Australian teachers work harder than many others around the world

Today’s blog post is a follow-up from last week’s article regarding teacher workload and the misconceptions surrounding the hours teachers really work.

Sally Baker, a primary school teacher, has posted an intriguing blog post on the Australian Education Union’s website. Her post came a few months after a report ‘ACT Teachers Work Longer Hours Than OECD Average‘ , also published on the AEU website, which presented statistics on the workloads of Australian teachers in both the primary and secondary sectors.

The report draws on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) analysing the hours worked by teachers internationally and the resulting annual publication  ‘Education at a Glance’.

The OECD reported that on average Australian primary school teachers have 871 face-to-face hours with students annually. That compares with the OECD average of 782 hours per year.

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Sally says that she was prompted to write the article after many non-teacher friends of hers constantly commented on her work hours and how she only works from 9am-3pm, when in fact, this was not the case at all.

Us teachers, and anyone who lives with us, knows that the idea of a teacher only being at work from 9 to 3 is not only madness but also quite impossible if we are doing our job properly.

The article focuses heavily on what is done outside of the classroom, rather than what actually happens during school hours. Sally notes that it would be ‘impossible’ for a teacher to do their job properly within a 9-3 time restraint, and that the job takes a lot more devotion than just turning up to school each day.

As her post is about life as a primary teacher, some of the activities and things Sally has to do for her job aren’t applicable across secondary teachers also, but it does give an interesting insight into some of the rough things that primary teachers have to deal with (cleaning up ‘accidents’ for example). Whilst last week’s infographics and post  gave a brief overview on how teachers spend their day, Sally’s article really dives much deeper and gives a full, detailed recount of exactly how a teacher will spend their time.

Teachers arrive early to school and also leave late, with their lunches and breaks often occupied with work-related activities and odd tasks to finish. Setting up, packing up, creating worksheets, finding suitable textbooks and learning materials, including online instructional videos, decorating the classrooms with students work, cleaning up after arty or messy activities, dusting cupboards and wiping down desks…the tasks never seem to end!

If being in charge of 20+ young children wasn’t a lot of work already, teachers must account for all of their work as well, marking assignments on time and tailoring work to suit each student whilst also catching up with parents if there are any issues.

Combine all these small tasks with teacher meetings, parent-teacher meetings, constant emails, planning lessons, assessing, formally reporting and being aware of students social and emotional development and it is hard to argue a case against the real workload of our teachers.

Another insightful piece of information published by the AEU was a research report from Tasmania in 2012 and 2013 focusing directly on teacher workloads in Australia.

The research was conducted through three online surveys and also focus groups, individual interviews and work diaries. What they found was that heavy teacher workloads aren’t just isolated cases, with 70% of Australian teachers strongly agreeing with the statement that “Teaching involves significantly more work or more complexity than it did five years ago”.

More disturbing was that 87.5% of the teachers also said they were not satisfied that their work tasks could be completed within their work hours. Only 27% of the teachers interviewed agreed that their workload was manageable that year.

If there was anything to support Sally Bakers article earlier, this report definitely reflects her feelings towards her workload, and shows us that Sally is not the only teacher having this experience.

Teachers don’t work hard enough? Think again!

There is a long-running myth perpetuated in some quarters about the laziness of teaching and educational roles, in particular classroom teachers in primary, middle and high schools. Busy Teacher has compiled this great infographic that puts a teacher’s working year in a much more realistic perspective.

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Although the average yearly salary for a teacher in the United States is $49,000, a good $5,000 above the median household income, the money is well-earned. Teachers are not only working the average teaching day of 6-8 hours, they also arrive to school early and leave late, in order to have parent/teacher meetings and help students with work. Once a teacher goes home their work continues, grading papers, assignments, attending teacher meetings, making phone calls and answering student emails. These activities can take anywhere from 3-5 hours per day to complete.

By adding up all of these small tasks, a teacher’s working day can look like anything from 12-16 hours per day! This is a massive commitment, when a teacher is in charge of so many kids and classes, there are always more needs to be met.

One of the most common comments made about teaching jobs is how they are only working for nine months of the year, as student’s aren’t in school for three months during the summer. This misconception jumps to the conclusion that teachers spend no time during the summer planning for the coming year, but in reality, teachers are spending most of the summer break in preparation for the coming year.

