also held in Week 4 to allow principals to provide feedback. Although the number of participants was small, comments made during the online meeting, and submitted in writing before the meeting, highlighted the same concerns identified by teachers.

The IEU considers that a multi-level approach to tackling some of the most pressing NCCD issues will be needed. The data collected from the survey will inform the strategies we develop to approach federal bodies, state agencies and employer groups. Our aim now is to produce and publish a report on the research, either at the end of this year or early next year. We will keep the survey participants and members up to date as the work continues.

Veronica Yewdall