Workload – DfE Working Group reports

26 March 2016

NUT Conference 2016

Workload – DfE Working Group reports

The NUT has welcomed the Department for Education (DfE) working group reports on unnecessary workload burdens associated with data management, planning and marking. These reports are the result of sustained NUT pressure over teacher workload.

The DfE Working Group reports are here: planning and resources, marking policy and data management.

The Government’s Workload Challenge demonstrated clearly that workload in schools needed to be taken seriously. All three of the working group reports include some powerful recommendations designed to improve practice in schools. These should help ensure the workload of teachers does not impact upon learners. If the political will exists to support their implementation, they could in turn support effective, high quality teaching and learning, and raise pupil achievement. The NUT will shortly be publishing resources to assist members in using these reports.

The NUT, in common with other unions, believe that the Department for Education’s protocol promising a year’s lead-in time for Government initiatives needs to be properly applied and that all policies should undergo a rigorous workload impact assessment. The NUT and other teacher unions also agree that while these reports highlight many of the pressing issues, there are other concerns raised in the groups 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
  • Data at all levels must have a strategy behind it and clear benefit for learning: a data dividend
  • There must be clarity and consistency in the data demands made in accountability by both Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioners

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“Teachers will want the DfE’s acceptance of these reports to be followed by concrete‎ and effective action. The NUT will expect the DfE to conduct a workload impact assessment of initiatives such as baseline and primary assessment, Ebacc and Progress 8, and will expect Ofsted to review the impact of last year's ‘clarifications’ on workload demands on teachers. Without such action, these reports will have no impact.

“Teachers’ workload is currently at unprecedented levels and is driving many teachers from the profession. Our latest survey shows that 48% of primary teachers, 61% of secondary teachers, and 49% of leadership members are considering leaving the profession within the next two years. These should be alarming figures for the Education Secretary. Such a ticking time bomb simply can’t be ignored.

“With Government action these reports could lead to real reductions in workload. The NUT will be holding the Government to account to make sure it delivers.”

Editor’s Note

The report on data management underlines that ‘Teachers … are best placed to make judgments [on pupil progress] through their professional knowledge, without recourse to elaborate assessment, data generating and recording systems’.

It goes on to advise that ‘schools should not feel under any pressure to create elaborate tracking systems’. It recognises that ‘although the Ofsted [inspection] framework has changed, there is evidence to suggest that workload pressures associated with inspection have not been eased’ and that ‘the DFE too often starts from what an individual policy might need information on, rather than taking a rounded look at the burdens on the system’. It calls for ‘officials, Regional School Commissioners and system leaders … [to] commit to the principles in the report’.

The report on marking states firmly that ‘Marking practice that does not have the desired impact on pupil outcomes is a time-wasting burden for teachers that has to stop’.

It argues that ‘It has become common practice for teachers to provide extensive written comments on every piece of work when there is very little evidence that this improves pupil outcomes in the long term’. In relation to implementing marking policies, it says that ‘the most important person in deciding what is appropriate is the teacher’. It also says clearly that ‘It is important that schools take notice of the Ofsted clarification document’ on marking practices. It finishes by saying this: ‘In conclusion, if your current approach is unmanageable or disproportionate, stop it.’

The report on planning describes much planning as ‘proxy evidence for an accountability ‘paper trail’ rather than … effective planning for pupil progress and attainment’.

It says that ‘ too much time is spent on detailed, individual lesson plans … detailed daily or weekly plans should not be a routine expectation’ and that ‘the weight given to individual lesson plans to evidence both planning and teaching should be reviewed and reduced.’ It then argues that ‘Individual teachers should be able to choose the best format for their working plans ‘. It recommends that planning should not be done ‘simply to please outside organisations’ and should take place ‘in purposeful and well defined blocks of time’ and calls for ‘fully resourced schemes of work’ and ‘high quality resources’ to support effective planning.

The NUT conducted a snapshot survey of primary teachers and secondary teachers. Please follow the links for more information.

The NUT’s Annual Conference is taking place this Easter weekend in Brighton. For the Final Agenda, please click here.

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