Addressing work intensification

For 18 months the union has engaged Catholic dioceses in discussions around ever increasing workloads for staff and measures to manage work intensification.

These complex issues confront teachers and other education staff on a daily basis and are a major source of frustration and stress for the profession.

Some steps have been taken by many Catholic employers through Work Practices Agreements to codify and regulate areas of teachers’ work, including reducing meeting time requirements, establishing guidelines for collecting data, responding to email communication and providing support for recent graduate teachers.

These are significant reforms, but they only scratch the surface of the root cause of the problem. Significant workload is caused by constant curriculum reform, programming overload, professional development requirements and compliance with a never ending set of demands generated by government, systems, schools and individuals themselves.

The task at hand is daunting but achievable – to establish and implement a regulatory framework that achieves a steamlined set of compliance measures, that eliminates unnecessary requirements around data collection and management and provides structures for programming and assessment that fulfill obligations without reinventing the proverbial wheel.

Many employers have shown good faith in acknowledging the validity and significance of this agenda and the importance of addressing it in meaningful ways. They have engaged in discussions around the problems confronting the profession.

However, the rhetoric has yet to be matched by significant reforms in the key areas, including the provision of time for professional collaboration and planning.

While 2020 has thrown up its own unique set of challenges, it should not be an excuse for inaction or delay by employers to continue engagement with their staff and the union to advance this important agenda.

Economic slowdown, enrolment concerns and sources of school funding are all a constant part of the landscape. This is a question of priorities and a question of producing smarter reform measures which tackle unnecessary work requirements at the source and which remove invalid compliance measures, eliminating duplication and redundant processes.

At its core, this agenda aims to reinstate the central importance of teaching in the workload demands on teachers and education staff and the elimination of bureaucracy and administrative burden which increasingly supplants it. As many in the profession say ‘let teachers teach’.

This letter from a long standing IEU member working in a Catholic secondary school gives insight to the daily routine many teachers face.

In 2021 the union will accelerate its work around measures to address work intensification and seek further member support and engagement in this work.

Dear members

I appreciate the efforts of the IEU in gaining us salary increases, particularly in these difficult times.

However, the real issue is our teaching loads. Our current load of 20 hours face-to-face teaching is, frankly, anachronistic. While it may have been reasonable in the past, teaching in 2020 is a lot more onerous.

Here are just a couple of examples of what we now have to do:

Programs are overly detailed; we’re told that they should be like this so ‘that anyone can come in, pick up the program and teach from it’. I would have thought that if you are a teacher in my key learning area that you wouldn’t need so much detail. In rewriting programs I feel as though I am a ‘prac’ teacher writing out lesson plans.

Tests are no longer ‘one size fits all’. We now need to create ‘modified’ tasks, then get them approved by the learning support teacher. Some students need more time to complete the task, others need it printed on different coloured paper, others need a word bank included, etc. And then, how do we extend the more capable students? Furthermore, with the shift away from using textbooks, this means that more time is needed to find, develop and modify resources and activities.

Parents’ voices are getting louder and more demanding. How much time do we now spend explaining their children’s results to them?

SALT modules: this, too, has been added to our ‘to do’ list.

I’m sure other members could add more duties.

Brian Doughan
IEU member-30 plus years