Workload - It's About Time

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19 October 2016
Excessive workload is one of the most serious issues facing the education profession.

It affects the quality of teaching and learning our members are able to deliver. It is driving experienced and valuable staff from the profession. It is having a hugely detrimental impact on personal lives. It shouldn't be this way. And it doesn't have to be.

It's about time, ATL's work-life campaign, is about giving you the help and advice you need to start taking action - for yourself, and with colleagues. You can find out more in the dedicated website section - or read on for the latest policy background on workload.

Workload Challenge working groups

ATL has published briefings for members and leaders on the findings of the Workload Challenge working groups.

The government has published the findings of its three Workload Challenge working groups. ATL has worked closely with teacher and headteacher unions and the below statement represents the collective views we put to ministers in our negotiations with government and through our participation in the working groups.

You can also read our press release, and the three reports (on the DfE website), which cover:

  • data management
  • planning and resources
  • marking.

The statement in full

We commend the government for recognising that its Workload Challenge demonstrated clearly that workload in schools needed to be taken seriously and, as a result, setting up the three working groups.

All three of the reports include some powerful recommendations designed to improve practice in schools. This should help ensure the workload of teachers does not impact upon learners and, instead should support effective, high quality teaching and learning and raise pupil achievement.

However, government must deliver on the major role it has to play in keeping teacher workloads under control. Constant reform – including those outlined in last week's White Paper – leaves school staff rushing to keep up and means teachers spend more and more time on work outside of the classroom. It is just as important to address the root causes of excessive and unnecessary workload as it is to try and eradicate the worst symptoms of the problem.

In common with other unions, we believe that the Department for Education's protocol, which promises a year's lead-in time for government's accountability, curriculum and qualifications initiatives, needs to be properly applied so that teachers and leaders have all the information they need to plan teaching and pupil development at least a year in advance. We believe, too, that all policies should undergo a rigorous workload impact assessment that guarantees manageable and effective implementation so that pupils benefit, rather than being harmed.

The working groups focussed on three key issues which emerged from the Workload Challenge:

  • data management
  • planning and resources
  • marking

but there were many other factors highlighted, not least the nature and pressure of school accountability and the detrimental effect this can have on workload. This context, particularly Ofsted inspection, demonstrates the interconnectedness of the issues considered by the working groups.

As teacher and leader unions, we commit to exploring with government these other factors further, aiming to sustainably drive down workload within accountability systems based upon trust. This will then allow teachers and leaders to be focussed firmly on their core professional role, ensure that they can lead decent working lives, and most importantly can inspire and educate their pupils. We look to government to make clear, in similar fashion, their commitment to work with us.

The government needs to be clear about how it will monitor workloads in school during 2016 and going forward and how it will measure and evaluate the impact of the groups' recommendations.

Whilst these reports highlight many of the pressing issues, it is clear to us and our colleague unions that there are concerns which we raised in the groups and which are insufficiently covered. The government should take responsibility for addressing these elements by making the following further commitments:

  • Planning in school must be given sufficient time, supported as soon as possible by a refreshed DfE protocol which applies across education agencies and a full range of policy areas.
  • No school must face bigger workload issues because of its everyday circumstances – for example, small and/or rural primary schools can face significant challenges in giving teachers time for multi-subject planning where there may be no-one else with whom to collaborate.
  • The DfE must guard against any attempts to promote marking above other forms of feedback and assessment: guidance from government and Ofsted should only be that teachers should determine the most effective form of feedback for the circumstances.
  • Alternative forms of feedback must also be properly considered to ensure that a correction to the undesirable practice of deep/dialogic marking does not result in its replacement by a time-consuming but ineffective new fad.
  • That data at all levels must have a strategy behind it and clear benefit: a data dividend.
  • There must be clarity and consistency in the data demands made in accountability by both Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioners.
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