Nine in 10 teachers say Progress 8 has increased workload, study shows

And more than four-fifths of staff worry that new reforms are undermining students' mental health, research reveals

Eleanor Busby

News article image

Most teachers say their workload has intensified as a result of the government’s new accountability measure, Progress 8, according to a new report.

King’s College London research, commissioned by the NUT teaching union, has uncovered concerns among teachers about the key stage 4 curriculum, assessment and accountability reforms.

The report reveals that 93 per cent of teachers say key stage 2 Sats results – used to calculate Progress 8 scores – don't provide a reliable basis for tracking students across the whole range of secondary subjects.

And 92 per cent of teachers say their workload has increased as a result of data collection for Progress 8, while almost three-quarters (72 per cent) say meeting the demands of the measure has taken time away from their teaching.

The research, which consisted of a survey of 1,800 secondary teachers and case studies in three schools, found that 84 per cent of teachers worry that the reforms entrench an exam culture, which undermines students’ mental health.

And three-quarters of teachers say the English Baccalaureate, another accountability measure, which requires students to sit GCSEs in the more academic subjects of English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography, has narrowed the curriculum offer in their schools. The study finds that 77 per cent of teachers believe the GCSE curriculum is now less suitable for low attaining pupils.

'Demotivated pupils and behaviour issues'

One head of department at a standalone academy said that students were being pushed into the EBacc, leading to them taking subjects that they "dislike least". "This has led to demotivated pupils and more behavioural issues for subjects like history and geography,” the teacher added.

Several teachers, surveyed for the research, also reported that redundancies had been made as a result of EBacc. Meanwhile, others had left the profession because of reforms.

A head of an RE department said: "I know many teachers who are quitting, or who have quit, who were great teachers but constant changes to exam specifications, and a huge decrease in teacher morale due to constant monitoring and accountability measures, which have stifled creativity in the classroom, have led to the very best finding alternative careers, or often quitting with no job to go to, just burnt out and exhausted.”

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT, said: “The government should take this report seriously. It uncovers significant problems with the EBacc and shows the profession does not support the attempt to steer all schools towards a narrow range of subjects.

“The demands of the EBacc are driving creative and vocational subjects out of the curriculum and are harming students’ motivation, engagement and appetite for learning. The government still has not published the results of its consultation on implementing the EBacc. It is high time it did.”

He added: “Secondary teachers are adamant that the key stage 2 Sats are not a reliable benchmark from which to measure pupils’ progress through to age 16.

“The government must engage with this valid concern, which runs to the heart of the reliability of their primary and secondary school accountability system.”

The Department for Education dismissed the report’s concerns.

“There is no evidence that fewer students are entering particular subjects as a direct result of the introduction of the EBacc,” a DfE spokesperson said. “The proportion of pupils in state funded schools taking at least one arts subject is now higher than in 2011.”

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook


Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

Latest stories