Teachers are calling for action from the state department of education to put teachers’ focus back on teaching, away from paperwork.
A final report into teachers’ work in NSW public schools has called for an urgent reduction in the volume of data collection, compliance requirements and administrative demands which are obstructing teaching and learning in schools.
Teachers are calling for more time to plan lessons and attend to the needs of their students, instead of ticking boxes and filling in forms.
Riverina teacher and councillor at the NSW Teacher’s Federation, Cameron Abood, said the day is being taken up by extra administrative and non teaching and learning areas, impacting students’ learning.
“We need to prioritise teaching and learning and put it at the forefront and acknowledge teachers as the professionals,” Mr Abood said.
“We are the professionals, rather than having to provide the cumbersome amount of documentation of what we are doing.”
The report calls for the following strategies:
- A reduction in face to face teaching to allow for increased collaboration on planning and programming to support student achievement.
- Acknowledging teachers’ professional judgement and engaging with them to develop protocols for collecting, analysing and reporting data to eliminate unnecessary record keeping.
- Providing more specialist teacher support for students with special needs.
- More effective system-level planning to prevent imposing competing workload demands on schools and unrealistic timeframes.
- Consultation with teachers before major changes to ensure they have educational value and that schools have adequate resources.
- More professional learning and development for staff in school time.
- More teacher-consultants to help schools implement changes to curriculum and special programs.
Mr Abood said providing more specialist support will “enhance” the students’ learning and consultancy support available.
“There’s so much emphasis at the moment on unnecessarily time-consuming data collection, which is just for the point of data collecting,” he said.
“We need to overhaul this, the teachers know the students – some form of NAPLAN or external assessments aren’t going to tell us the information, yet these become the focus and take away from meaningful learning opportunities.”
A previous report, by a team from the University of Sydney and Curtin University, identified that teachers were drowning in a “tsunami of paperwork”.
NSW Teachers Federation, deputy president, Joan Lemaire said teachers want to spend more time working together with their students on strategies to support their needs.
“Teachers value teaching,” she said.
“The teaching profession has said their most important work is getting to know students, teaching them in a way that supports their learning needs and engages them in the joy of learning.”
Mr Abood and Ms Lemaire both agreed that Local Schools, Local Decision, a policy which was implemented in 2012, to place students at the centre of all decisions, has “failed”.
Mr Abood said it has brought about the decrease in systematic support and increased local teacher workload and less collaborative support.
“It was implemented to meet budget cuts of one billion dollars each year, and it was meant to change the direction of schooling to the local level, empowering the principals and the local staff,” he said.
“However, it was basically a way of just culling the department and it’s support.”
Likewise, Ms Lemaire said this policy has imposed new and excessive paperwork that is taking up too much teaching time.
“It has no particular value, and even worse, it diverts their focus away from students,” she said.
Mr Abood said if nothing changes, the Australian education system could potentially end up as one of the worst in the world.
“A lot of our job has gone to printing protocols, almost in line with England, which is based on non-teaching focus and cutting costs, something Australia should steer away from,” he said.
Mr Abood said another solution would be fair funding, to give everyone a fair and equal opportunity to access quality education and fund the profession adequately.
“Teachers aren’t afraid of hard work, the work needs to be beneficial and a focus back on the teaching and learning,” he said.
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