These statistics only encompass the United States, so how does it compare to the rest of the world?

Knewton has compiled another great infographic which compares the amount of work teachers are putting into their work all over the world.

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For example, we are shown that the United States has the highest number of statutory work hours, 1,998 hours a year for high school teachers, when compared to the likes of South Korea, Japan, England and Brazil. The United States also has the highest number of teaching hours when compared to even more countries all over the world, with New Zealand in second place and France in third.

These numbers can deduce that all over the world, teachers are working up to as many as 11 hours per day. This is broken down into sections of work like classroom teaching, which takes up 40% of teachers time, grading work and administration, such as paperwork, which takes up approximately another 30% of a teachers time each day. These hours really do add up quite quickly, as it seems there is always something a teacher could be doing to improve their lesson plans, organise their paperwork or support their students.

What makes a teacher’s life even harder is that there are other factors which are now making teaching even more challenging in our modern society. These factors include things such as growing class sizes, recognition that each student deserves personalised attention, every changing standards and regulations of teaching plus the portrayal of school in a negative light by peer and pop culture.

These two infographics are great tools to show that many teachers are justified in expressing concern about their workloads, and education administrators must continue to seek ways to provide support and tools that can lighten the load for teachers around the world.

Poorly communicated student information threatens school excursions

Liability continues to be an ever increasing front of mind issue for schools around the world. In countries where parents particularly tend towards the litigious, such as the United States, some schools are even reducing the frequency of off campus excursions, opting instead for alternative experiences.

School administrators also cite cost as a concern, for transport and chaperones, and suggest the money can be better spent on more time in class.

In Israel this week this week high school students are skipping classes in protest over sanctions by teachers that have led to the cancellation of all field trips. The teachers want legal immunity  from lawsuits and criminal charges in the event of a student being injured on a trip.

However, others in the education field are fighting back, saying field trips provide valuable opportunities for students, with improved learning outcomes. For example a study by Jay Greene, a professor at the University of Arkansas  found that students who attended a live theatre performance scored significantly higher on a vocabulary test incorporating language from those plays, in comparison to a cohort of their peers who only read the play or watched a video.

Taking students off campus does of course carry a risk, hence many schools are now required to compile risk assessment plans and communicate fulsomely with parents to ensure the parents are fully informed about the nature and content of a proposed activity, and that consent has been properly secured from the parents.

The paper forms sent home to parents have consequently become even more prevalent and detailed – as any parent can attest, they are subject to a constant barrage of what at times seem repetitive requests from teachers to read, complete and return forms for all manner of activities. Yet this process is intrinsically fraught, for example:

  1. The parent might not complete the form correctly, they might omit or miss key information;
  2. The teacher might find it difficult to transcribe the parent’s handwriting, leading to mistakes or incorrect data being recorded.

As has been seen sadly on occasion, if vital information is not communicated, students can be placed at risk, especially with regard to health information such as allergies. As every parent can tell you allergies in kids are on the rise – and that’s backed by research.

According to Allergy UK the latest surveys show that the rates of all allergies are increasing throughout the world, affecting up to 30-35% of people at some stage of their lives. What’s even more alarming is that other Allergy UK studies are showing a significant increase in the incidence of food allergies amongst children. Currently in the UK, it is estimated that up to 50% of children are diagnosed with an allergic condition.

Many schools now have blanket bans on food products such as eggs, dairy and nuts even if only a small percentage of the student body has allergies to avoid, as much as possible, any risk. Unsure of what the best solution is to deal with this issue some schools seem to be going really overboard in their strategies, according to John Collard, clinical director of Allergy UK.

“Food allergies can be deadly, and every death is clearly a tragedy so we need to do what we can to prevent them. But you have to balance that against the impact on the quality of life of everyone else.”

“I heard a story in the UK about a school making children wear gowns over their clothing during meal times so there would be no contamination fear from milk. There is a tendency to go over the top.”

Clearly it is important that the school elicits, and clearly understands, information provided by parents, whether for allergies, or other aspects of a child’s personal information whilst preparing for any activity involving students. And this is where giving consideration to an online communication tool should be high on the agenda for school leaders.

