Teachers to get helping hand preparing for lessons

Teachers will be given curriculum lesson plans,texts and learning materials in a bid to ease the pressure of rising workloads as the profession struggles to find enough time to prepare classes.

The rollout of new resources for NSW public teachers from term 4 comes after a national survey of 5400 primary and high school teachers found 92 per cent said there was inadequate time for their core classroom teaching duties,including critical lesson planning and reviewing students’ work.

Research by the Grattan Institute found 92 per cent of teachers said they don’t have enough time to prepare for effective classroom teaching

Research by the Grattan Institute found 92 per cent of teachers said they don’t have enough time to prepare for effective classroom teachingDean Sewell

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said access to a bank of “high-quality,sequenced curriculum resources” would transform education and eliminate the need for teachers to continually reinvent lesson plans. “Teachers have told us that finding or making high-quality resources that align with the curriculum is the number one tax on their time”,she said.

“We’ve listened closely to our teaching staff,developing an online,high-quality,centralised,universally available learning materials they can draw on. This is a game-changer for teachers in NSW.”

She said the resources,which will include step-by-step guides for delivering lessons with videos and other materials,would improve student outcomes.

Recent research by the Grattan Institute revealed 88 per cent of teachers said having access to common units and assessment materials could save three hours each week and avoid having to “re-invent the wheel” by trawling the internet and come up with lesson plans.

It also found teachers could reclaim about two hours a week if extracurricular jobs such as bus duty and assemblies were handled by support staff.

Education program director at the Grattan Institute,Jordana Hunter,said giving teachers access to a suite of curriculum resources could be a “major step forward as teachers wrestle with workloads that have blown out in recent years”.

“It is important to try and reduce administrative load and lesson planning time. There is also evidence that student needs have become more complex,” Hunter said.

Teachers often draw on their own resources,sharing with colleagues,using Google,Pinterest and online marketplaces to buy educational materials,which can cause huge variation between what is taught in schools.

“Provided the resources are easy for teachers to use and can be adapted in the classroom this is a big step forward,” Hunter said.

“The government shouldn’t underestimate the amount of support needed to roll this out. Even high-quality resources can be challenging for teachers to pick up and run with unless they have professional training and learn how to use it effectively.”

Pressure on teachers has grown in the past decade,she said,as more data was collected to track student progress and there was increased emphasis on student assessment.

While some teachers have argued standard curriculum resources encroach on professional freedom,experts say this view is generally held by a minority.

Mitchell said the resources were “not about taking the creativity out of teaching,that’s what our teachers do best”.

“It’s about providing teachers with a basic recipe for student success,while allowing them to contextualise how they use the ingredients to get the best outcomes for their students.”

A NSW Department of Education review of teacher workload of more than 4000 submissions found overwhelming support curriculum resources.

Hunter said there was “major room for improvement in terms of support for teachers to implement the curriculum in the classroom. In the US,UK and Singapore more support is provided.”

In 2014,a UK government working group found teachers were frequently preparing lessons from scratch and searching the internet to find lesson plans. A pilot program was subsequently set up where schools share high-quality curriculum resources with others in their networks.

“Teachers need to focus on the learning needs of the students. The rise of the internet has allowed for a lot more sharing of resources many of which are of highly variable quality. Years ago there were more textbooks in classrooms and many commercial resources are of mixed quality,” Hunter said.

Draft new NSW syllabuses for years 3-10 English and mathematics were released earlier this year,with the English syllabus to put more focus on literacy skills amid concerns,whileNSW primary schools will intensify their focus on literacy and numeracy,with the introduction of a new syllabus mandating the use of phonics.

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Lucy Carroll is education editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a health reporter.

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