As another end of the school year is nigh, it is timely to revisit a key theme of some of my blogs this year. I have emphasised how important it is to celebrate teachers and their unique contribution to the lives of their students and to society more broadly.
It is also timely to also remind ourselves of how far our profession has grown. The quality of teachers entering Queensland schools is higher than it has ever been. As Nan Bahr, Donna Pendergast, and Jo-Anne Ferreira reminded us, teachers now need to complete a rigorous four or five year program of tertiary study, far more than the two year program of the 1970s. These authors also reported that 70% of Queensland teachers in 2016 possessed higher degrees in the field of education, in addition to their initial teacher qualification. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, national reforms have meant that entry requirements are much more demanding (the ATAR is but one very small part) and students need to complete a literacy and numeracy test prior to graduation. In addition, national reforms have significantly increased expectations of teacher educators and the rigour of the university program. As Nan Bahr and her colleagues noted, “The point is teachers today are highly qualified professionals who cope with outstanding workloads … and constantly changing government policies and processes.” I would add that teachers are also managing increasingly complex roles.
I have invited readers of this blog to provide responses and throughout the year I have received comments which affirm the commitment of all our teachers, but which also describe increasingly demanding workload expectations. Now is your chance to provide comment to a national inquiry. On 15 November, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training adopted an inquiry referred by the Federal Minister for Education.
The terms of reference of the inquiry are to inquire into and report on the status of the teaching profession, considering opportunities to improve outcomes in a range of areas including:
- Increasing the attractiveness of the profession for teachers and principals, including workplace conditions, and career and leadership structures.
- Provision of appropriate support platforms for teachers, including human and IT resources.
- Identifying ways in which the burden of out-of-hours, at-home work can be reduced.
- Investigating ways to increase retention rates for the teaching profession and avoid ‘burn out’ among early-career teachers.
The areas of the inquiry parallel many of the matters we have discussed in these blogs throughout the year. This is a national inquiry focusing on issues teachers have been commenting on repeatedly – it is your chance to share your experiences and be heard. I encourage you to provide detailed submissions, whether individually or as a group. Public submissions are invited and are due by 21 December.
So, be proud of your profession and your work. Enjoy a well-deserved end of year break. I look forward to continuing to share matters of interest with you next year.