A digital online forms system can address the flaws in paper based systems:

  1. Online forms can be designed to ensure that parents correctly complete the required information, for example using elements such as drop down lists with a closed set of options ensures only legitimate options are selected;
  2. With no handwriting to decipher the data will be legible and usable, and because it’s in digital form archiving and searching is simple.

These are two of the primary reasons why we created ParentPaperwork – and not just for schools, but for the parents as well. Because it’s in everyone’s interests that information about our kids is communicated reliably and securely.

As a bonus, the time and cost for managing the process can be drastically reduced, further helping schools in the battle against the workload challenge facing teachers and school administrators.

 

Four major benefits for your school to eliminate the paper chase in 2015

Schools are often seen as conservative in their adoption of new process and ideas, but if there is one habit that schools around the world need to kick in 2015 it’s their significant paper consumption.

Even with all the modern ICT tools deployed in schools today staff and students will still use paper for some tasks, but there are significant savings in both time and cost available to schools that transition their paper-based processes to online tools.

For example each year tens of millions of parents sign hundreds of millions of paper forms on behalf of their children or relatives. It’s a labour intensive, unreliable and inefficient process – and there are clear advantages in considering electronic alternatives.

Here are four major benefits for your school to eliminate the paper chase in 2015 as part of the Workload Challenge

Saving money:

Apart from the obvious expense of purchasing paper plus photocopier and printer consumables, most of the time schools don’t realize the hidden costs associated with staff administrators and teachers managing paper trails.

Transitioning paper forms to an online system makes a great deal of sense.

Document retention policies often require schools to archive their paper forms for a considerable number of years – we’ve heard of some schools whose legal advisors have told them to keep their paper forms indefinitely. Over time storage can become a real cost burden, to ensure the paper forms are held securely and safely.

Not only are online forms quicker to fill out and easier to read, staff will can keep them on record without having to worry about damaged or lost forms – with the ParentPaperwork system the data remains available at the click of a mouse for as long as the school decides.

And of course any cost savings can be redirected into teaching time and resources.

Saving time:

Sending out paper forms such as permission slips is extremely time consuming for administrators and teachers. Creating, approving and copying the forms can involve hundreds of pieces of paper and many hours of work. Then there’s all the stress and hassle that follows when students forget or are late to bring back their forms,  causing headaches for the teachers, principals and administrators.

The last thing teachers need is to waste time standing in front of a photocopier, stuff forms into students’ school bags and chasing parents.

ParentPaperwork lets teachers send out their forms with a click of a button. The forms are delivered directly to parents via email, and are tracked and delivery errors noted, so school staff have  confidence forms have reached the parents. Parents are even automatically sent reminders if they are overdue submitting their forms.

Staff can log into ParentPaperwork at any time to view real time reporting about which parents have responded and submitted their forms. Then all the relevant data can be exported into a single spreadsheet file – no more carrying bundles of paper forms on field trips and excursions.

Saving the environment

There are many great opportunities for schools to adopt environmentally friendly practices, and saving paper is a positive way to contribute to ensuring our kids can look forward to a healthy planet for many decades to come.

A school with 2,000 students could be using 80,000 pieces of paper a year just to send forms home to parents – that’s around ten trees a year that need to be sacrificed just so parents can give permission for their children to attend a sports carnival or other school activity! Using online forms will save those trees and set a positive example to students.

Schools can sign up for a free 30 day trial at www.ParentPaperwork.com

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Classroom

Before 2015 gets underway for teachers there’s nothing like spending some time on reflecting back on the events of 2014 and thinking of some new resolutions for the upcoming school year.

We’re sure you’ll come up with plenty of ideas –  from tweaking the lesson plan, to playing interior decorator and rearranging the tables in a more productive manner.

Here are some fun ideas and resolutions for your class room/school in 2015:

Setting the classroom up for success

It can be an exciting challenge to think through how to organize your students surroundings in order to inspire and excite them about learning. For many teachers 2015 will be an opportunity to start with a blank canvas and strategically arm their classroom walls with posters, decorations and information. We’ve all been in those classrooms where the plain unimaginative surroundings create a dull atmosphere for students. That’s a situation that is easily remedied.

