Schools must make time in their day to help teachers develop or Australia will continue to slide in international school education rankings. Australian school systems and schools are struggling to allocate the time and resources needed to put teaching and learning first.
The world’s highest-performing school systems provide time for teachers to be mentored, research best practice, have their classes observed and receive constructive feedback on their performance. These systems are relentless about teacher development. Australian school systems are committed to it in principle but struggle to implement it in practice.
The report examines the timetables and budgets of six diverse schools across the country to identify ways they can change their practices in order to free up time for teacher development. It recommends, among a range of options, that schools make this time by reducing teacher presence at meetings and assemblies, extra-curricular events and professional development days that do not improve teaching.
Yet while schools can make substantial changes, governments and school systems must lead the way by changing regulations in order to give teachers time to improve their classroom practice. At present Australian school systems are often going the opposite way: schools are being asked to take on more subjects, more student welfare support, more extra-curricular activity and smaller classes. Yet we cannot expect teachers to lift students to the best in the world while also insisting they undertake yard and bus duty, supervise music, drama and sport and give more pastoral care.
The best way to improve schools is to make the time to improve teaching. We know it. Now we have to do it.