Will the salaries agreement come at the cost of teacher workload?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”
Dolly Parton

The livestream of Minister Prue Car and newly installed Secretary, Murat Dizdar sent a palatable sigh of relief across the state. This, followed by a brief period that saw Teacher Unions mobilise members into action, calling on the NSW Government to ‘Honour the deal!’.

The deal was honoured, and NSW teachers will receive an increased salary beginning Term 4! It may be too early to see how the NSW Government will manage the work (and budget) of Minister’s, but that is the work of Government.

NSW teachers began the holidays, tired and for some, emotional. Starting term 4 can be dauting:

  • Report writing
  • End of Year Assemblies
  • Staff members retiring/moving to a new school/resigning.
  • Planning for 2024
  • Starting the Annual School Report
  • SIP targets

This list is not exhaustive, nor does it reflect the reality that without tangible reductions to teacher workload the pay increase might not be enough.

The NSW Education Minister has begun a process to review the hundreds of policies, new programs, initiatives, reporting requirements and rollout of curriculum. Hitting the ground running, Murat Dizdar has visited schools, starting the process of repairing the flaws and remnants of systems past. The announcement to freeze ACIP (Above Centrally Identified Positions), targeting specifically off-class positions is a start!

The freezing of new ACIP positions has been met with trepidation in some schools. There are schools all over NSW who have taken the messages from the “Local Schools, Local Decisions” policies of years gone by, imagining and adding non-teaching Executive roles to take up responsibilities such as Wellbeing or Instructional Leadership. While we shouldn’t be too hasty to question the value of these roles, it is undeniable that teachers being off class will attract attention during a staffing crisis. The challenge being debated around meeting rooms currently goes something like this: if not an off-class executive teacher to take on that responsibility, then who?

Schools can and have hired paraprofessionals (paid at around the $60-80K range) to take on roles that can be fairly argued to reduce the admin burden – but this practice is relatively new – it’s not yet clear if this measure will help the teaching profession through the current crisis. More likely it will form just part of an overall strategy which gets teachers and school leaders from the unworkable present to a sustainable and different looking future.

If there ever was a Secretary that truly understands the work of school, then Murat Dizdar is! His advocacy for education and more than two decades teaching, leading, and managing schools is well known. It can only be hoped that this translates into real improvements in teacher and school leader workload.

Time grabbing policies are prime targets in the bid to reduce the administrative load on school leaders and teachers. Increased staffing and support for the Front Office staff is another part of the puzzle that the Secretary, and Minister will have to solve.

The rate at which teachers, and school leaders leaving the job is an indicator of the pressure that poor salary and unrelenting workload. It will be interesting to see if improved salary alone will make teaching more attractive. There is the potential that the work of teachers and school leaders won’t change much or that is there will be little change in workload.

Teacher Unions have campaigned well.

The Minister and Secretary have made a start.

Now is the time for serious, meaningful improvements in workload!