Scrutiny should test for unnecessary work

Joan Lemaire
Senior Vice President

Onerous paperwork means less time for teaching

The statewide review of the Department of Education and Communities’ Curriculum planning, assessing and reporting to parents K–12 policy is an important opportunity for teachers, executives and principals to have their professional voices heard but current practice at school level should also be examined.

Processes that contribute to work overload need to be changed to be consistent with the Department’s policy to be “time-efficient and manageable” and reflect professional judgement and collaborative practice in improving student learning outcomes.

Preparing, delivering and improving teaching is the core work of the teaching profession. Teachers have, however, reported that the complexity of reporting policies and systems in many schools and some online reporting packages have increased workload. Problems with these packages and the additional time spent using them has resulted in less time for teachers to focus on the teaching and learning cycle.

Teachers have also raised concerns that some school processes require so much drafting, redrafting, writing, rewriting and proof-reading of reports that comments on student progress are written several weeks before the report is provided to parents.

Other workload issues relate to reporting specific syllabus outcomes against an A-E (or equivalent five-point scale) and over-complicated demands and guidelines around the reporting process.

These processes may result in summative assessment for reporting, rather than “assessment for learning, assessment as learning and assessment of learning” as explained in NSW syllabuses.

It is also acknowledged that assessment processes including “the timing, frequency and nature of assessment processes are time efficient and manageable for teachers and students”.

Department and BOSTES policies and guidance materials on programming and reporting is quite elementary.

Reports, for example, are required twice yearly, must use plain language, provide information on a student’s learning, achievement, development, attendance, commitment and be based on key learning areas. They need to be purposeful to student and family.

They should not be elaborate documents, onerous in development and often consequently meaningless at home. Reporting is about student learning in terms of achievement and progress. As the BOSTES reporting guidelines state, teachers should, “make a professional, on balance judgement of achievement”.

Programs are to be consistent with the relevant act of parliament, be derived from BOSTES syllabuses and align with credentialling requirements. Assessment needs to form a part of all programs and to have variety and validity.

Any review of current school practice should identify and change processes that are not “time-efficient and manageable” and distract teachers from the core work of supporting student learning.

Both the review of existing school practice and any recommendations for change at the school level should be developed collaboratively and consistently with both good practice and DEC policy.

The Department is developing a discussion paper as part of the review of the Curriculum planning, assessing and reporting to parents K–12 policy.

Workload pressures haunt teachers here and overseas