NIK about organisation of teachers’ work in state schools – part 1

When asked about what makes it the most difficult to apply the traditional teaching model, most teachers answered that it is the diversified level of students’ knowledge and skills as well as too big classes. Such problems are reported by nearly half of participants of NIK’s questionnaire. As much as 77% of respondents claimed that their work could be improved by raising the prestige of the teaching profession. Over 40% of respondents stated that there should be more teaching aids in classrooms.

In the audited period, subsequent ministers changed the provisions of law to improve  the work of teachers and their financial standing (gradual pay rise and a benefit for class teachers), as well as to ensure better functioning of extra classes in schools (the Ministry did not monitor their consequences) and to facilitate the organisation of remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the first time NIK took the organisation and time of teachers’ work under the microscope. The audit covered the Ministry of National Education (on 1 January 2021, renamed to the Ministry of Education and Science, as well as 20 state schools. Other 86 schools were audited, at NIK’s request, by chief education officers. Over 5 thousand school principals and nearly 25.5 thousand general-education teachers took part in NIK’s questionnaire.

Teachers in numbers

In 2018, state schools run by local government units (except for special schools, post-secondary schools and preschool departments in schools) hired about 320 thousand general-education teachers. In 2019, since a lot of them retired, that figure dropped to about 308 thousand. In 2020, it went up again to over 321 thousand, due to the education reform and prolonged education in secondary schools.

Nearly half of school principals who took part in NIK’s questionnaire, declared problems with hiring qualified employees in school year 2018/2019 and 2020/2021. It was the most difficult to hire teachers in physics (33%) and mathematics (32%), as well as chemistry (24%), English (20%) and IT (18%). Usually school principals solved that issue on their own by allocating overtime work to other teachers or posting job ads.

Data in the Educational Information System shows that overtime work was allocated to over 73% of teachers in the audited period, whereas 11% of them worked in more than one school (according to the questionnaire declarations it was 24%).

The audit revealed that – with one exception - the headcount of teachers (including overtime allocation capacity) was sufficient for the schools to discharge their statutory tasks in the audited period.

Teachers’ working time is not only about teaching load

Specific working time of teachers has sparked controversies for years. In case of full-time general-education teachers, only 18 of 40 hours per day are fully registered.

However, teachers’ working time is not only about work in the classroom. NIK’s questionnaire showed that as much as 82% of teachers spend most of the remaining 22 hours on preparing for classes as well as checking students’ assignments (68%) and keeping school documentation (32%).

Over 25 thousand teachers took part in NIK’s questionnaire. Only 10% of them declared working exactly 18 hours a week, whereas 12% - below the teaching load.

In line with the Teacher’s Charter, overtime work can be allocated only in special cases, exclusively for the purposes of covering the curriculum. Not more than 9 hours, upon the teacher’s consent. The said limits were exceeded in 4 of 20 schools.

In 2018, in a letter to the Chair of the National Education Section of NSZZ Solidarnosc (Solidarity Union), the Minister of Education recommended “cooperation to strengthen proper functioning of regulations about working time and assistance to teachers to whom they are not applied”. In response, the teachers’ Solidarity Union presented the Ministry with the list of 25 cases of potential labour law breaches. They signalled issues related to school principals urging teachers to conduct extra classes and ad hoc substitutions without being paid. The reports were verified by chief education officers but the Union was not informed about the results of their work.

The Ministry cooperated with the State Labour Inspectorate to a little extent to ensure compliance with the 40-hour week of teacher’s work. Besides, the Ministry did not analyse inspections made by the State Labour Inspectorate in this area.

Excess teaching load may have an adverse impact on the education process. Therefore, according to NIK, the Minister of Education should cooperate with other authorities entitled to control and supervise teachers’ work.

Classes not conducted and curriculum sections not covered

In the audited period, in 12 of 20 audited schools the number of conducted obligatory educational classes was lower than planned in the curriculum framework. Reasons provided by principals included the nationwide teachers’ strike, the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or school trips. The inspection made by chief education officers at NIK’s request showed that within three years nearly half of schools (40 of 86) had problems with covering the planned curriculum. Despite the lower number of classes only in two schools covered by the NIK audit, teachers did not make the core curriculum in maths, physics and chemistry.

