Testimony goes to trust and time

November 02, 2020

“There’s too much paper, there’s too many dot points,” Federation Life Member and former high school principal Judy King told the work value inquiry on 29 October.

Ms King spoke of 200 policies governing the profession, “overly complicated, densely packed syllabi” and 60-page units of work.

These conditions were an attempt to remove teacher control, teacher flexibility and teacher interpretation, Ms King, now a casual teacher, said. “We need a trust agenda not a command and control agenda.

“It’s so ludicrous in the age of technology and the information age that you mandate masses of content. We need to mandate how to find out. We need more emphasis on skills. We need more emphasis on deconstruction, on interpretation, on critiquing.”

Obsession with evidence and a paper trail has reached overkill. “There still has to be some annotation of kids making progress but that doesn’t have to be metric madness,” she said.

“You are better off annotating, ‘Can write a simple sentence, can read a simple paragraph for meaning’. They’re the metrics that mean the most to me, not a number with a decimal point on the My School website.”

Testimony presented to the inquiry revealed that work crucial to improving student outcomes is time consuming.

Tracking students’ progress takes “hours and hours and hours of my time”, public school teacher Eleanor Lewis, said.

“I’ve been fortunate to have three hours that my school has funded for me … but it’s going to take me well beyond those three hours to plot [students] and then group them into small groups for their needs. I can’t do that in my two hours of RFF a week.”

Ms Lewis collects student data, puts it into spreadsheets and interprets it, in order to identify students’ needs for the purpose of informing her planning.

“You have to be a bit of a statistician as a teacher,” she said, also emphasising the need to report analysed data in a simplified, meaningful manner, for the benefit of colleagues and parents.

Her evidence also touched on the time required to collaborate with colleagues to improve student outcomes. But she emphasised that in order for an EAL/D teacher to assist a student to develop their vocabulary so they can successfully engage in a lesson required dialogue between the classroom teacher and the EAL/D teacher. “That complexity is what takes us so much time.”

Also on the time demands of the profession, Ian Blackhouse, a casual teacher and former head teacher, recalled: “You had to be available to field emails night or day, weekends, holidays. That became quite intrusive to what was once deemed to be a time for relaxation. The weekend became more and more work time.”

Witnesses commented on inadequate support services.

With each restructure of the Department of Education came destabilisation, cuts and a gradual erosion of support services, Ms King said.

“You can’t have high expectations without high support,” she stated. “That’s what we have at the moment; educationally indefensible,” she commented.

“We have high expectations, quite rightly, from the teachers themselves; from parents, from the media, from the Premier’s office, from the Treasury … Can it be delivered without support? No.”

Martin Courtney, an assistant principal in a special education setting, addressed the issue of students’ mental health needs.

“I know our regional CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] only have a psychiatrist two days per week … We could have a psychologist just for our 21 students two days a week and still not meet the need, so for the whole region there’s a gap.”

A recent poll of more than 5300 members found only 5 per cent felt that the level of school counsellor support at their school was adequate. The study also revealed a quarter of students are waiting more than four weeks for counsellor support.


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© New South Wales Teachers Federation. All Rights Reserved.

Authorised by John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

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