Education secretary Damian Hinds' drive to reduce workload is "disingenous" because the government has chosen to implement policies that have generated extra work for teachers everywhere in the world where they have been introduced, the joint general secretary of the NEU union has claimed.
Mary Bousted said workload was an issue that was affecting teachers in every country that had embraced the "global education reform movement" by introducing high-stakes accountability and assessment measures.
But she said that with other countries now moving away from these policies, England was fast becoming an "exception" by sticking with them.
The ATL section of the NEU will be meeting in Liverpool next month to hold its final annual conference. From 2019, a single NEU conference will be held, following last year's decision by the ATL and NUT unions to merge.
Speaking to journalists today, Bousted said workload would be the number one issue at the conference, with seven motions due to discuss it.
Earlier this month, Hinds vowed to "strip away" teacher workload. However, Bousted said the education secretary had failed to recognise the role that the government's own reforms had played in contributing to the crisis.
"There is something a little disingenuous in putting a complete policy revolution in curriculum and assessment…setting that in train without proper funding to support teaching and learning for these new courses, and without adequate lead-in times to allow teachers to access the CPD they need…and then saying 'we’re concerned about workload'.
"It’s like the Conservatives saying ‘make me good and solve teacher workload - but not yet. Let me solve teacher workload when I’ve done this and when I’ve done that and when I’ve done the other.'"
Last week, Bousted attended the International Conference for the Teaching Profession in Lisbon, Portugal. She said excessive workload was a problem that was afflicting all countries that had introduced policies advocated by the "global education reform movement".
"Workload is an issue that is affecting teachers globally," she said. "[In] Sweden, Canada, America, the Netherlands. The one thing that all those countries have had in common, is the idea, which has been prevalent for the last 15 years from the global education reform movement, that you can actually measure a teacher’s performance and you can measure a child’s progress in very mechanistic ways.
“What that's led to is a mountain of proxies for teaching and learning. It’s led to the documentation surrounding teaching and learning: the massively detailed lesson plans, the massively detailed marking – triple marking. Increasingly [it has] led to this sweating of the data, looking and looking at the data to see if the data can show progress."
But Bousted claimed that, unlike England, other countries were now beginning to reverse these policies because they had realised they were not producing happy and well-rounded students.
“We’re just such an exception now to the prevailing trends," she said. "Countries that have previously been absolutely fixated on a narrow academic curriculum and timed tests – like Singapore, like Estonia, like Canada – they’re moving away from that."
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Since 2010 we have seen standards rise in our schools – with 1.9 million more children now in a good or outstanding school and the education secretary has made clear that his top priority is to make sure that we continue to attract the very best teachers to the profession and reduce unnecessary workload.
“As part of this, we have already set out plans to work with Ofsted and the profession to strip away workload that does not add value and have announced that there would be no changes to the curriculum or new tests for primary schools for the remainder of this parliament.”