“It’s about ensuring that what you are asking teachers to do is doable.”
Jane Nellist is an enthusiast for the fair workload charter being introduced in her home city, Coventry.
The scheme, inspired by Nottingham’s pioneering initiative, is currently being piloted in eight of the city’s 119 schools.
There are all sorts of assessments, planning and other requirements on teachers’ time that nobody has quantified; and the charter is requiring schools to do just that.
Crucially, like Nottingham’s scheme, it also includes a daily limit on teacher hours.
Nellist, joint NEU teaching union secretary in Coventry, points to the teachers’ pay and conditions document, which requires teachers to work 1,265 hours and 195 days a year, with the caveat that they should do everything else that is reasonable.
“Heads and governors are supposed to have a legal obligation about your work-life balance, but, of course, as we can see, that hasn’t worked,” she says.
“What we said in our charter is that the workload that you are asked to do should not exceed an extra 10 hours a week.
“So you would have the 1,265 hours spread out over the year, but each week you shouldn’t be doing any more [extra] than 10 hours, which would significantly reduce the workload of a teacher.
“That’s not saying to a teacher, ‘If there is something you particularly want to go and do, you can’t do it.’”
For a school to achieve the Coventry charter mark, a certain percentage of staff have to be happy with their workload.
The process is managed by a workload committee within each school made up of teachers, support staff and management.
“The thing is, the onus is on the school,” says Nellist.
“They need to establish what the workload is in their school, and that’s something that has been very difficult for schools to take on board because they haven’t got a clue, some heads, about what teachers are being asked to do.”