Teacher workloads ‘out of control’

A new survey shows that students are suffering as teacher workloads reach unsustainable levels.

An Australian Education Union Victoria (AEUVIC) survey of 13,000 teachers, revealed that a significant number of school staff are struggling to provide adequate help to their students.

According to the data – analysed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) – full-time primary teachers averaged 52.8 hours per week and full-time secondary teachers averaged 53.2 hours per week.

However, just one-third of teachers say they’re able to provide timely feedback, deal with student behaviour and effectively assess student progress.

In poorer schools, the situation was markedly worse, with just 58% of teachers saying they had access to appropriate teaching and learning resources, compared to 73% in wealthier schools.

AEU Victoria branch president, Meredith Peace, told The Age that current teacher workloads were “out of control”, adding that the survey illustrated the need for better conditions of the state’s teachers.

“Our members have been clearly telling us that their workload is quite simply out of control, and the public system can't continue to sustain those workloads and expect there not to be high levels of stress and burnout, which will affect the kids,” she said.

The survey comes as the state’s teachers negotiate a new pay deal with the Victorian Government. The AEU Victoria branch is seeking a 21% pay rise over the next three years, smaller workloads and class sizes and a reduction in the use of short-term contracts.

ACER data has shown that the majority of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, causing fears of a nationwide teacher shortage.

The pushback by teachers against rising workloads and fixed-term contracts in particular has prompted some principals to argue for a shake-up of existing practice around the employment of teachers.

Julie Podbury, president of the Australian Principals Federation (APF) told The Educator that once a teacher has demonstrated their ability as a high-quality educator, they should then be transferred to an on-going position as soon as possible. 

“Under the new arrangements in Victorian Government schools, schools need to advertise a job to the broader community to make a short term contract staff member permanent if they have been in the school for less than 12 months,” she said.

“Outstanding teachers are worth the risk of going into deficit.”