It’s time to get serious about teacher time

For many years, the constant refrain of teachers and their representative unions has been the negative impact of the erosion of time for teaching and learning in schools.

The combined impacts of a dense curriculum, diminishing respect for professional judgement and a relentless increase in compliance paperwork have had entirely predictable results in both declining student learning outcomes and increasing teacher burnout.

The NSW Curriculum review and reform, led by Professor Geoff Masters, Nurturing Wonder and Igniting Passion: Designs for a New School Curriculum (April 2020) confirmed what teachers know all too well: diverting teachers from the core work of teaching and learning increases the demands on teachers for no worthwhile purpose – it decreases the time for proper assessment of readiness for learning and consolidation of knowledge and concepts for students.

The Gallop Report, Valuing the teaching profession: an independent inquiry (2021) and the Grattan Institute Report, Making Time for Great Teaching agree: a commitment to eliminating unnecessary ‘administrivia’, providing appropriate release for preparation and assessment, and removing duplication that wastes teacher time are essential steps in restoring an appropriate balance between accountability and the core work of education professionals – teaching.

As a response to these imperatives, NESA has made changes to its school registration and accreditation compliance documentation, the Registered and Accredited Individual Non-government Schools (NSW) Manual and the Registration Systems and Member Non-government Schools (NSW) Manual, previously commonly known as the RANGS manuals.

At the time of writing, a tracked changes version of one of the manuals was still accessible on the website along with versions in which the changes have been accepted:

  • With tracked changes (Registered and Accredited Individual Non-Government Schools NSW Manual)
  • With changes accepted (Registration Systems and Member Non-government Schools NSW Manual):

While some of the changes relate to practices and procedures with which schools need to comply to maintain their registration, other provisions in the manual deal with the daily work of teachers, particularly as it relates to curriculum and programming.

For example, the tracked changes version of the Registered and Accredited Individual Non-government Schools (NSW) Manual states the following:

“A school must also maintain, until the end of each calendar year, teaching programs for each unit of work for each Year/class that correspond to those identified in the scope and sequence of learning/units of work.

“Schools must be able to demonstrate evidence of alignment between NESA syllabuses and the school’s curriculum documentation including scope and sequences, teaching programs and assessment plans used by the school. In some circumstances, upon request or as part of an inspection visit, a school may need to provide student work that demonstrates alignment to the teaching programs evidence relating to the evidence relating to the standard of teaching have been struck through.”

While some aspects of the previous manuals have been consolidated, as in the example above, other items relating to the standard of teaching have been struck through (that is, they will be removed):

Evidence relating to the standard of teaching includes:

  • consistency between the various elements of the school’s curriculum including NESA syllabus outcomes, scope and sequence, teaching programs, assessment records and samples of student work
  • records of teacher reflection/evaluation of the effectiveness of teaching and learning activities
  • records of the progressive achievement of students over time.

As you can see in the example above, records of evaluation and reflection have been removed from the list of components that were previously required as part of a teaching program. Discussions between NESA and the IEU have constantly affirmed that teachers will continue to reflect on and evaluate their programs and learning activities as a professional responsibility, but documentation of their deliberations and reflections is no longer required by NESA.

The IEU has also consistently maintained the position that it is essential to respect professional judgement and minimise excessive paperwork. Unnecessary and duplicative administrative tasks are more than a waste of precious time and energy. They also have destructive impacts on student outcomes and teacher wellbeing. Professional documentation should rely on line-of-sight and only record what is necessary, without providing explanatory annotation.

NESA has advised that there may still be some changes to the manuals over the coming months, with simplification of language and possible formatting amendments to be completed.

Consultation with the profession is scheduled to take place in Term 3 and Term 4 this year. The union has been assured that apart from minor adjustments to clarify text or improve format, the Curriculum section of the manuals will not undergo further change.

Union members should feel free to initiate conversations around these changes, with a view to streamlining programming practices at school level. While employers have the right to request documentation for their own purposes, the IEU believes that, out of respect for the profession, there is a need for transparency around any such requirements.

It is essential that teachers have a clear understanding of what is required for compliance by state or federal authorities and what is an overlay originating with employers or at the school level.

Your IEU Chapter may like to have a meeting to discuss workload at the school, particularly in light of these changes. We invite you to get in touch with your organiser to arrange a meeting.

Veronica Yewdall
Professional Officer