Teacher workload crisis: ministers unveil plans to tackle excessive hours

Teachers will no longer be subjected to major changes in Ofsted inspections or government policy during the academic year, TES can reveal, as ministers bid to cut excessive working hours.

The move, which is being called a “new deal” for teachers, will spell the end of curriculum and qualifications reform in the middle of courses.

The Department for Education was inundated with tens of thousands of responses to its Workload Challenge, which was launched by education secretary Nicky Morgan and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in October.

Staff said that major reforms being introduced mid-year was one of the biggest contributing factors to long hours. Examples include the controversial decision to scrap speaking and listening from English GCSEs and the ruling that only first attempts at GCSE exams would count towards school league tables.

Writing exclusively in this week’s edition of TES, Ms Morgan and Mr Clegg describe the dedication of teachers as “inspirational”, but they add that “far too many are working far too hard, for far too long – and it’s simply not sustainable”.

In teachers’ responses to the Workload Challenge, the “same themes came up again and again”, the ministers write. “Pressure from outside is a major factor – pressure from school leaders, from Ofsted (whether real or perceived) and, yes, from government.

“It goes without saying that no school leader, inspector or politician ever purposefully creates unnecessary or unproductive work. But too often that’s what happens, and too few teachers feel they have the tools and support they need to cope.

“Also frequently mentioned were tasks such as data input, marking and lesson planning – vital and essential in themselves, but unnecessary and unproductive if teachers have to do them too much, too often or in too much detail.”

Under the Workload Challenge action plan, Ofsted will provide regular updates on what inspectors are looking for in order to debunk myths. No changes to Ofsted’s inspection framework or handbook will be introduced during the academic year “except when absolutely necessary”, Ms Morgan and Mr Clegg write.

The same approach will be taken to curriculum and qualification reforms, but this “protocol” will be overridden if there are “exceptional circumstances”.

Leadership training will be reviewed to ensure that headteachers and senior leaders can better mentor their staff, and “major surveys” of teachers will take place every two years to keep tabs on their workload.

Ms Morgan and Mr Clegg say the response to the Workload Challenge highlights the burden that many teachers are struggling with. “No education system can be better than its teachers, and no teacher can perform at their best when they’re so tired they can’t think straight,” they write. “Today’s plans offer every teacher in the country a new deal.”

For more on the Workload Challenge, including the reaction from figures in the education sector, read the 6 February edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

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