Why up to half of all teachers are quitting
"Because every time we turn around someone is shoving some new piece of data collection paper into our faces and saying this needs doing yesterday."
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Why up to half of all Australian teachers are quitting within five years
Everyone remembers the nerves on their first day of school, but Margaret Gordon had it especially tough.
The 22-year-old was made to stand up in front of the entire assembly at her school on the NSW Central Coast and introduced by the principal as "Miss Gordon, who has just graduated from Sydney University".
Ten minutes later, the new primary school teacher was shown to a classroom full of year 2 students.
"It just felt like the workload snowballed," Miss Gordon, now 25, said. "Early on, I was at school by 8 every morning and I'd leave hopefully by 6pm when the cleaners kick you out, and weekends would just be planning and gathering resources.
"There would maybe be a little bit of time in there for grocery shopping."
She has since learnt to manage the workload and recovered her weekends, but for many of her fellow early career teachers the transition from study to work never becomes any easier.
Up to half of all Australian teachers are leaving the profession in the first five years, and new research conducted by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health suggests the problem could be in the way the school day is structured.
Of the 453 teachers surveyed across NSW, two-thirds identified time management and having too much work as their biggest challenge, and more than half said they wanted more time for collaboration, mentoring and planning.
"One of the things identified is that teachers feel their time is limited and there are high demands on how they use that time," the study's program manager and principal investigator Gavin Hazel said.
Nicole Calnan, a membership and training officer at the NSW Teachers Federation, said: "It's one of the few positions where we expect teachers to produce the same results from their students in their first year as someone with 15 years of experience.
"We need to make sure that if we do expect that, they have support and more time within the school day for professional learning and collaboration with other teachers."
Ms Calnan said countries like Finland, which have fewer required hours of direct instruction, provide a successful model of how teachers could be given more time outside the classroom during school hours.
Australian primary teachers must provide 6060 hours of direct instruction to students through primary school from Year 1 to Year 6 (or an average of 1010 hours a year), compared to their counterparts in Finland who are required to provide 3794 hours of direct instruction, according to the latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report on classroom instruction. The average number of required direct instruction hours across OECD countries is 4553.
"Their teaching day is structured differently," Ms Calnan said. "Face-to-face instruction time isn't as great as other countries, which means teachers have greater time for lesson preparation and students have more time for social interaction.
And obviously Finnish students still perform very well."
Ms Calnan said improving career experiences for new teachers would require a greater policy focus on teacher wellbeing, instead of only looking at how students are performing.
"[This] research is a welcome addition to our understanding of what early career teachers are facing," she said.
"That hasn't been a priority for political parties."
Ms Gordon, who also represents the NSW Teachers Federation, said she has been lucky to have a good mentor in the teacher next door and her principal, but her experience stands in contrast to that of many of her friends from university.
"One school can be a vastly different experience from the one next door," Ms Gordon said.
"Some people have said the executive at their school were not supporting them or putting pressure on them; other people have talked about parents' expectations being too high.
"You pretty much sign a contract and off you go.
"I think there needs to be more of a structured induction with different focuses on things like your wellbeing and how important it is to get sleep."