A sector-first research report has called for a massive school shake-up in 2021 to stronger workforces and better student outcomes.
The study, titled: ‘Tracking Insights, Data and Evidence (TIDE) Report’ was conducted by PeopleBench to investigate the connections between school workforce factors and student outcomes to identify trends and issues that will enable school leaders to build better school workforces.
The research report found that schools that featured a higher proportion of part-time employment arrangements saw greater improvements in academic outcomes for their students.
Below, The Educator speaks to PeopleBench Chief Research and Insights Officer, Mike Hennessy, about the research and its implications for schools in 2021.
TE: New evidence shows teaching positions can be made available to a wider range of people through non-traditional role design. In your view, what might this look like in 2021?
Ultimately what we’d hope to see is that qualified people who are unable to pursue their career in Education full-time have more opportunities to do so. Perhaps these are parents who are gradually returning to the workforce, perhaps late-career educators looking for a staged transition to retirement.
Schools could take numerous approaches, the most obvious of which is job-sharing (for both teaching and leadership roles), which is still less common in Education than in many other sectors. At the more adventurous end of the spectrum are things like enabling teachers to lead classrooms remotely with the support of an in-classroom facilitator. Where schools fall on that spectrum will depend on a range of factors, but we urge schools to be bold and treat this as an opportunity for experimentation, using data to evaluate the success of any changes they make.
TE: The research also revealed distinct patterns of results for primary schools versus secondary and combined schools. What were the biggest surprises (if any) for you from these findings?
Intuitively we expected that schools where teachers took fewer days of sick leave – fewer days out of the classroom – would see better student outcomes. We observed this result for secondary and combined schools, but not for primary schools; the primary schools where teachers used more days of sick leave tended to achieve higher relative NAPLAN gains. Perhaps this is because it’s less disruptive to have a supply teacher take over a lesson plan for a single class in the primary school context, than to take over multiple classes in the secondary school context, but there may also be other factors at play, including organisational culture and norms around using sick leave.
TE: You said you hope that leaders will take this opportunity to reimagine what a school workforce should look like in the future. Drawing from your industry experience and research, what do you think the school workforce of the future could look like?
I think it will include more of the job-share and other flexible work arrangements I mentioned above, but I would also expect the teaching workforce to become more diverse in line with demographic changes in the school community.
I think we’re also approaching a tipping point in terms of workforce wellbeing. We know that finding sustainable work-life balance is difficult for many teachers and leaders, so schools will have to start being a bit more innovative in how they tackle that problem. Technology will have a part to play in helping to measure and monitor staff wellbeing, but I also expect that AI-based software will start taking care of more out-of-classroom work away from teachers, leaving them to focus more squarely on the real business of teaching. This is a pattern we’ve seen in other professions such as the finance and legal industries.