Making time for great teaching: How better government policy can help
Pressures have been mounting on teachers’ jobs for decades. Teachers are now expected to collect large volumes of learning data, diagnose student needs, target their teaching, track student progress, and evaluate the effectiveness of their own practices. Increasingly, teachers are also expected to develop student competencies such as creativity and resilience, support students’ mental health, and tackle social issues such as bullying. And there are now larger numbers of students with complex needs in mainstream schools. While these changes are for the better, they have significant implications for teachers’ workloads.
A Grattan Institute survey of 5,442 Australian teachers and school leaders, conducted for this report, sounds the alarm about the impact of these changes on teachers’ time. More than 90 per cent of teachers say they don’t have enough time to prepare effectively for classroom teaching – the core part of their job. And they report feeling overwhelmed by everything they are expected to achieve. Worryingly, many school leaders feel powerless to support them.
When teachers aren’t supported to do their jobs well, teaching quality suffers, and students lose out. Bold strategies are needed to tackle these problems. This report recommends governments adopt three reform directions.
First, let teachers teach. Better match teachers’ work to their teaching expertise. Find better ways to use the wider schools workforce, including support and specialist staff, to help teachers focus on effective teaching.
Second, help teachers to work smarter, by reducing unnecessary tasks, not only in administration but also in core teaching work. Reduce the need for teachers to ‘re-invent the wheel’ in curriculum and lesson planning, to ease their workload and boost teaching quality.
Third, rethink the way teachers’ work is organised in schools through industrial agreements. This includes the balance between class sizes, face-to-face teaching hours, and preparation time, so that schools have the flexibility to invest in more time for great teaching.