Teachers under pressure from heavy workload, big classes and violence

The Queensland Teachers’ Union has delivered a wish-list for the State Budget next month, hoping to improve school outcomes.

May 11, 2021, updated May 11, 2021
The Opposition says new teachers are quitting the profession in droves, while the State Government says workforce retention is stable. Photo:

The Opposition says new teachers are quitting the profession in droves, while the State Government says workforce retention is stable. Photo:

As the debate over NAPLAN testing intensifies, the union has made a submission to the Palaszczuk Government to build on promises that Labor made at the last election.

The union gave the government a briefing after the election and has started consulting with members over a new certified agreement. But its budget wish-list focusses on the need to ease pressure on teachers as quickly as possible.

“In this context, QTU priorities include measures to address both occupational violence in schools and workload intensification,” the submission states.

The union has been pushing for smaller class sizes – “members report that smaller class sizes mean students can access more individualised and targeted teaching” – and wants the budget to help free up teachers in early years learning, vocational education classes and composite classes.

Its budget submission argues that early childhood development programs are “essential for Queensland’s most vulnerable children” and provide benefits beyond the school gate.

In some schools, teachers have themselves become vulnerable, with the union reporting members who have been “bitten, kicked, punched, scratched, spat at and sworn at, as well as threatened in the workplace and online”.

It has called on the government to “prioritise support mechanisms with reference to workplace health and safety, including prevention of occupational violence and harassment, both online and in workplaces, for staff and students”.

Nationally, the curriculum is under review and the union fears any changes will not be supported by quality professional development and support services.

“The QTU is deeply concerned that the current Review of Australian Curriculum does not include a reduction of workload in its terms of reference, and that the review has the potential to require significant investment from the Queensland Government to provide professional development for teachers and principals in the amended curriculum,” the submission states.

The union has also called for more schools, better facilities, and an upgrade of telecommunications infrastructure to “address problems that became evident with the move to remote learning”.

“The new Q-Learn ecosystem is destined to be a technological white elephant unless the Queensland Government allocates funding to ensure that all QTU members can participate in appropriate professional development during rostered duty time and without adverse impact on school budgets,” the union wrote.

In parliament today, Education Minister Grace Grace called on the Federal Government to use its budget, being handed down tonight, to provide long-term funding certainty for the sector.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick will hand down the state budget on June 15.

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