Despite new and encroaching requirements relating to administration and accountability, teachers in schools retain their primary focus on matters directly related to working with students in teaching and learning. This accounts for the bulk of the daily work that they do. Yet there is also evidence that many teachers are struggling to preserve this student focus in the face of the new work activities that impose additional hours, work demands and personal burdens upon them.
All Teachers, Head Teachers, Assistant Principals, Deputy Principals, Principals and Consultants highly value tasks which are perceived to be directly related to their teaching and to students’ learning, identifying planning and teaching lessons; meeting students’ learning needs; and communicating with students about their learning, lives and wellbeing as some of their most important work. However, they do not value administrative work which is impinging on this core focus, and is experienced as time consuming, cumbersome and concerned with compliance. This includes work associated with accreditation requirements; the collection, analysis and reporting of data; and compliance with state policies.
There has been significant growth in overall hours, with 87 percent of survey respondents reporting an increase over the past five years since the implementation of devolved schooling through the Local Schools, Local Decisions policy. Classroom teachers most commonly report working upwards of 50 hours per week, which places teachers’ work in the category of ‘very long’ working hours.
Teachers require more professional respect, time and support for their teaching and the facilitation of student learning. This is not evident in the recent additions to teachers’ workload. Besides a general increase in hours, there has also been an expansion of the range of duties performed, particularly in relation to administrative tasks. Over 97 percent report an increase in administrative requirements, while over 96 percent report an increase in the collection, analysis and reporting of data.
These increased demands are exerting severe impacts upon teachers. Teachers report a range of negative effects, including that their work always or often requires ‘too great an effort’ (70%), prevents them from having uninterrupted breaks (73%), negatively impacts on their career aspirations (82%) and conflicts with family commitments and work-life balance (86%).
The increased demands are threatening teaching and student learning. While our findings are generally consistent with recent research regarding demands on teachers, our data is the first to make it clear that there is also another effect of changes to work in schools: the obstruction of teaching and students’ learning. A very large majority of teachers now report that teaching and learning is hindered by their high workload (89%), by having to provide evidence of compliance with policy requirements (86%), and by new administrative demands introduced by the Department (91%).
It is evident that vastly increased administrative tasks, are having a ‘blanketing’ effect across all types of schools, locations, levels of socio-economic advantage and staff teaching roles within schools, and severely threaten to overwhelm teachers’ professional focus on teaching and student learning. The extent and magnitude of the reported effects indicate underlying system-wide causes, and teachers widely attribute these to government policies and ongoing change initiatives.