Union addresses work intensification in Sydney Catholic Schools

As part of its current salaries and conditions campaign with Catholic employers, the IEU has been actively exploring issues of concern to teachers and other education staff which pertain to the impacts of increasing workloads on the profession.

These impacts are often described as work intensification affecting the profession from a variety of sources resulting in more work related stress, poor work life balance, a diminished professional voice and ultimately negative consequences on the teaching and learning process resulting in work dissatisfaction.

Discussions continue to occur with most Catholic diocesan authorities in the context of renegotiating existing Work Practices Agreements and have been largely informative and productive.

For some time now teachers have identified some of the key elements underpinning work intensification as including: the scarce time available for preparation and collaboration with colleagues; the multiple, overlapping and constantly changing requirements for programming and general educational compliance measures imposed on the profession at various school, system and government levels; the excessive professional development demands on the profession and a set of requirements which are often described as data collection and management processes whether for specific educational compliance purposes or testing/assessment usage.

These are just some of the key drivers of work intensification that are identified by teachers among many other elements believed to be impacting on teacher wellbeing.

The union commenced its discussions with Sydney Catholic Schools late in 2019, having first developed a working document to establish both the significant issues and proposed or potential solutions. The document outlines the effects of work intensification on employees and identifies the major drivers of increased workloads and potential ways of addressing and managing work pressures.

The diocesan authorities have engaged positively with the union’s agenda although at time of writing SCS has yet to fully agree with a range of measures proposed by the union to counter work intensification and manage workloads such as:

  • increase release time for all teachers by an additional 30 minutes per week or equivalent release of one additional day per term for planning and collaboration
  • streamline and set a consistent framework for best practice program requirements while providing template documentation for compliance elements
  • rationalise the extent of professional development requirements of staff consistent with NESA accreditation requirements and reform the method of delivery in modules
  • undertake appropriate planning and consultation to create school calendars and timetables in advance to set expectations of staff around significant school based educational, cultural, community or co-curricular activities and expectations
  • reduce paperwork and eliminate excessive data collection activities while applying an agreed version of a “case for change” rationale for any system or school initiatives, and
  • streamline current professional improvement processes such as PGIA and the intrusive application of classroom observations.

The union believes that agreement is possible around the implementation of a range of these proposed measures and looks forward to revising the appropriate work practices agreements to reflect measures which aim to alleviate excessive workload and begin to address the drivers of work intensification currently afflicting the teaching profession.

There will hopefully be further positive outcomes to report in future editions of Newsmonth.