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Teachers' 70-hour weeks are 'immoral'

The government and Ofsted must do ‘something big’ to reduce heavy workloads, says teacher trainer leader

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The government and Ofsted must do ‘something big’ to reduce heavy workloads, says teacher trainer leader

Ofsted should write about teachers' workload in their reports – and even take workload into account when considering inspection outcomes, a teacher training leader has said.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (Ucet), said that workload was a key reason for the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

“It is immoral to expect people to work 70 hours a week with no time off,” he added. “Colleagues in teacher education try to address it. They can say to trainees: ‘You don’t need to do all this.’ But if the headteacher says they have to do it, they have to do it. It can’t be addressed through the way teachers are trained. That will help, but it has to be addressed through the way schools are managed.”

The government has begun to focus on the need to tackle the workload burden, setting up working groups, commissioning research and issuing guidance.

But Noble-Rogers thinks central authorities need to get tough. “I would like to see Ofsted take a stronger role on [workload],” he said. “It could ask teachers how many hours they’re working, and this could be reflected in the outcomes or referred to in the report.

“[Workload] does hit teacher-training providers because they feel a duty of care. It needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. Something big has to happen.”

Mr Noble-Rogers also argued that training costs could be contributing to the shortage. “Now, people going into postgraduate training will have accumulated three or four years of debt, and parents or peers are saying, ‘Why do you want to incur another year of fee debt and maintenance debt?’,” he said.

Missed teacher training targets

The government has missed its teacher training targets for five years in a row and, by April this year, the number of teacher trainees being recruited to start in September 2018 was around 15 per cent lower than it was at the same time the previous year.

Earlier this year, school standards minister Nick Gibb, wrote to teacher training providers saying that they would be checked to see if they were rejecting suitable candidates.

But teacher trainers have said trainees are not applying because of fears over debt and a culture of long hours.

The government has recently unveiled its plans for changing the induction period at the beginning of a teacher’s career to provide more support for trainees and promised to set up a £5 million sabbatical fund to help retain mid-career teachers.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Ofsted takes teacher workload very seriously. We have worked hard through our myth-busting campaign to ensure that unnecessary preparation for inspection is not contributing to teacher workloads.

“We have also added a question to our staff survey, which we give out during inspections, asking teachers how leaders at their school manage workload issues. Their responses help inform our discussions with school staff and leaders.”

The Department for Education spokesperson said: "The Education Secretary has been clear that there are no great schools without great teachers and his top priority is to make sure teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession. There are a record number of teachers in our classrooms – 15,500 more than in 2010 – and increasing numbers are returning to the profession.

“We want to build on this, which is why we recently announced a strategy to drive recruitment and boost retention of teachers and are working with school leaders and unions to strip away unnecessary workload, on top of the range of financial incentives we already offer to help attract the brightest and best into our classrooms, which includes the teachers’ student loan reimbursement scheme.”

This is an edited article from the 8 June edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. To subscribe, click here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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