Education secretary Nicky Morgan and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg write:
Since 2010, this coalition government has made important changes as part of our plan for education: introducing a new, more ambitious national curriculum and rigorous exams pegged to the best in the world; improving accountability to focus on the progress all pupils make; and scrapping courses that don’t allow young people to reach their full potential.
We have done all these things while offering extra support to schools through the pupil premium. This has meant more money to help disadvantaged children, with freedom for teachers to use their professional judgement on how to spend it.
These changes were and are essential to prepare every child, regardless of background, for life in modern Britain. And everything that has been achieved has been possible only because of the hard work and commitment of thousands of teachers right across the country.
The number and speed of some of these changes put teachers under pressure. That’s why last October we launched the Workload Challenge, the biggest Department for Education consultation of its kind for a decade. More than 44,000 responses were submitted by the 20,000 people who took time out of their busy days and evenings to send us their experiences, ideas and solutions to reduce unnecessary workload. Every single one was read by officials at the DfE and the conclusions were considered carefully by ministers.
Today we want to thank everyone who contributed, and to set out what we’ve learned and our new plans to tackle unnecessary workload – working with teachers, leaders, Ofsted and anyone else involved to tackle this thorny problem.
The same themes came up again and again. Pressure from outside is a major factor – pressure from school leaders, from Ofsted (whether real or perceived) and, yes, from government.
It goes without saying that no school leader, inspector or politician ever purposefully creates unnecessary or unproductive work. But too often that’s what happens, and too few teachers feel they have the tools and support they need to cope.
Also frequently mentioned were tasks such as data input, marking and lesson planning – vital and essential in themselves, but unnecessary and unproductive if teachers have to do them too much, too often or in too much detail.
We’ve already removed and simplified many duties, requirements and data collections, cut guidance by more than 21,000 pages (75 per cent) and made it clear that neither the DfE nor Ofsted expect teachers to produce formal written plans for every lesson. But your responses showed us that more needs to be done, so our plans aim to tackle both the symptoms and the roots of the problem.
First, Ofsted has committed to not changing the school inspection handbook or framework during the academic year, except when absolutely necessary. To cut down on unnecessary preparation, Ofsted will continually review its new “clarification for schools” document of myths and facts, making it clear what inspectors do and do not expect to see. Ofsted is asking schools to say if their experience is different. And it will review a sample of reports to ensure that inspectors do not encourage practices that increase workload, while discussing workload and the impact of inspection at its regular meetings with teaching unions.
Second, while our parties have had some different education priorities in this Parliament, and have different plans for the next, we both commit to giving schools much more notice of government policy changes to allow them time to prepare. We won’t make changes to qualifications and curriculum while children are in the middle of a course. If we need to override this protocol in exceptional circumstances – for example, on the advice of exams regulator Ofqual – we will publish the reasons. And the DfE will discuss the practicalities of implementing new policies with serving headteachers and teachers – above and beyond our existing reference groups, focus groups, consultations, webchats and visits.
Third, we want to make it easier for the teaching profession to share best practice. Unnecessary duplication of resources such as lesson plans and worksheets wastes so much time. We will encourage the profession to share resources so that a teacher in Newcastle can use a lesson plan uploaded in Newquay: all created, quality assured and recommended by teachers.
Fourth, we want to support headteachers to carry out their demanding jobs and manage their staff well. So we will review all leadership training, ensuring that any funded by government meets a high standard, and help school leaders to learn from each other through good-quality coaching and mentoring.
Finally, we want to make sure that these changes – and our other commitments – really do lighten teachers’ workload. So we will carry out small and large surveys over the coming years, introducing major polls every two years to produce data comparable to the Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis) to check progress on this important issue.
The commitment, dedication and sheer hard work of teachers up and down the country is inspirational. But far too many are working far too hard, for far too long – and it’s simply not sustainable. No education system can be better than its teachers, and no teacher can perform at their best when they’re so tired they can’t think straight. Today’s plans offer every teacher in the country a new deal.
Thank you again to every single teacher who took the time to take part in the Workload Challenge – and please do keep us posted on how these changes affect your workload in the months and years ahead.