It needs to be added that the Ministry of Education did not know how the teachers’ strike in 2019 impacted schools’ work. The strike lasted nearly three weeks and covered from 40% to 57% state schools.

Fewer special interest clubs and psychological aid not for all

In 2016-2018, 65 thousand special interest clubs were liquidated (their number went down from over 275 thousand to about 210 thousand). The NIK audit pointed out that in school year 2020/2021 the weekly number of extra classes was lower than in 2018/2019 in as many as half of the audited schools or there were none. In four schools, psychological-pedagogical classes were organised improperly or were not provided to all students who required them.

The NIK audit also indicated that the organisation and financing of extra classes were highly differentiated. Over half of teachers (56%) who participated in NIK’s questionnaire declared that in the audited period they were not paid for running extra classes and 34% for psychological-pedagogical classes.

The principals of eight schools audited by NIK did not exercise proper pedagogical supervision over this type of classes. External audits of the venue and organisation of extra classes were conducted only in four of 20 schools.

Extra classes play a special role in the education and upbringing process. Therefore, according to NIK, the supervision and monitoring should aim at ensuring proper identification of needs both of students and teachers to enable better use of their potential in performing the school’s tasks. Otherwise, extra classes may be marginalised in the education process or may be organised inappropriately.

Classrooms and labs, teaching aids, stationery

Nearly all (99%) of NIK’s questionnaire participants agreed that proper health and safety conditions as well as required equipment of classrooms and the teachers' room are vital for teachers’ work. The NIK audit revealed, though, that in nearly half of the audited schools (9 in 20) those conditions were not provided, which in some cases posed a threat to health and life (e.g. a sharp-edged fence in one school in Lubelskie Province).

In 15 schools audited by NIK, teachers did not have permanent access to classrooms dedicated to their subjects or such classrooms were not provided. As a result, classes were not always held in dedicated and properly equipped classrooms. Since the number of classrooms was too small for the demand, education was provided in shifts. Also, some rooms in cellars or corridors were transformed into classrooms and thus had poorer equipment.

In nearly all schools audited by chief education officers (84 in 86), the number of classrooms and their equipment allowed covering the core curriculum, as well as the adopted curricula in the on-site and off-site version.

How about teachers’ opinions? 40% of the respondents complained that they did not always have properly equipped classrooms at their disposal. Limited access to stationery was among the most noticeable gaps in the school equipment (36%). It needs to be emphasised, though, that in the opinion of as much as 38% of teachers, there are no classroom equipment shortages.

As for health and safety in schools, chief education officers found minor irregularities in 12 of 86 audited schools. They included: gymnastic ladders and benches without proper certificates, the lack of places in schools for students to leave their books or stationery, uneven distribution of classes in a week. Other irregularities pertained to: evacuation route marking, school lighting and sanitary devices that in some cases were not being cleaned or were out of order.

NIK’s recommendations

to the Minister of Education and Science to:

  • finalise works on the update of adopted solutions in terms of organisational standards and teachers’ socioeconomic status in cooperation with the educational environment stakeholders;
  • take up legislative actions to define the manner of organising extra classes, including pays due to teachers for this sake;
  • make a comprehensive analysis of whether extra classes are organised in a correct and adequate manner and make sure they are used more effectively in the education and upbringing process;

to school principals:

  • take measures, in cooperation with the management authority, to provide organisational conditions for teachers’ work, also on a remote basis, among others by ensuring appropriate work organisation, essential work equipment as well as health and safety at work;

to school management authorities:

  • provide support, financial in particular, to school principals to provide organisational conditions for teachers’ work, including remote work.

Article informations

Date of creation:
03 September 2021 10:09
Date of publication:
03 September 2021 10:09
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
15 September 2021 09:26
Last modified by:
Marta Połczyńska

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