Nicky Morgan has warned against being “defeatist” when it comes to tackling teachers’ heavy workload, particularly on the subject of excessive marking.
The education secretary made her comments as she announced the creation of three new working groups, including teachers, from September to help schools combat the profession's long hours.
In a speech at a Teach First conference in Leeds, Ms Morgan said the groups would concentrate on reducing the burden associated with marking, lesson planning and resources, and data management.
Speaking afterwards, the secretary of state said there was often too much "acceptance" of teachers' working excessive hours.
“Why be so defeatist about it? Why be so accepting?” Ms Morgan said. “There are some schools that do manage the process. That is why I particularly want to look at marking, and one of the things that has come up is ‘deep marking’.
“There are ways schools are managing workload issues, so why don’t we all look at what they are doing? Rather than just accepting that is what goes with teaching. That is like saying online trolling goes with being a member of Parliament. No, it is unacceptable [and] I will call it out.”
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, welcomed the government's recognition of teacher workload as an issue, but accused Ms Morgan of being “selective” about the causes.
“The changes rushed in by the government are one of the biggest drivers for teachers’ workload, and not enough is being done about Ofsted inspections,” Dr Bousted said.
“School leaders asking their staff to do more in the face of the growing accountability is a rational response, even if it is the wrong response."
Ms Morgan said that by establishing the new working groups, she would be able to hear what was contributing to teachers’ workload “right from the front line”. Members of the groups will be announced in September.
“They will be led by front-line professionals, people doing these tasks day in, day out," she said. "And I really want to hear from them what would make the greatest difference. If we believe in a school-led system then we need to be listening to those on the front line.”
The education secretary also reiterated her desire for people coming to the end of their careers to consider teaching.
“I think we need to do more work on it," she said. "Again I refuse to accept this defeatist idea that we can’t do this. We are asking people to work later, and we have people who now don’t just have one career for life, why not ask them to share that expertise with the next generation of students and inspire them in the classroom?”
Earlier this week, Ms Morgan highlighted one school’s policy banning teachers from checking work emails after 5pm, and suggested that teachers should not be marking “late into the night”.
Her comments were branded “delusional” by the NUT, which said much of the blame for teachers’ heavy workloads lay with the Department for Education.