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Australian teachers work longer hours than those in most OECD countries

Australian secondary school teachers work among the longest hours in their profession in the developed world and spend more time on administration and non-teaching tasks.

The working week for Australian secondary school teachers is also getting longer, a survey for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has found.

The OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey, which reviewed teachers in 30 nations, found Australian secondary school teachers work an average of 44.8 hours a week, six hours longer than the international average of 38.8 hours a week.

Australian teachers are working longer hours and spend more time on administration that teachers in other OECD countries.

Australian teachers are working longer hours and spend more time on administration that teachers in other OECD countries.

Five other surveyed nations had a longer average working week than Australia last year, with Japanese teachers the worst, working an average of 56 hours a week. At the bottom end of the scale, Italian teachers worked a 30-hour week on average.

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But despite the longer working hours, Australian teachers spend less time in the classroom than the OECD average.

Teachers here spent 25 hours a week on non-teaching tasks, almost seven hours above the international average of 18.2 hours.

They spent 19.9 hours per week teaching in class, slightly below the international average of 20.6 hours.

Sue Thomson is deputy chief executive for the Australian Council of Educational Research, which helped the OECD compile the survey results, and said it was clear teachers are coming under increasing pressure.

But Dr Thomson said international comparisons indicated the growing workload was not leading to better results for students.

“We’re always talking about extra things that teachers need to be doing, different skills they need, but we don’t give them time to do the things that we know make them good teachers,” Dr Thomson said.

“It’s important that teachers get time to reflect, to observe other teachers and talk to mentors, but we’re not allowing them any of that time.

“Particularly for young teachers, for those who have been teaching under five years, I think that’s really important,” she said.

Only in Japan, England and New Zealand did teachers spend more time on non-teaching tasks such as administration, lesson planning and marking.

The average working week for Australian teachers also increased by 2.1 hours since the previous survey was conducted in 2013.

Iceland and Chile were the only countries to experience bigger rises in hours worked. The OECD average was a 30-minute increase in the length of the working week between 2013 and 2015.

Trevor Cobbold, national convenor of Save our Schools, said the survey results confirmed what teachers had been saying about the increased workload being imposed on them, primarily due to government reporting requirements.

“What that does is it puts much more pressure on teachers in terms of working outside teaching hours, it detracts from the time they can put into planning lessons, mentoring students who have fallen behind and devoting time outside class hours to students at risk,” Mr Cobbold said.

Australian Education Union federal president Correna Haythorpe blamed Commonwealth funding cutbacks and an increase in teacher workloads for the trend towards longer hours.

“On top of a complex curriculum and hours of marking and lesson preparation at nights and on weekends, teachers are burdened with skyrocketing administration requirements, increasing reporting requirements, and demands to focus on coaching students for standardised testing such as NAPLAN,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“None of these demands contribute to real student achievement.”

Ms Haythorpe said teachers were telling the union they were leaving due to burnout, at the same time as student enrolment rates were surging faster than they have in decades.

“Governments need to take teacher workloads seriously," she said. "Something needs to change.”

Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.

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