Here are some ideas to help glam up your classroom and make it interesting to learn in:

Dress to impress

Use the holiday period to find yourself a couple of new clothing pieces for next term. Never underestimate how feeling good and wearing something that you love can lift your mood and give you more self-confidence when dealing with students. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a couple of fun pieces to add to the collection for school dress up days or to just get the kids laughing on a long grey day.

ASOS is a great website for online shopping with free shipping around the world- www.asos.com.au

Look through a selection of fun and colourful puppets that you can purchase for 2015- http://www.thepuppetstore.com/

Get some fun costumes for dress up day – http://www.costumecollection.com.au/pirates-costumes.html?gender=male&for=adults

Don’t let Admin get you down

One of the most strenuous and least productive to the teaching/learning process, aspects of teaching can be the mountain of administrative paperwork tasks that accompanies the job. Apart from the constant grading of papers and projects there are usually plenty of excursion and other forms you produce, distribute, collect and collate that can be an administrative nightmare.

Take a moment and have a look at ParentPaperwork and see how we can easily save you time and stress when the time comes to  take your students on the next excursion. No more waiting for parents to respond, worrying about forms not making it back or having to print off excessive copies that need to be marked off and taken with you.

Learn more about Parent Paperwork for your school and classroom and consider taking advantage of our free trial  for your next excursion here – https://www.parentpaperwork.com/

ParentPaperWork supports the UK workload challenge

Here at ParentPaperwork we were extremely excited to hear about the “workload challenge” introduced to UK teachers in late 2014. The Workload Challenge is an initiative created by Nick Clegg, the UK Deputy Prime Minister which is looking to find ways to reduce the overwhelming workload problem for Teachers. This is a fantastic process – and in a sign of just how much school staff have taken this to heart over 40,000 teachers have filled out an online survey contributing more than 50,000 examples and suggestions.

Some examples of ideas already brought up include:

  • More planning, preparation and assessment time
  • Reducing data collection requirements
  • Clear guidance about what evidence is expected during Ofsted inspections
  • Realistic expectations for marking pupils’ work
  • Improving IT systems and programs to make them more user-friendly and efficient
  • Trusting staff to plan lessons effectively (unless there is evidence of an issue with planning)
  • Short, effective meetings and fewer of them

A study done by www.busyteacher.org determined that a real teaching day is between 12-16 hours a day! That includes 8 hours of a standard teaching day, 1 hour before or after school and 3-5 hours for day by day planning, grading, attending meetings and doing paperwork.

A National Union of Teachers survey of more than 16,000 teachers in September last year revealed that 90 per cent of teachers had considered giving up teaching during the last two years alone, because of workload

The UK Department of Education’s own Workload Diary Survey from March 2013 revealed the average primary teacher is working nearly 60 hours per week – a 10 per cent increase since 2010.

Finding the solution to helping reduce teacher workload won’t be easy however ParentPaperwork is excited to join with British schools to tackle the challenge and make a difference to schools throughout the UK.

How is ParentPaperwork going to make a difference in the #workloadchallenge ?

ParentPaperwork will be able to tackle a number of key issues coming out of the #workloadchallange survey.

Speeding up the permission slip process

Each year millions of students travel off campus on excursions and field trips. One of the big issues taking up teacher time is the drawn out process of putting together a paper based permission slip for their classroom. These slips need to be created for every excursion which can be very time consuming, and as they are paper based give no guarantees that parents will receive them – school bags are not the most reliable courier system!

The teacher must design a form, photocopy one for each student (and often multiple pages) and distribute them to students in class. And then the returned forms must be collated and results recorded.

ParentPaperwork provides an easy-to-use system that lets teachers quickly put together an online permission slip which is sent directly to parents in a click of a button. It’s quick, simple and gives parents the ability to approve the slip in a matter of seconds. No more copying. No more chasing students and parents.

Forms not being delivered to parents or brought back on time will no longer be an issue taking pressure of students, parents and teachers. Plus ParentPaperwork gives teachers increased confidence that it’s actually the parent completing the form, rather than a student.

