Australian teachers working longer hours, teaching bigger classes than OECD average

26 June 2014

New figures showing Australian teachers are working longer hours and teaching bigger classes than the OECD average demonstrate the urgent need for better resourcing of schools the AEU said today.

The figures, contained in the OECD’s Teaching and Learning in Schools (TALIS) Report 2013, also show Australia is struggling to attract experienced teachers to rural and regional areas and that Australia has a higher than average number of schools with concentrations of children from low-income families.

AEU Deputy Federal President, Correna Haythorpe said the figures showed that Australian schools were under-resourced and inequitable, compared with the OECD average.

“Australian teachers are working longer hours than the OECD average, doing more administrative tasks, and that our class sizes are bigger. This is clear proof of what teachers already know - that our school system is under-resourced,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Figures showed that Australian teachers worked an average of 42.7 hours per week, compared with the OECD average of 38.3, and spent 7.4 hours doing administration or management, compared with the 4.5 hour OECD average.

The average class size in Australian schools was 24.7 students, above the OECD average of 24, and far bigger than some high-performing school systems such as Finland (17.8).

“The quality of schooling is affected by the size of classes and the amount of support available for teachers. Australia still has work to do to get class sizes down to allow greater support for students.

“This OECD data also paints a picture of the inequity within the Australia system – we have more teachers in schools with a high proportion of children from low-income families, and greater difficulty getting experienced teachers to regional areas than other countries.

“These figures reflect the gaps in funding between advantaged and disadvantaged schools, which have been shown to lead to gaps in achievement.”

The report found that 26 per cent of teachers were working in schools with more than 30 per cent of students coming from low income households, above the OECD average of 20 percent. It also noted that “Australia is one of a number of countries with relatively high numbers of teachers with fewer years of teaching experience in rural areas.”

“These are the inequities that Gonksi funding addresses, and the reason why the Abbott Government needs to maintain Gonski funding beyond 2017,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This is particularly important for the public schools which teach a disproportionate amount of students with disability, from low income families, students from regional areas, with English as a second language and Indigenous students.

“This report also finds that Australian principals have, on average, a high degree of autonomy over issues such as hiring teachers compared to other OECD countries. This should be a warning to those who believe that increasing principal autonomy is the only way to improve schools.

“The best way to improve our school system is to properly resource the public schools that educate the students with the greatest need.”

Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291