Teacher and school executive perspectives on workload: Insights, impacts and strategies

Year: 2018

Author: McGrath-Champ, Susan, Stacey, Meghan, Wilson, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Research in Australia suggests that teacher workload has expanded substantially in recent years, particularly in relation to administrative tasks and within the context of a neoliberal climate of devolved control and increased accountability. In this paper, we explore this premise further through a purposive sample of 31 qualitative interviews with teachers and school executive across a set of NSW schools with contrasting levels of advantage, geographical location and school type (primary or secondary).  Surprisingly, we find that extensive workload pressures are felt universally, even if they are not entirely the same everywhere. This ‘blanketing’ of demands overlays expected patterns of differentiation between schools, impacting on staff satisfaction with their work and, in some instances, creating situations in which teachers and school executive feel forced to prioritise some tasks while letting others go. Although participants were able to identify a range of response strategies to the problem of workload, the finding that such pressures were common across highly contrasting contexts suggests that the issue of teacher workload is a systemic one which, we argue, requires a systemic response.