Australian teachers have higher workloads, fewer resources: OECD report

Australian public school teachers face higher workloads, fewer resources and more administration duties than global averages, according to a new international report into teaching conditions.

The OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018 report focuses on teachers’ work in the classroom, demographics, classroom challenges, Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and training and provision of professional development. It found that Australian teachers are some of the most innovative and enthusiastic adopters of new ideas and approaches to education but also among the most overworked.

According to the report:

  • Teachers in schools with high levels of socioeconomic disadvantage face greater complexity in the classroom. Consequently they have six minutes less per hour of class time available for actual teaching and learning than their colleagues in more affluent schools. This is the highest gap of any OECD country.
  • Less than 30% of new teachers in Australia received formal or informal induction
  • School time spent teaching has fallen in the last five years. Time spent on administration has increased, and is now 33% higher than the OECD average.
  • Australian teachers spend an average of 45 hours per week engaged in work on school grounds – well above the OECD average.
  • 60% of Australian teachers report that their professional development is curtailed by conflicts with their work schedule.
  • Australian teachers reported that “reducing class sizes” and “reducing teachers’ administration load by recruiting more support staff” were by far their highest priorities.

According to TALIS, Australian teachers regarded ITE and induction processes as leaving them feeling unprepared for the classroom, while access to professional development was limited by excessive workload and inflexible schedules.

“It is critically important that departments of education provide sufficient support to beginning teachers in these schools to enable them to do their job well and teach students despite the overwhelming pressure they are under,” said Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe.

“As recommended by the OECD, this includes induction programs, reduced teaching load, access to regular mentoring and secure, ongoing employment.

“Escalating workloads impacts on teaching and learning in schools. Teachers should not be spending more time on administration than on teaching.

“Schools in socio-economically disadvantaged areas face staffing and resource shortages at a greater level than schools in more advantaged communities. It is vital that these schools have a diverse staff mix, including staff with significant experience in the classroom.

“This creates an environment where new teachers can learn from more experienced teachers and provides a collegial environment for support and mentoring, which the OECD tells us Australian teachers are striving to create despite the resource challenges they face.

“Australian public school teachers are amongst the best in the world and should be part of a system which is the envy of other countries.

“Australia’s teachers are constantly asked to do more with less, leading to excessive workloads and workplace stress. The Federal Coalition government has denied public schools $14 billion over the next decade which entrenches funding inequality in our schools for years to come.

“These TALIS findings demonstrate the critical importance of fair funding for public schools to ensure that Australian teachers have the resources to give every student the teaching and learning opportunities that they need attention they need,” Ms Haythorpe said.

AEU Vic Branch ES members information.