“Unnecessary and unproductive” teacher workload will be reduced. And yet, within hours of this news breaking the teaching profession are not showing the gratitude one might expect.
Here are the 5 most important pieces of information about teacher workload.
1: The average teacher works 50 hours per week. (Source: DfE).
This increases with responsibility. Promotions to middle and senior management bring with them additional hours. Any conversation about workload always sounds like sour grapes and there seems little public sympathy. Yes, the holidays are long but most private sector employees would categorically refuse to work fourteen hours per week of unpaid overtime. This is what the average teacher is doing every single week.
2: Teachers work long hours for two reasons.
Firstly, because they have a professional duty of care to do the very best that they can for their pupils. Much of the additional work is in preparing lessons and providing feedback just because teachers care.
The second reason is that many teachers work in a culture of fear. Fear of an inspection resulting in a category which could lead to losing their job. Fear of being overlooked for professional development opportunities or even a performance related pay increase because they have incurred the wrath of the senior management team. Fear of not having completed a particular form correctly or submitted it to the right body in the necessary time frame. Fear of delivering a ‘satisfactory’ lesson that now would be labelled “requires improvement”.
When the government announced a study into teacher workload it is the tasks that fit into this second category that teachers had hoped would be addressed.
3: What did teachers say was the most unnecessary and unproductive use of their time?
56% of the 44,000 teachers that responded to the government workload study said that recording, inputting, monitoring and analysing data was the most unnecessary and unproductive use of their time. Professional teachers like to be focussed on their pupils and learning. The next most cited workload issue (53% of respondents) was excessive detail and frequency being expected in marking. Neither of these two issues have been addressed by Nicky Morgan’s headline grabbing promises about reducing workload.
4: Teachers are leaving the profession because of the workload and stress
The number of teachers leaving the profession is at a 10 year high. The DfE is concerned about the number of UK trained teachers who do not get to five years of service. They are concerned about the numbers of UK trained teachers taking their talent overseas. Almost exclusively teachers leave because of workload and stress. Making workload more manageable would be the single most effective way the government could increase teacher retention. It would also help address the shortage of headteachers if workload changes also looked at what was being asked of middle and senior leaders in schools.
5: What has Nicky Morgan delivered in her workload promises?
The announcement that attracted so much attention in the news this week gave three promises.
– OFSTED will no longer change their handbook or framework during the school year, unless necessary.
– There will be no changes to qualifications during the academic year, unless urgent.
– There will be a bi-annual “large scale, robust survey” of teachers workload starting in 2016.
So, the first of the two promises carry the caveat “unless necessary” and “unless urgent”. The third of the promises is likely to involve teachers and managers in additional work as they administer the governments large scale survey into teacher workload. What will this survey discover that the current investigation with over 44,000 respondents did not? I suspect very little, although it may well involve a few million tax payer pounds that could be spent on pupil learning being diverted into the pockets of out of school office jobs.
Really, there is no workload reduction in any of the key areas identified by teachers. There is no effort to reduce stress caused by threats and distrust.
The good news for me and my colleagues in international schools is that it looks as though for the foreseeable future there should be a steady supply of excellent teachers looking to practice their profession overseas.