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School reforms urged as teachers stretched

A vast majority of teachers say their workloads are too high to allow for effective teaching. Photo: AAP
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Ninety per cent of teachers don’t have enough time to properly prepare for their classes, according to a study labelled “a cry for help” from Australia’s teachers.

As their workload blows out and they have little time to do what is asked of them, the Grattan Institute’s survey finds major reform is needed to stop student performance suffering.

Teachers’ most common complaint was the workload required for effective teaching was too high, with 86 per cent of teachers identifying that concern.

Respondents labelled expectations “entirely unreasonable and unmanageable”, with one stating there wasn’t enough planning time “to allow for how responsive we need to be to students’ needs”.

Lead author and Grattan Institute education program director Jordana Hunter said it was clear how much further support teachers needed.

‘Letting down our children’

“If governments don’t hear this cry and act on it, they will be letting down our children,” she said.

Some 78 per cent of respondents said they did not have enough downtime to recharge to meet the heavy demands of teaching.

In calling for a $60 million investment to fund studies of how more time can be made for effective teaching, the report recommended a three-pronged approach to reform.

They called for better matching of teachers’ work to their expertise, reducing unnecessary tasks such as administrative duties and lessening the need to “reinvent the wheel” when lesson planning, and giving school leaders more flexibility to balance class sizes and face-to-face teaching time.

Principals can lead changes

A second report identified practical steps principals can immediately take to carve out more time for teachers.

It found they can cancel unproductive meetings, reduce extra-curricular activities and yard duty and ensure shared resources across subjects and classes.

“Principals don’t need to wait for governments to embark on new reforms – they can act now,” Dr Hunter said.

“But government action is essential. Our reports show that governments need to fundamentally rethink the way schools operate – for the sake of our children.”

-AAP

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