Funding, Enrolments and Staffing in NSW Public Schools

The following is a summary of a submission to the Independent Inquiry on the Teaching Profession in NSW Public Schools. The full submission can be downloaded below.

The NSW public education system has undergone a huge expansion in bureaucracy since 2003. There was a massive increase in administrative staff in schools and in central and regional offices that is many times greater than the increase in students. Yet, there was only a very small increase in inflation-adjusted funding per student despite a large increase in disadvantaged students. Expanding the bureaucracy was prioritised over funding classroom learning and support. As one former principal told Save Our Schools, it reflects an “increase in roles orchestrating compliance not teaching, learning and curriculum”.

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Too Many Classes are Taught by Out-of-Field Teachers

Many Year 10 students in Australia are being taught key subjects by unqualified teachers according to a major new study. It found that 15.5% of Year 10 classes are being taught by teachers out of their field of expertise. Twenty per cent of mathematics classes and 21% of English classes are taught out-of-field. The study found that 12.5% of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes are being taught out-of-field. This is likely an under-estimate because of inadequate data on science teaching.

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Teachers Say There is Too Much Administrative Work & Stress in Schools

Over half of all secondary school teachers in Australia report that they have too much administrative work which takes away time for preparing for classes and is a major source of stress.  A quarter of teachers say they experience a lot of stress at school. These are amongst the highest percentages in the OECD. They are significant factors behind teachers leaving the profession. These are significant factors behind teachers leaving the profession.

Australian teachers also have less professional autonomy over classroom content and assessment than in other OECD countries, but there is more professional collaboration in Australian schools. However, a majority of teachers do not believe their profession is valued by society.

These are key results from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), an international survey of school teachers, school leaders and the learning environment in schools released this month. The report provides important insights into the state of the teaching profession in Australia and other countries.

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How Do Teachers Teach–Then and Now

The following article by Larry Cuban, Professor of Education at Stanford University, provides an interesting historical perspective on teaching methods. Comment is invited on its application to Australia. It is republished with permission from Professor Cuban’s blog.

Most policymakers, researchers, and parents believe that good teachers and teaching are the keys to school improvement yet these very same folks know little about how teachers teach daily. And that is the rub. Good teachers and teaching are the agreed-upon policy solutions to both high- and low-performing students yet reliable knowledge of how most teachers teach and what are the best ways of teaching in either affluent or low-income, minority schools are absent among policymakers, researchers, and parents.

How do most teachers teach?

The short answer is that teachers draw from two traditions of teaching.

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Teacher Workload Has Increased in Australia

New figures released by the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018 show that teacher workload in Australia increased significantly since 2013. The increase was one of the largest in the OECD.

The new figures confirm the concerns of teacher organisations and teachers about their increasing workload. The increased workload, especially time spent on management and administration, and the stress it places on their lives is a reason reported by many teachers for leaving the profession.

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Teacher Unions Benefit Schools and Students

Strong teacher unions are critical to improving equity in school funding according to a new study published in the academic journal Review of Economics and Statistics. They also play a major role in translating funding increases into increases in student achievement.

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Empathy is the Key to Teacher-Student Relationships

If you ask a group of educators, from any sector what is the most important feature of successful teacher/student interaction invariably you get the answer relationships.  And I would agree.  However, personal relationships are hard work even when both parties are committed to having such a connection.  It is a challenge when the relationship you need is between a teacher and an angry, oppositional student.  It is obvious that it will be up to that teacher to build that relationship, not only is that connection a prerequisite for engagement, how else are they going to participate, it really is an ethical duty.

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New research shows what makes a difference in teaching literacy and why ‘evidence-based’ is not enough

Public discourse about schooling generally assumes that it’s in crisis. The script goes something like this: There’s a problem and it’s big – really big! Test results show us Australia is going downhill and teachers need to be accountable. There are ‘evidence-based’ solutions but teachers are not using them. If they did, literacy standards would improve, test results would improve, and Australia would be among the best in the world again.

Well we have some good news and bad news for you. Continue reading “New research shows what makes a difference in teaching literacy and why ‘evidence-based’ is not enough”

Who is for teaching?

What conclusion can be drawn from the Turnbull government’s announcement that a national review of teacher registration, will examine ways in which the process for becoming a teacher around Australia will be streamlined in order to make it easier for people in the trades and other professions to switch careers? It begs the question of why aren’t teachers being encouraged to rapidly retrain as tradies, nurses or for other professions, to fill skill shortages in rural Australia? Continue reading “Who is for teaching?”

Doubt About Reliability of Figures on Teacher Attrition in Australia

Commonly cited figures on teacher attrition in Australia are not reliable according to a new research paper. It found there is no robust evidence to support claims that 30–50% of Australian teachers leave teaching within their first five years. In fact, it says, the teacher attrition rate in Australia is unknown. Continue reading “Doubt About Reliability of Figures on Teacher Attrition in Australia”