Improving conditions to retain and recruit teachers is about more than money, writes Will Brodie. It’s about workload.
Across Australia, workload is the scourge of teachers, the byword for poor conditions driving them from their profession. Too much documentation and administration, too many meetings, too little time to prepare engaging lessons. A recent IEU survey of Victorian Catholic teachers received over 800 responses repeating these concerns:
“Admin is taking over teaching. I want to know my students and teach them. There is just way too much other stuff that gets in the way.”
Senior Research Fellow Dr Jessica Holloway says an “extensive review of teacher workload, working conditions and compensation” is required as unsustainable workload expectations force teachers to consider other career options and dissuade newcomers from entering the profession.
But she also says policymakers must enable the professional autonomy required for teachers to do their jobs well. The surveyed teachers back up Dr Holloway.
“I feel that being a teacher is not valued by anyone anymore,” said one. “I feel that every decision is micro-managed by people in offices who have no idea what it is like being in a classroom.”
Dr Holloway is also critical of the “people in offices” running education policy.
“Schools are deeply complex institutions, and it takes working within them to truly understand the intricacies involved in making them function effectively,” she says.
“Too often we see schooling solutions being crafted externally and then imposed onto schools and teachers.
“The lack of understanding regarding what schools and teachers actually need only intensifies the problems we’re seeing across the country, like unbearable workloads and burnout.”