Workloads: Documentation should be decreasing

Since NESA developed curriculum Fact Sheets last year, the IEU has met with most employers who have consistently assured us they are not expecting documentation that exceeds NESA compliance requirements.

Yet teachers are still reporting that documentation around programming is the number one contributor to work intensification.

When developing documentation, keep in mind that the primary audience for a program is you, the teacher, and where there is a common teaching program, your grade colleagues.

Your profession, your program

NESA compliance can be established easily with a line of sight from the syllabus, through the scope and sequence, to the teaching program and, finally, the evidence in student workbooks.

You are not required to join the dots through additional and unnecessary rationales, detail and annotations. And apart from what is stipulated in the Record of School Achievement (RoSA) process, you are not required to keep work samples.

It is reasonable to expect that anyone who wishes to confirm a specific program’s compliance status should have read the syllabus and should also possess the professional capacity to establish the line of sight through the school documentation to the student workbooks.

NESA syllabuses provide a rationale for teaching specific content. Replicating rationales in individual programs is redundant and defeats the initial point: that the primary audience for a program is you, the teacher.

NESA has made it very clear through its recent Curriculum – school registration requirements Fact Sheet that annotations are only necessary where the program has been changed, that brief annotations are perfectly acceptable and that the level of detail of those annotations is a matter for the teacher.

If you and your colleagues still experience unreasonable requests to include unnecessary rationales, duplication within programs of adjustments already documented elsewhere, lesson-by-lesson detail that would be expected of a pre-service teacher, or daily annotations and reflections that do not enhance teaching and learning or program development, you should ask: Who is requesting this detail? Once that has been established, the true purpose of the request will be clear.

There are no “degrees” of compliance. If a program is compliant, that is that. The concept of “best practice” documentation is often code for work intensification.

Our profession, our solutions

Where members have identified work intensification issues, the union advises your chapter to engage in professional discussions with school leadership teams, with the NESA Fact Sheet Curriculum – Programming and record keeping (scroll to page 3) and the IEU Fact Sheet poster as support material for making informed decisions.

Chapters could suggest that a dedicated forum should be established in the school for these professional discussions. Or where these forums currently exist, such as staff meetings or KLA Coordinator/Stage Coordinator meetings, time could be allocated to addressing professional concerns. Respectful and effective communication is the key.

School leaders can play their part. Where a program has been designated compliant in a given year, unless there is a significant syllabus change, it stands to reason that the program remains compliant with appropriate modifications based on the professional judgement of the teacher. Any major overhaul of a program could be restricted to a three-to-five-year cycle.

If it can be done, it is being done

We all know the old adage of the woodcutter whose productivity declined because they believed they had no time to stop and sharpen their axe. How much of this is happening in your school? Evaluations and adjustments to procedures should not just be restricted to teaching programs. All processes in schools should be subject to a cycle of review.

At Sydney Catholic Schools’ recent Architects of Change: Defining Educational Excellence forum, Canberra-Goulburn Director Ross Fox explained how the decision to remove comments from reports had an immediate and beneficial impact on teacher workload across the diocese, with no detrimental effect on teaching and learning. The IEU is aware of many schools that have made similar decisions in recent times.

The way it’s always been done is not necessarily the way it should still be done. More often than not, the answers to workload issues plaguing the education sector reside within the collective wisdom a school’s teachers. It’s time to start listening to teachers.

Pat Devery
Professional Engagement Coordinator