Ofsted workload prompts teacher wellbeing fears

Exclusive: New survey shows curriculum design is a major driver of workload for middle leaders

The NAHT has said curriculum design has been highlighted as a major driver of workload for middle leaders

A headteachers' union is concerned that Ofsted’s deep dives into the curriculum in its new school inspections are driving up workload for subject leaders, according to a new report.

Leadership of curriculum design, implementation and planning has been identified as one of the biggest drivers of workload for middle leaders in a new survey by the NAHT.


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Background: What should Ofsted expect from subject leaders

Ofsted: New inspections 'will reduce your workload'


The union is calling on Ofsted to think about the impact its new inspection regime will have on the wellbeing and workload of middle leaders in schools.

It also says that middle leaders are reporting having more leadership responsibilities but less dedicated time to carry out their role.

And it warns that 33 per cent of middle leaders are considering leaving the profession.

Ofsted has previously said that its new inspections would reduce workload

And it has told schools that inspectors will be checking if schools data collection systems are creating "unsustainable" teacher workload.

However, the new union report suggests that the changes to inspection and the increased importance of subject leaders in assessing the curriculum could be adding to staff's work in schools.

The report says: "It is interesting to note that the second biggest driver of workload for middle leaders was leadership of curriculum design, implementation and planning (68 per cent identified this as one of the biggest drivers of their workload).

"While this work has always been a key part of a middle leader’s role, Ofsted’s new focus on curriculum may have had an impact on this."

One of the report’s recommendations says: “As a result of their renewed focus on the broader curriculum, including the use of ‘deep-dives’ during inspection, Ofsted should be mindful of the potential impact on the workload and wellbeing of middle leaders.”

Tes revealed last month that Ofsted’s new inspection framework focus on the curriculum meant subject leaders and department heads had a bigger part to play in inspections than previously.

Ofsted began inspecting schools under its new framework last month.

The inspectorate has created a new quality of education inspection judgement which replaces teaching and learning and pupil outcomes as separate grades in inspection.

Ofsted is assessing the intent, implementation and impact of school curriculum as part of this judgement. 

Part of this inspection process is a series of so-called "deep dives" where inspectors look in detail at specific subjects within a school.

Last week James Bowen, director of the NAHT Edge union for middle leaders, warned that these new inspections were increasing what is expected of middle leaders in schools.

Writing for Tes, he said: “Under previous frameworks, most subject leaders were largely ignored by inspectors. As a teacher in charge of PE, DT [design and technology], art or music, you could be pretty confident that inspectors wouldn’t have the time or inclination to trouble you too much during an inspection.

"With the introduction of curriculum 'deep dives', we are seeing this already beginning to change. Subject leaders who may only be a year or so into teaching are now finding themselves sat opposite an inspector being quizzed about 'intent, implementation and impact'." 

An Ofsted spokesperson said: "It’s early days, but our new framework has been well received by leaders, curriculum leaders and staff at the schools that we have inspected so far.

"It is true that our inspectors are spending more time with curriculum leaders but we believe that this is a good thing.

"And our framework, under leadership and management, states that schools have a responsibility to make sure that teachers’ and curriculum leaders’ workload is sustainable."

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