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FREW Consultants Group        
Sunday, December 05 2021

An Ignored but Vital Workload

Tomorrow teachers in NSW will take industrial action airing many grievances but critically the unreasonable workload imposed by an ill-informed Government and bureaucracy. However, one aspect of this workload that is critical for all students and teachers is the management of disruptive behaviours.  Not only is the amount of work generated significant, but it is also disproportionately distributed across the socio-economic division, concentrated in public schools and geographically diverged.

 

The evidence for the unsustained workload is verified in the ‘Understanding Work in Schools 2018 Report’ carried out by the NSW Teachers Federation.  This concluded that full-time employed classroom and special teachers work an average of 55 hours per week, made up of more than 43 hours in school and 11 hours per week at home.  This result is supported with research from the University of Sydney which confirmed teachers in New South Wales were working an average of 54 hours a week and principals 62 hours.

 

Tactics designed to reduce the workload focuses on the reduction of administrative work and unrealistic demands on accreditation however these strategies, along with a succession of ‘improvement’ plans fails to address what continues to be the elephant in any classroom and that is the effect dysfunctional students have on children’s learning.

 

There is ample evidence that students with extreme behaviours have a very significant influence in learning outcomes.  John Hattie has identified the presence of dysfunctional students and the environment in the classroom accounts for two of the top three impediments to learning.  There is an obvious close relationship between classroom environment and the presence of these students and combined they would constitute the leading cause of student failure in our system.   In any case, collectively or alone these factors have been identified as more significant than the quality of the teacher, yet the focus on learning improvement is completely focused on the latter element.  In personal communication with Professor Hattie, the question was asked why he dropped these findings from subsequent reports and he advised that the result of his work was being used to exclude these children. 

 

In no way am I advocating the removal of these students from the classroom but I am promoting the removal of these behaviours.  As with all our work the maxim ‘100% acceptance of the child with 100% rejection of the distractive behaviour’.

 

The work I present below was carried out about 2015 and will use the most available data of that time.  I see no evidence that things have improved since that time and would suspect the drift to the private sector would have exacerbated the problem.  The data used comes from Long Term Suspension rates up to the Year 2011.

 

As there was no available known records of the individual incidents nor data refined to individual schools I was compelled us to use Long Term Suspension (LTS) numbers as a means of inferring the whereabouts of these students and their numbers.  The table below shows the growth of LTS in NSW Public Schools per 100 students.

 

Long Suspension Rate 1997-2010 % of Enrolment

1998

1999

2000

2001

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

0.71

0.62

0.76

0.88

1.51

1.67

1.81

1.96

2

2.34

2.26

 

 

The graphical representation below clearly reveals the consistent growth of these proportions.  The rate has more than tripled since 1998.

 

 

This statewide representation does not show the variability across the state at the Regional or District level.  The next table shows the rate for each Region in 2011 numbers and the range for Districts within each Region.

 

The Average per Region along with the Range between Districts within each Region

 

 

LTS per 100 (%)

Lowest District Rate

Highest District Rate

Hunter Central Coast

2.5

1.7

3.9

Illawarra and South East

1.6

0.8

2.1

New England

2.9

1.7

4.4

North Coast

2.5

1.7

3.5

Northern Sydney

0.4

0.3

0.5

Riverina

2.2

1.1

3.6

South Western Sydney

1.5

0.9

3.2

Sydney

0.7

0.5

1.2

Western NSW

2.7

1.5

5.8

Western Sydney

1.3

0.6

2.6

 

 

To establish a reliable quantitative measuring tool that would calculate the hours required to address the student welfare demands for different schools, principals were surveyed to estimate the hours taken to deal with a suspension and the percentage of time dealing with suspensions relative to other welfare issues

 

From the results an index was calculated using the relationship between long, and short-term suspensions for my school, Holsworthy High based on the following computation:

  • To deal with the average suspension takes 3.2 hours (results from survey)
  • For 115 (the total number for Holsworthy High of suspensions) this equates to 368 hours per year.
  • Work on suspensions is only 14% of the total time spent on behaviour management by senior executive of a school (results from survey) the hours become 2,628 for the year or 65.7 per week for a forty-week school year.
  • If this is divided equally between the three senior executives, each spends 21.9 hours each week dealing with behaviour issues. 
  • If this work were applied to one deputy and principal the time would become 32.9 hours each.
  • Students spend only 30 hours each week at school (discounting after school detention) all three are spending over half our pupil time dealing with behaviour management issues. For two senior executives this becomes all of their time.

The figures cited above reflect the impact on actual educational practices at the senior executive level at Holsworthy High.  Of course, these figures represent what would be the optimal allocation of resources and this would be impossible considering the multitude of other demands on the time of the senior executive.  As a result the issue is never properly addressed.   

 

It would be fair to assume that a proportionate amount of time would be taken away from other educational tasks for all teachers and this is also not feasible.

 

The results above show the average across the state but as mentioned the workload is not equally distributed across the state and the table below shows the average rate for each Region and the hours of work, based on the index found by considering the number of LTS for the year and the subsequent derived number of hours for discipline and welfare we arrive at an index of 22.8.  If you apply this to the number of LTS at a school you will calculate the hours per week spent on student welfare and discipline.  The table below provides these hours for the highest and lowest time demands, reflecting the highest and lowest numbers reported above for the districts within each Region

 

 

Average

Hours

Maximum

Hours

Minimum

Hours

Hunter

2.5

57.0

3.9

88.9

1.7

38.8

Illawarra

1.6

36.4

2.1

47.9

0.8

18.2

New England

2.9

66.1

4.4

100.3

1.7

38.8

North. Coast

2.5

57.0

3.5

79.8

1.7

38.8

North. Sydney

0.4

9.12

0.5

11.4

0.3

6.84

Riverina

2.2

50.2

4.1

93.5

1.1

   25.1      

SW Sydney

1.5

34.2

2.2

50.2

0.9

20.5

Sydney

0.7

16.0

0.5

11.4

1.2

27.4

West Region

2.7

61.6

5.8

132.2

1.5

34.2

West Sydney

1.3

29.6

1.8

41.0

0.6

13.7

 

From these observations it is seen that one District in Western Region would require 132.2 hours per week just to deal with student welfare issues.  This equates to more than three executive doing a 40-hour week just addressing this problem.  Contrast this to 6.84 hours of work demands for one senior executive in one district in North Sydney.  The implications for the attention that can be focused on other mandated duties are obvious.

The distribution of the problem is not homogeneous but the support services offered such as counselling services are broadly based on enrolment numbers not need. 

These results were provided directly to the Minister at the time and to other professional bodies with no response and no change to the approach to dealing with dysfunctional behaviours.

The presence of children with severe behaviours has always been a major impediment to the learning outcomes of our children and the issues to be highlighted will continue this lack of acknowledgement.  I despair as I see the continued drift or should I say torrent away from public schools as the parents’ solution to the problem.  This is exacerbated with the current political appetite to disregard the lowest levels of our society and finance those from the privileged strata.

Posted by: AT 08:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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PRINCIPALS

John R Frew
Marcia J Vallance


ABN 64 372 518 772

ABOUT

The principals of the company have had long careers in education with a combined total of eighty-one years service.  After starting as mainstream teachers they both moved into careers in providing support for students with severe behaviours.

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