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Shift in work tasks vital to prioritise learning
The report on teachers’ workload states: “Teachers’ autonomy is seen to be an indicator of professional respect and is an integral element in professional roles where contradictory and conflicting demands require freedom to manage these within complete professional roles.”
The final report Understanding work in schools: The foundation for teaching and Learning found that in relation to “the freedom to decide how work in schools is carried out, there are nearly identical response patterns for teachers, assistant principals, head teachers, principals and deputies and in relation to what work should be carried out, similar patterns are observed”. (See graphs)
The findings show data and evidence collection along with compliance requirements feature in the work activities that were negatively evaluated by principals, executives and teachers as hindering the capacity of schools to develop and sustain quality teaching and learning.
The workload demands associated with these activities were seen as undermining the professional judgement of teachers, executives and principals.
A key issue raised by many members is the lack of clarity around the Department’s requirements in relation to data and evidence collection, recording and analysis.
This lack of clarity appears to create additional workload demands as schools seek to anticipate what may be expected and/or needed to comply with the policies.
In a meeting on 6 September, Federation called for information and guidance material on the following issues.
The majority of respondents to the workload survey identified “reporting to parents and caregivers” first in the list of activities focused on “compliance rather than teaching and learning”.
The focus on compliance does not appear to relate to complying with the Curriculum planning, programming, assessing and reporting policy K-12 updated on 27 July, 2018, which states:
“The school’s procedures for reporting to parents will be:
- based on the Department’s policy
- time efficient and manageable
- developed in consultation with parents, carers and teachers.”
Concerns have also been raised about specified word limits for comments on key learning areas or subjects, ranging from 200 to 500 or more words.
The Policy Standards for Curriculum, Planning, Programming, Assessing and Reporting to Parents K-12, updated July 2018, sets out the components for written reports.
In part, it states that reports will provide “teacher comments for each KLA or subjects; comments will identify areas of student strength and areas for further development”. The information set out in the policy standards does not set a requirement for a particular number of words for a comment.
Federation called on the Department to provide more guidance on how reports can focus on students and their learning as well as being time efficient and manageable. No response has been received as yet.
Prior to commencing the term 4 reports, members should consider how reports can focus more on students, and how excessive workload can be reduced.
Correspondence from the Department on 14 September indicates that for Early Action for Success (EAfS) schools the reduced requirements allowing schools to choose between two options for monitoring students and recording assessment information for PLAN2 will continue for term 4 and remain in place for 2019.
Federation believes that there should be a collaborative approach to determining which option will be implemented and notes there is no requirement to undertake additional monitoring.
In relation to schools that are not EAfS schools, the Department stated it will continue “to provide ongoing professional learning to support teachers to use learning progressions in conjunction with the syllabus across all key learning areas. In addition, the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy Advisors will position schools to make informed decisions about the use of the learning progressions and PLAN2 appropriate to their context”.
The correspondence to Federation does not indicate any requirements to undertake professional learning or use learning progressions and/or PLAN2 in schools that are not EAfS schools.
The Department advised that the minimum requirements for the “management and storage of students assessment items for departmental and ASAQ audits” have not changed.
There will be further discussion on this issue and the Certificate IV requirements at a meeting on 21 September. Federation will provide advice to members about the outcome of the meeting.
The Memorandum to Principals DN14/00134 sets out the requirements for 2018.
The Department’s Supporting the HSC includes a section “Best practice in developing whole school procedures and monitoring the delivery of HSC courses” that states: “Every school should have negotiated and documented processes and procedures for supporting and monitoring the delivery of HSC courses which meet NESA and department requirements.”
Federation believes that the negotiation process should assess the impact of any excessive workload demands in relation to monitoring processes that are too time consuming or cumbersome and detract from a focus on teaching and learning.
The Department has not provided Federation with the requirements for 2019. Federation believes any school-based processes and procedures should be negotiated collaboratively.
Joan Lemaire, deputy president