Damian Hinds pledges action to 'strip away' teacher workload

Education secretary vows to clarify roles of Ofsted and regional schools commissioners and not to launch new curriculum and assessment change before the end of the Parliament

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Damian Hinds will today promise to cut teachers hours’ and workload in a bid to improve recruitment and retention in schools.

In his first major speech to the teaching profession at the Association of School and College Leaders' conference in Birmingham, the education secretary will pledge to “strip away” pointless tasks to allow teachers to “focus on what actually matters”.

In a show of a united front, he will appear on stage alongside the chief inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, and Geoff Barton, ASCL’s general secretary, in a discussion on how to tackle workload.

Mr Hinds is expected to say: “Right now, we have so many brilliant teachers in our schools… but, with rising pupil numbers, I recognise that recruitment and retention is difficult for schools.

“And, clearly, one of the biggest threats to retention, and also to recruitment, is workload.

“Too many of our teachers and our school leaders are working too long hours – and on non-teaching tasks that are not helping children to learn.”

'Focus on what really matters'

“We need to get back to the essence of successful teaching – strip away the workload that doesn’t add value and give teachers the time and the space to focus on what actually matters.”

The education secretary will announce a commitment to work with Ofsted, regional schools commissioners, the Education and Skills Funding Agency and multi-academy trusts to clarify their roles and ensure that teachers and school leaders have a clear understanding of who they are accountable to.

Last month Tes revealed how RSCs had agreed to dramatically scale back visits to schools to avoid duplication with Ofsted

Mr Hinds will say today that there will be no new tests or assessments for primary schools, and no changes to the national curriculum, GCSE or A levels for the remainder of this Parliament, beyond those already announced.

And he will promise to work with teaching unions and professional bodies to develop a strategy to drive recruitment and boost retention of teachers.

Mr Hinds will say: “I know that the current accountability regime can feel very high-stakes for school leaders – and that this filters down to all staff.

“I also know that schools can at times feel accountable to multiple masters, and even subject to multiple ‘inspections’. That is why I will be making a statement – following consultation with ASCL and others – to clarify the roles of actors within the system.

'A distraction from the core purpose of education'

“We need to ensure that headteachers have clarity about how the system works: we need a transparent, supportive system, where schools know the rules of the game and the role of every player.

“That is why I want us to work together – government and the regional schools commissioners, Ofsted, schools, teachers and unions – to make this a reality.”

Ms Spielman will tell the conference: “When I see newly qualified teachers brimming with passion to change young lives for the better, I think it an utter travesty that so many end up losing their early enthusiasm, because of the pressures of the job. Especially when so many of those pressures are entirely unnecessary.

“Because that’s what endless data cuts, triple-marking, 10-page lesson plans, and, worst of all, mocksteds are: a distraction from the core purpose of education. And a costly distraction at that.”

Mr Barton said: “Teacher workload is one of the key issues of our time in education. It deters would-be teachers and makes it harder to retain good teachers.

“Only coordinated action by school leaders, Ofsted and the government will solve this problem, and we are pleased to be working together to find solutions. We must extinguish unnecessary workload and free up our teachers to do what they do best – teach.”

Mr Hinds and Ms Spielman have also filmed a video aimed at tackling teacher workload, which will be previewed at the conference.

The NEU teaching union welcomed the focus on workload and promised to "fully engage".

However, the NEU's joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said cracking workload required more school funding, and the accountability system needed "fundamental reform, not tinkering".

Mr Hinds and Ms Spielman have also made a video aimed at tackling teacher workload, which will be previewed at the conference.

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