Reducing Data Collection Requirements

One of the most stressful moments for teachers can be right before an excursion takes place. It’s time to leave however a number of students still haven’t brought back their slips. The process of counting through the slips and making sure everyone has brought theirs back can be very difficult especially for those teachers with large classroom sizes.

ParentPaperwork’s form tracking gives teachers confidence that parents have received the forms, and delivers real time reporting and easy export of the information provided by parents via the online forms.

Teachers can see which parents have responded to the forms and which haven’t, giving a clear picture of the students will be attending on the day. Parents  who forget to reply are automatically sent reminders, and because they can complete the online form from any device – computer, tablet or phone – ParentPaperwork helps ensure parents respond promptly and their kids don’t miss out.

All of the information relating to an excursion including student details, the parent responses, and the parent contact information can be exported to an easy-to-read excel document, removing the need to carry folders of paper forms on the bus.

“Only Introduce new software for teachers which is so intuitive it doesn’t require long training sessions to learn, saving time.”

 

ParentPaperwork is a simple easy to use online system which doesn’t require parents or teachers to download any additional apps or go through lengthy difficult training sessions.

Being able to integrate ParentPaperwork with data sources such as your school management system will allow you to automatically transfer date with out having to manually import it.

 

 

Keep Calm. Save Paper (and trees). Use ParentPaperwork

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How many reams of paper does your school use each year copying and distributing paper forms to parents and students? Did you know one ream of paper equals around 6% of a tree? Conservatree estimates that each tree that’s processed into paper yields around 16 reams (500 sheets each) of paper.

Let’s try some math. For a school with 1,000 students let’s guess each student is given 20 paper forms a year, each with two pages. So that’s 1000 x 20 x 2 = 40,000 sheets of paper, which is 80 reams of paper. And five trees. Not withstanding the cost of the paper, the cost of copying the forms (all that toner, photocopying charges), distributing them to students, collecting and chasing the returned forms, collating and reporting the responses…..

That’s why schools turn to ParentPaperwork, our mission in life is to replace paper forms with an online system that’s super convenient for both schools and parents.

 

Book your ParentPaperwork demo at SchoolsTechOz (free Expo)

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ParentPaperwork will be exhibiting at the SchoolsTechOz Conference at Firbank Grammar in Melbourne 12-14 September.  The conference is for all staff in the K–12 school education sector, and 750 delegates are expected. There are 240 breakout sessions, and a bunch of high profile speakers. It’s going to be an exciting few days.

Please come and meet the ParentPaperwork team on our stand, we can show you how ParentPaperwork can save your school time and money by replacing your paper-based forms.

The Expo is free, you do NOT need to have a paid registration for the conference. Head to this link and book your free ticket.

If you are attending the conference, or just coming in for the Expo, we’d be happy to book a specific time to demonstrate ParentPaperwork. Please email support@parentpaperwork.com and we’ll schedule an appointment.

 

ParentPaperwork wins at StartUp Victoria Pitch Night

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ParentPaperwork was one of five companies presenting at the StartUp Victoria Pitch Night in Melbourne yesterday in front of five judges and around 300 audience members. And we won!

For the past four weeks Fiona and David, the founders of ParentPaperwork, have participated in pitch training workshops organised by StartUp Victoria, led by two fantastic mentors Nic Hodges and Nick Rakis. They’ve been wonderful in guiding all of the five companies through a process of refining and distilling our presentations, to ensure we maximised our 6 minutes on stage. We’re very grateful to them for their advice.

The other four companies were:

Everyone had amazing pitches prepared by the time we turned up at Inpsire9 in Richmond last night, and with five such diverse businesses it’s a tough call on the judges to try to compare what some could call apples and oranges. Here we all are on stage (that’s David and Fiona on the left).

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But in the end ParentPaperwork was announced as the winner, which we are over the moon about.

Winning this is a lovely affirmation of our business idea and plans. The 5 judges were 75% of the vote, the other 25% came from the audience. A number of people were tweeting during the pitches, and some tweeted some pretty positive comments about us, so we can expect something of a network effect to continue on for a little while as people pick up on that activity online.

Our prizes include:

We already were excited by the future for ParentPaperwork, last night was a terrific affirmation for us that we are on the right track.