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Teacher workload 'unmanageable', DfE study finds

Senior leaders describe their jobs as 'crisis management'. Teachers cite Ofsted, exam reform and heads' expectations among reasons for long hours.

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Senior leaders describe their jobs as 'crisis management'. Teachers cite Ofsted, exam reform and heads' expectations among reasons for long hours.

Teachers are experiencing “unmanageable” levels of workload, according to Department for Education research published today.

The results of in-depth interviews with a representative sample of school leaders and teachers reveals that the government’s exams reforms, administration, behaviour monitoring , data tracking, marking, planning and meetings are all contributing to long hours.

Early career teachers and senior leaders were most likely to describe their workload as “unmanageable”.

Some senior leaders said they felt “as if their role had become akin to ‘crisis’ management much of the time”.

“Often teachers said that their level of workload was only manageable because of the long hours that they worked,” the research found.

It was published on the morning that education secretary Damian Hinds, told heads at the annual Association of School and College Leaders annual conference in Birmingham that he recognised that workload was “one of the biggest threats” to teacher recruitment and retention.

The DfE research found that: “Many interviewees acknowledged that the tasks that they undertook were all important and necessary aspects of school life.

“It was the volume of tasks that they felt to be unmanageable in the time available to them, particularly when data entry and depth marking was required for each individual learner, learning objective and module/unit of work.”

More than half of the teachers interviewed for the research last year said their workload pressures were “driven by high expectations set by members of their senior leadership team”.

One secondary academy assistant principal told researchers: “It is the expectation that books are marked and the marking policy is followed…It is not just ticks.

“If we find books are not marked for three weeks we are expected as leaders to challenge that member of staff. There is quite a large demand on staff….[they] typically work until 9pm.”

Ofsted was also reported as a reason for long hours with “a general perception among teachers of all types that there were ‘mixed messages’ between Ofsted requirements, the experience of receiving Ofsted feedback and the daily expectations within schools in terms of recording”.

A part time primary teacher with more than 11 years experience said: “Accountability has become so important that the enjoyment of learning [for pupils] has gone out of the window [because the focus for teachers] is just endless marking, progress, accountability.”  

Several teachers reported frustration about tasks that did not appear to directly inform teaching and learning, or improve outcomes for children.

One said: "This year I had to develop a science portfolio for key stage 1. Nobody will look at it, nobody has seen it. It is done to tick a box for my performance. It is not doing anything to improve children’s learning."

 

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