As ‘workload challenge’ survey closes, union offers advice to DfE on tackling working hours

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As the Department for Education’s “workload challenge” came to an end last week, an education union sent a seven-page letter to the secretary of state outlining immediate policy changes it says will tackle the workload crisis.

The workload challenge was launched by secretary of state Nicky Morgan in recognition of the high number of hours being worked by the profession.

In March, the DfE’s workload survey revealed that secondary school teachers are working an average of more than 55 hours a week, while headteachers are putting in more than 63.

At the same time, the Work Your Proper Hours Day campaign shows that 54 per cent of teachers are now working unpaid overtime – the most of any profession – with those working overtime putting in an average of 12 hours extra a week.

The workload challenge is Ms Morgan’s response to this, seen by many as an attempt to appease the profession in the run-up to next year’s General Election.

A survey published as part of the challenge closed last week with more than 40,000 people contributing their ideas. The DfE is now considering the responses and has promised a “programme of action”, to be published early next year. 

However, in a letter to Ms Morgan, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, lists what she calls “10 practical steps” that the DfE could take immediately. These include:

  • Sending a clear message to schools that “current long working hours and excessive workload burdens are unacceptable and that school leaders and employers must take immediate action to address this”.

  • Issuing “clear guidance” to schools in a bid to reduce “workload generated by inappropriate planning and assessment practices”.

  • Giving National and Local Leaders of Education a key role in driving workload reduction practices in schools.

  • Inviting schools to become “workload challengers”, whereby school leaders and governors sign up to a public pledge to tackle workload.

Ms Keates also warns that current government drivers of workload include curriculum, qualification and assessment reform, pay and performance management reform, SEND reforms, and changes to inspection.

She adds: “If ministers are genuinely concerned about teachers’ workload, they will need to deliver swift and effective measures to alleviate their burdens. 

“Without this, the workload challenge runs the risk of being dismissed by the profession as a cosmetic exercise.”


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