Government and Ofsted are the biggest drivers of teachers’ workload

A new survey by the NEU suggests that the government is the greatest driver for the increase of teacher workload

Almost half (47%) of teachers believe the government and Ofsted are responsible for an increase in their workload, according to a survey by the National Education Union (NEU) released at the ATL section annual conference.

Of the 8,000 teachers in England who responded to a survey on their workload, 87% said that the government’s 2014 Workload Challenge has not cut their workload at all. Of those, almost 60% said there has been a notable increase in their workload since October 2014.

The government’s Workload Challenge was intended to reduce unnecessary teacher workload relating to marking, planning and data management. Yet, as the results of this survey confirm, this just isn’t the case.

With teachers having to constantly prove that they are supporting every child to do their best in tests and exams, it was no surprise that over half (52%) said Government changes to the curriculum, assessments or exams was the biggest driver of their workload. Forty-six per cent said it was Ofsted inspections, including mock inspections, and almost three-quarters (74%) reported that pressure to increase pupil test scores and exam grades was the biggest driver of their workload.

A female teacher in a maintained special school said: “A vast amount of time is taken up with collecting evidence of progress, taking photos, writing detailed observation reports, etc. This is time that I and staff could be spending interacting with very vulnerable students.”

One female junior school teacher talked about having to mark “90 or 120 books in a night”.

When asked what practices they feel should be changed or stopped to reduce their workload, 40% said ‘Ofsted prep’. Almost 60% (58%) cited general administration and 47% said that if they stopped deep marking it would help reduce their workload.

A female primary school teacher in a maintained school said: “I have no time to plan engaging lessons as I am too busy marking, assessing, reading and responding to emails at all hours.”

A male primary school teacher said: “There is no time to do things well. I find it harder to enjoy the job and give my best, due to tiredness. When a new data reporting system was introduced it had not been fully trialled, which led to issues later down the line, increasing workload and stress.”

Teachers quite rightly resent having to collect data, or doing tasks that they believe will be of no benefit to the education of pupils. Half of teachers (49.9%) said it is not clear how all the data they have to collect will be used. Forty-three per cent said they don’t believe the data collected helps pupils to progress.

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A female primary school teacher said: “I resent doing something purely to produce ‘evidence’ that you or a child has done something, such as photos in books, interim assessment statement checklists or collecting samples of work to put somewhere else. Many of these tasks do not further children’s learning but are done to prove that we are doing the right thing. Is it our job to ‘make it easier for Ofsted to see what we are doing’?”

A female primary school teacher said: “The majority of non-teaching workload is not related to the education of pupils, but rather to box filling and data.”

A female teacher in a primary academy school said: “I spend more time marking and assessing children’s work than the children do on actually completing the work in the first place.”

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “It is a damning indictment but no surprise that so many teachers believe that the Government and Ofsted are the biggest drivers of their workload – they are. The NEU has campaigned tirelessly for change, putting pressure on the Government to reduce workload .

“As a result of the NEU’s workload campaign, the Government and Ofsted recently produced a video about some of the activity around marking, data collection and lesson planning that Ofsted don’t want to see, and that heads should not ask for. However, schools need to know what the Government and Ofsted expects of them, not just what they don’t expect, and the Government needs to define just what it is that teachers should be doing.

“We know that teachers are leaving the profession in droves due to pressures from workload. Teachers are a priceless resource and the Government should not be adding to their burn-out.”

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