World Teachers’ Day: survey shows governments must address rising workloads

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28 October 2016

On World Teachers’ Day the AEU has called on all governments to address the long-term effects of rising workloads on teachers by ensuring all schools have the resources they need.

The call has been prompted by the results of the AEU’s 2016 State of Our Schools survey of teachers which showed that 77 per cent of teachers believed their workload had increased in the last year alone, and 69 per cent said workloads were making it more difficult to retain staff.

The theme of the 2016 World Teachers’ Day is valuing teachers and improving their status, and if governments are serious about this they need to tackle the issue of workloads.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe said the survey results should be a warning to all governments to properly resource schools to reduce the stresses on teachers and school leaders.

“We are alarmed to see a big rise in the number of teachers raising concerns about workload in just one year. This is a strong indication that demands on teachers are reaching a critical point,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Our survey shows teachers are committed to the profession and the vast majority want to stay for the long term, but we are at risk of losing thousands of experienced, high-quality teachers who are facing increasing workloads and a lack of support.

“It is deeply frustrating for our committed and passionate teachers when they do not have the time do deal with paperwork, prepare lessons and give each student the attention they need.”

Key findings of the 2016 survey include:

  • 77% of teachers say their workload has increased in the last year, and just 2% say it has decreased.
  • 26% of teachers say they are working more than 55 hours per week (up from 23% in the 2015 survey) and another 45% say more than 45 hours (up from 42 per cent in the 2015 survey).
  • There has been significant growth in the number of teachers who believe it is getting more difficult to retain teachers: now up to 69% from 58% in 2015.
  • While only 17% of teachers are considering leaving the profession, this number has increased from 14% in 2015.
  • For these teachers workload is by far the biggest issue, with 74% saying it would be the most important factor in any decision to leave, up from 66% in 2015.

International evidence shows Australian teachers work longer hours and have bigger classes than the global average. Australia’s primary school classes average 23 students, compared with the OECD average of 21.

Australian teachers are also working in one of the most inequitable funded systems in the world – which increases the pressure on teachers in disadvantaged schools.

While Australia’s total spend on schooling is around the OECD average as a percentage of GDP (3.9% in 2013 compared to the average of 3.6%) a high proportion of this comes from private spending on education. Only 82% of schools funding comes from governments, compared to the OECD average of 91%.

“Rising workloads cannot be blamed solely on the greater expectations being placed on teachers, a more crowded curriculum or the complexities of the modern classroom,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“They are the result of a lack of resources in our school system which has come from a long-term underinvestment in schools and inequities in funding.

“The Gonski resources which are starting to be delivered are making a real difference but we need the full six years of funding to properly address the gaps in resources which have left disadvantaged students behind.

“If governments truly want to value teachers and improve the status of the profession, they will ensure teachers are supported in the classroom so that students can get the help they need.”