English teacher blackboard
English teacher Laura Thomas, who is a British citizen, writes on a blackboard as she conducts a lesson in the town of Lesosibirsk, north of the Russian Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, April 24, 2015. Reuters/Ilya Naymushin

Queensland MP Andrew Laming has suggested school teachers should spend more hours at work and get fewer holiday leaves. The Coalition backbencher has also argued that they should not be doing class preparations at home.

Laming’s comments criticised the school reforms proposed by David Gonski in his report on educational excellence that was released Monday. He said Gonski’s report only told the Labor and Liberal governments what they wanted to hear.

Gonski apparently ignored the critical area of formal and informal work arrangements of teachers, and these include the excessive holiday periods mirroring those of the students, Fairfax Media reports. If the teachers wanted to have a stronger case during negotiations, they should have “regularised” 38-hour week for 48 weeks a year, just like everyone else.

“Teaching needs to operate like other jobs, with the same hours, days and weeks as the rest of the economy, rather than cluttered school hours where there it is little beyond face-to-face time,” he told Fairfax Media. “Gonski skirted these workplace issues and opted for soothing words to keep all parties at the table.”

And while he acknowledged that some teachers go “above and beyond” their normal working hours to prepare for their class and mark grades, he said these things were neither measured nor assured.

“This is completely unquantified, invisible time. There is just no evidence that the work they are doing at home makes any difference, and there’s no evidence that what they do at home is actually where you’d want a teacher focusing their efforts,” he said. “Unions have proudly secured equal pay for the worst teacher and best, perpetuating the culture.”

Australian Education Union federal president Correna Haythorpe didn’t agree with Laming’s views, however. She said the annual leave and daily hours of the teachers were “dictated by the reality of education across Australia.” Haythorpe thought that Gonski’s report considered the teaching versus learning time, workforce planning and improved induction and mentoring programs.

Laming’s suggestions attracted mixed reactions, with many social media commenters disagreeing with the MP.

In an opinion piece on Sydney Morning Herald, however, Melbourne teacher Aaron Searle thought Laming has had some good suggestions. He said the 38-hour/week with fewer holidays would be a better spent of his time at home.

“This is a huge improvement over my current work conditions, as that never happens now. Furthermore, Laming says there should be no marking, preparation, reporting or planning to do at home. I am hugely in favour of this. When I get home every afternoon my time will be my own, I will be able to pursue my hobbies and enjoy time with my family without the need to do any extra work after dinner. Brilliant!” he wrote.

As response to Laming, Gonski conceded that the career structure for teachers needed attention. “Continuous improvement is just as important for teachers as it is for students,” he wrote in an opinion piece on Fairfax Media. “…Our report advocates strongly that instead of teachers’ salaries plateauing as they do now unless they become principals — those who wish to continue as high performing teachers should be able to earn more.”