Exclusive: 'Workload would be easier if you understood the benefits,' DfE advisers tell teachers doing 17-hour days

20th November 2015 at 15:02

Members of government-appointed groups investigating how to reduce teacher workload believe the burden could be eased if staff understood the benefits of what they have to do, TES can reveal.

Tomorrow it will be one year since the Department for Education’s Workload Challenge survey closed. Three working groups are now looking for solutions to the three issues that the survey suggested were causing teachers the biggest problems: marking, data management, and planning and resources.

TES has spoken to group members who believe teachers would find their workload easier if they appeciated its benefits. Edison David, a member of the data management review group and head of school at Vauxhall primary in South-East London, said: “Sometimes teachers find [data management] burdensome because they don’t understand the purpose of it."

The results of a survey, from education union the ATL, suggest that many teachers think differently, with data entry/analysis the second most cited task when teachers were asked what they shouldn't have to do.

The ATL survey, of more than 2,000 teachers, also shows that 80 per cent felt their workload was still unmanageable one year on from the Workload Challenge, with 82 per cent saying workload made them consider leaving the profession.

Kim Knappett, ATL president and a secondary science teacher in a London school, said it was "very typical" for teachers to work from 6am until 11pm.

She said: "We have teachers who are escorted out of the building at the end of day. They are doing 10 hours-plus in the building and then taking work home."

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said: "A year on from the government's Workload Challenge, little has changed. [Workload] is damaging teachers' health, making many want to leave the profession, and means they are exhausted in class."

Today the ATL has launched a campaign called It's About Time to raise awareness of the impact of workload on staff, to identify tasks which are most problematic and to help find practical solutions to cut workload.

Detailed examples from staff will be used in talks with the government to try to encourage ministers to think about the impact of education policies on workload and try to get them to reduce the burden on staff. 

Teachers will also be able to identify the most time-consuming tasks and see where they could do things differently by using the union's workload tracker.

Dr Bousted added that the "weight of government reforms" on the curriculum, as well as managers acting "as mini Ofsted inspectors" and intensifying exisiting pressures, is driving workload.

"We have a real problem with workload and the situation is not getting any better. Every school should be thinking about work/life balance. It is a major responsibility of governors and senior leaders to manage workload. In unconfident schools nothing has been done unless it has been recorded. Those schools [that don't manage workload] will find it much more difficult to recruit staff," she said.

Click here for the full story on workload and more analysis and survey findings. Or subscribe to TES here

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