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Reducing work pressure is not just a matter of money
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Reducing work pressure is not just a matter of money

Parents must stand up for better education

Teachers are demanding billions of additional funding for primary education during the government formation process. They are threatening to go on strike. Parents, led by presenter Sophie Hilbrand, declare their solidarity. However, there is more needed than money to make the profession more attractive, such as better career prospects and more attention to personal development, as I argued in a previous blog (teachers should be given more time to develop themselves). In this second blog, I advocate for addressing the issue of workload reduction as well. Funding for reducing class sizes alone is not sufficient. Schools must also work on improving education, together with parents.

‘Our workload is far too high’. Teachers, who are requesting additional funding for primary education, states that the workload is excessively high. According to them, the class sizes nowadays are too large. They also state that they are encountering an increasing number of children with behavioral and learning difficulties. And let’s not forget the main cause of the high workload: the growing administrative burden. Teachers not only see themselves as educators but also as administrative staff, caretakers, police officers, and caregivers. They are demanding extra funding, including for smaller class sizes.

They certainly have a point. If additional funding goes towards smaller class sizes, it can reduce workload and improve the quality of education. After all, in small classes, there is more time and attention for children. However, I believe that additional funding for smaller class sizes alone is not enough to make the job more appealing. For that, significant changes have to occur in careers (read my first blog), as well as in the organizations they work for and the leadership there. In research, teachers often express concerns about issues such as excessive government regulations, increasing learning difficulties among children, and demanding parents.

Little room to maneuver

Complaining about insufficient room to maneuver aligns with the feeling of excessive work pressure. This feeling is not only caused by excessive tasks but also by a lack of autonomy. One may wonder if it is difficult to alleviate this feeling. Often, there is much more room than is actually utilized in practice. Take administrative burdens, for example. The extent to which this weighs on teachers’ shoulders depends on how the school handles the rules. By simplifying processes, schools can create more room for teachers. For instance, while the government may require a group plan, there is no stipulation that it must be burdensome paperwork. A simple A4 sheet can suffice.

There is also ample room to shape the content of education oneself. A great example is Miss Kiet Engels from Hapert, who was featured in a successful documentary film. She provides education to traumatized children of refugees from Syria and Iraq who are allowed to stay in the Netherlands. Miss Kiet demonstrates how far one can go with a lot of attention and an individual approach. She also engages in conversations with parents to determine what the child needs. Teachers can follow this example and take more initiative.

I believe that additional funding for smaller class sizes alone is not enough to make the job more appealing

Robert Bukkems

Abolishing the 10-minute parent-teacher conference

I find it unfortunate that teachers mention demanding parents as a factor that increases workload. This suggests that the workload would be lighter if we stand aside. I can understand the observation that parents can be demanding and often expect schools to solve everything, but that should not be a reason to involve them even less. The phenomenon of the 10-minute parent-teacher conference already speaks for itself; before you know it, you’re out on the street again. I wouldn’t be sorry to see it abolished.

It is wiser to involve parents more. After all, education is about giving children a bright future, and that should be done together by teachers and parents. When they collaborate more frequently, the workload becomes lighter. For better education and a more fulfilling profession, it is essential to engage in dialogue with parents. A significant 68 percent of children’s academic performance is influenced by their parents and the environment they grow up in, while only 32 percent is attributed to the school. By better involving and raising awareness among parents about their role, influence, and responsibility, we can make a significant difference in children’s development. This argues for engaging in intensive communication with parents, just like juffrouw Kiet. They should be invited into the school more often.

Reducing workload, but how?

If schools truly want to reduce workload, they should not wait for funding for smaller classes. They can already take action by working as a team. Teachers can collectively decide to eliminate non-essential tasks, put an end to bureaucracy, and divide tasks more effectively. They should also strive for a stronger relationship with parents. When done well, this can alleviate the burden on teachers. I’m not saying it’s easy. It requires vision and leadership from schools. Even before they bring their child for the first time, parents should know how this primary school thinks and operates for the next eight years. The school may clearly communicate that it also expects something from the parents, such as reading to their child, helping at school, or setting goals together. This way, it doesn’t come as a surprise when a school asks parents to contribute, for example, by giving a presentation in class. By doing more together, it becomes evident that the child’s development is a shared responsibility.

Strike

If we do education together, then parents must also stand up for teachers. For example, during the upcoming strike. Because better work and better education are inherently linked. Presenter Sophie Hilbrand rightly urges parents to make their voices heard. While making her television program about burnout (Sophie in de Kreukels), she noticed how pressing the issues in primary education are.

Perhaps we should keep our children at home during a strike. However, let’s not make the mistake of limiting our demands to just more money for higher salaries and smaller classes. Because better education is more than just a financial matter. Improving careers, reducing bureaucracy, and granting more freedom to teachers cannot be bought. It requires vision from the government, school boards, teachers, and parents alike.

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