Minister Quizzed About Teacher Workload
Minister Burch has been subjected to sustained questioning about the increasing workload faced by ACT teachers.
Following the public release of our survey results which show workload is increasing and preventing us from consistently engaging in professional collaboration, Minister Burch has been scrutinised on the subject in the Legislative Assembly.
The hansard reads:
MR DOSZPOT: My question is to the minister for education. Minister, the ACT branch of the Australian Education Union recently published results of a survey it conducted amongst ACT school teachers. The results indicate a high level of dissatisfaction across a wide number of areas. Ninety-eight per cent of teachers believe their overall workload has increased over the last five years, that there has been an increase in the number of tasks they are required to complete and that there has been an increase in the number of bureaucratic and compliance tasks. What is the government doing to address teachers’ concerns about the level of administrative workload that they have?
MS BURCH: I thank Mr Doszpot for his question. Yes, the survey you are referring to was a survey by the Australian Education Union and coincided very nicely with discussions on EBA arrangements. So it should be no surprise that the union are doing their bit to position themselves for these negotiations. Certainly, when you look at our level of teachers’ workload, so to speak, we have the lowest in any state or territory, the lowest face-to-face teaching hours in the country—here in the ACT, in our government schools.
Mr Doszpot: So 98 per cent of teachers are wrong?
MS BURCH: Mr Doszpot, these are the facts. These may not be found in a union survey but these are the facts. We have the lowest student ratio number in any state or territory. Again, I think that teachers, respectfully, do have, and I think they highly regard the fact that they have, the lowest face-to-face teaching hours in any jurisdiction. In response to the comment on paperwork, the advice I have is that —
Mr Hanson interjecting—
MADAM SPEAKER: Order Mr Hanson! I cannot hear Minister Burch because of your conversation with Mr Barr.
MS BURCH: the AEU has publicly identified four administrative tasks undertaken by teachers. One of the tasks is individual learning plans for students with an identified learning need. The individual learning plans are developed each semester, with input from parents and specialist teachers. I believe that that is not an administrative function; that is a core function of a teacher—an individual learning plan. The other administrative tasks include recruitment panels, which is completely and absolutely voluntary for teachers to participate in, and the fortnightly absence record form which was introduced a number of years ago. It is my advice that this task takes approximately one to three minutes each fortnight.
MR DOSZPOT: Minister, how many hours per year are set aside for teacher professional development, given that 79 per cent of teachers say that they do not have enough time to engage in collaborative professional learning?
MS BURCH: Our teachers’ employment arrangements allow for good professional development opportunities, whether that be attendance at conferences within Canberra or interstate, whether it is attendance at activities with the TQI, whether that is indeed a professional development activity that is conducted within the schools. Teachers, as Mr Doszpot knows, are required to produce a number of hours each year for professional development to maintain their teacher registration. This survey represents to me their positioning for their EBA negotiations. I will see it as that. Teachers are supported and graduate teachers have the lowest teacher—
Mr Doszpot: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Could I request that the minister answer the question that was asked?
MADAM SPEAKER: What was the question that was asked? The question that was asked was about the number of hours of professional development available to each—
Mr Doszpot: I am quite happy to read it out again. Can I read it out again?
MADAM SPEAKER: Yes.
Mr Doszpot: Minister, how many hours per year are set aside for teacher professional development, given that 79 per cent of teachers say that they do not have enough time to engage in collaborative professional learning?
MADAM SPEAKER: The standing orders require that the answer be directly relevant. The question was a quantitative question, so I ask the minister to see if she can answer the quantitative question.
MS BURCH: It is my understanding that the current EBA sets out a range of activities that provide for professional development, so does the demand for maintenance of their professional standards.
MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Smyth.
MR SMYTH: Minister, what is the current average of classroom hours for teachers?
MS BURCH: I think face to face, remembering, for senior secondary years is 19 hours a week and for primary school is 21.5.
Mr Barr: That sounds correct.
MS BURCH: Thank you, Mr Barr; you have a longer memory than I do. So again our ACT government school teachers sit at the lowest face-to-face teaching hours of any state or territory.
MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Smyth.
MR SMYTH: Minister, what impact does face-to-face teaching hours have on educational outcomes?
MS BURCH: I heard the question as: what does the face-to-face teaching hours have on educational outcomes?
MADAM SPEAKER: Sorry, if you did not hear Mr Smyth, I am happy to have him repeat the question.
MS BURCH: Yes, if he could, please.
MADAM SPEAKER: Mr Smyth,
MR SMYTH: I will speak more slowly and clearly, Madam Speaker. Minister, what impact does face-to-face teaching hours have on educational outcomes?
MS BURCH: The hours that a teacher spends in front of a student teaching, I think have a significant impact on an educational outcome.