Some Canberra teachers are reducing their hours to better cope with a workload the education union has labelled a major threat to the workforce’s health and wellbeing.
One long-serving secondary school teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, said the increasing expectation that teachers would complete administrative work without recognition of what they already did left her feeling like she was “drowning”.
Teachers in Canberra preschools and primary schools may teach up to 21 hours and 30 minutes face-to-face each week. In high schools and colleges, teachers may be asked to teach up to 19 hours weekly, averaged over the year.
As well, teachers are expected to undertake curriculum planning, assessment, student supervision, reporting, professional learning, parent-teacher interviews and “activities to enrich the educational experience of students”, an Education Directorate spokeswoman said.
The Canberra teacher said “intrusive” administrative work was unable to be completed during school hours and had eaten into family life.
She this year reduced her workload from full-time to .8, a reduction of one day per week, and said several others she knew had done the same.
“It’s not about the stuff that I really love which is preparing, and I even enjoy marking kids’ work and reporting,” she said.
“It’s filling out online surveys and the burden of administration stuff about TQI [ACT Teacher Quality Institute], it just sort of seems that instead of having a couple of jobs you have to do a day it seems that it’s job after job after job.
“You can’t breathe.”
Australian Education Union ACT branch secretary Glenn Fowler said excessive workload was a threat to the sector’s ability to attract and retain quality staff.
“We hear anecdotally from teachers who have regrettably chosen to go part-time and thereby reduce their income in order to cope with demands,” he said.
“Hours of 50 per week for teachers and more than 60 per week for school leaders are unsustainable and cannot continue.”
The union welcomed recent government initiatives that recognised teacher workload. The Education Directorate allocated $6 million to address workload issues in 2016-17.
“Each school has an established workload committee to monitor, review and address local site workload issues,” the directorate spokeswoman said.
“In addition, the directorate has established a system workload leadership team to support schools to develop and implement workload reduction plans and drive sustainable workload reduction to enable teachers’ time to focus on their core role of improving student learning in the classroom. Teachers are required to participate in approved professional learning and time is allocated to this.
“The ACT government is committed to supporting teachers through a range of measures including employing support staff to provide administrative support for teachers.”
Classroom teachers in their first year of teaching have reduced face-to-face teaching loads, the directorate spokeswoman said.