The potential extra workload for heads and teachers generated by students appealing over their grades this summer “is not an issue that can be ducked by the government”, heads’ leaders have warned.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) says it is “anxious about how onerous” the appeals process could be for schools, and says it is concerned that the extra work will fall during the summer holidays.
Meanwhile, teachers say there is “potentially a huge job to be done” but that contractual conditions mean they can’t be forced to work.
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ASCL’s director of policy, Julie McCulloch, said: “There is clearly an issue about the fact that schools and colleges will be asked to do this work during a holiday period.
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“This is particularly pertinent following a year in which leaders and other staff have often worked during holidays addressing the numerous issues and requirements generated not only by the pandemic itself, but often through the government’s chaotic handling of education policy.
“The workload requirement that is likely to be generated by the appeals process will need to be addressed and it is not an issue that can be ducked by the government.”
The appeals process will have two stages, which are, firstly, centre reviews to check if an administrative or procedural error has occurred, and, secondly, appeals to exam boards if the student remains dissatisfied with a grade, says ASCL.
Ms McCulloch added: “We are waiting for detailed guidance on exactly what the appeals process will involve but we are anxious about how onerous this could potentially be and we would strongly urge Ofqual and the exam boards to ensure that the expectations are realistic.
“We are very concerned that this year’s appeals process will create a great deal of additional workload for leaders and teachers, and this will fall during the summer holiday period.”
Recent research commissioned by the Education Support charity, which supports teacher mental health and wellbeing, found that half of teachers have suffered at least one symptom of work-related burnout since the beginning of this school year, and that a third are suffering from a lack of energy or exhaustion "all the time".
The idea of teachers working in the summer holidays in summer schools has already been questioned by the Chartered College of Teaching, which says some teachers will “quite rightly, need to take a complete break”.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “Teacher contractual conditions mean that they can’t be forced to work [in the summer]…so the issue is who will be there to do it?
"Depending on the level of appeals, there’s potentially a huge job to be done there and nobody has asked school leaders how they’re going to manage to do that.
“It’s just yet another thing put upon us. All this goes back to [education secretary] Gavin Williamson’s intransigence and incompetence.”
The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.