Reducing workloads is fundamental for teacher wellbeing


8 March 2019

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training Inquiry into the Status of the Teaching Profession heard evidence this week from the Australian Education Union about what is needed to improve the status of teaching and about strategies to boost teacher morale and retention in public schools.

The AEU submission provided evidence about issues such as teacher remuneration, Initial Teacher Education, educational leadership, teacher autonomy in the classroom, professional development for school staff, and increasing the recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers.

However a key focus discussed today by the AEU was the escalating workload faced by public school teachers. Excessive workloads and out-of-hours work are placing a huge burden on public school teachers in Australia, and having a harmful effect on their health and wellbeing.

The AEU has conducted surveys and workload studies which indicate that more than a third of teachers have indicated that their workload often or nearly always adversely affects their health.

Nearly 92 per cent of teachers have expressed concern that they do not have enough time outside of classes to take care of lesson planning, marking, report writing and administrative tasks.

Almost three quarters of teachers felt that they spent too much time on administrative tasks, while nearly half of 478 principals said that they worked for 56 hours or more per week.

A survey of more than 18,000 teachers in NSW found that the average full time teacher works 55 hours per week during term time, with 43 hours per week at school on average and a further 11 hours per week at home. In Victoria, classroom teachers in both primary and secondary schools reported working an average of 53 hours per week.

Reducing the excessive workload that public school teachers experience is a fundamental step in attracting and retaining teachers in the profession, whether as teachers or educational leaders.

Enabling teachers to spend more time on teaching and learning can best be achieved by reversing recent public school funding cuts and by increasing the level of systemic support provided by education departments.

Note: the AEU’s submission to the Inquiry can be downloaded here.