Paperwork and politics ‘undermine’ relationship between teachers and their students

After nine years of intense lobbying, Queensland Teachers’ Union president Kevin Bates is leaving the role with mixed feelings about the future of education.

Jan 13, 2021, updated Jan 13, 2021
Outgoing Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates. (Photo: ABC).

Outgoing Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates. (Photo: ABC).

Bates, elected during the time of the Liberal National Party government of Campbell Newman, could only serve three terms as president under union rules. His successor, Cresta Richardson, will take over on the first day of school this year.

Having been involved with the union for more than 26 years, Bates told InQueensland he had yet to decide on his next career move but would not return to being a teacher. The job had changed so much in that time, and become so demanding, it bore little resemblance to the role he once had teaching secondary social science in Biloela, Redcliffe, Kedron and Dunwich.

“Teachers have always worked hard, it’s always been a difficult job that has required people to go well out of the scope of what people would think reasonable in a normal job,” Bates said.

The outside-hours work, the constant deliberation over what is best for individual students, the class or the broader community had been exacerbated by the increasing need for data collection and more paperwork. Bates described this as “busy work that feeds the machine,” something he said had left many teachers disillusioned.

Bates suggested teaching was still a mystery to many people, with even parents now knowing what went into the school day or what works to get the best results.

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“It’s a science, but it’s a science that’s driven by passion and by commitment,” Bates said, with teachers motivated by a desire to be in the classroom.

“Unfortunately, that passion is quickly wilting away as teachers are distracted from their primary responsibilities and what motivated them to become teachers in the first place.”

Bates said efforts to reduce the non-classroom workload had little success, and initiatives such as NAPLAN had been counter-productive. He said teachers were being blamed for problems in the system that they had little control over.

“The perpetual political football that is education is something that is really tugging people in every different direction,” Bates said, adding that teachers should no longer be expected to take the blame for policies and funding decisions made by politicians and then exploited for political reasons.

Bates said he was leaving the union in good shape and well-supported by teachers and principals alike.

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