The National Education Union (NEU) has welcomed action by the Northern Education Trust (NET) academy chain to improve teacher workload and pay
In close consultation with NEU representatives, the trust has ended its use of performance-related pay (PRP), meaning teachers make automatic progress up the pay scale.
The NET has also adopted a policy of ‘live marking’, meaning teachers no longer mark large numbers of books during evenings and weekends. The effect of this has been to give staff more time to plan exciting and engaging lessons for students.
The changes were made after a survey by the union found reducing excessive workload was the biggest priority for members. The NET had been considering for some time what changes could be made to support teachers in the classroom whilst still achieving their main priority of providing the very best education for students. Working closely with the NEU, a new marking policy was developed along with changes on pay and lesson observation.
The trust has moved to all teachers having one 15-minute lesson observation per year and has also stopped using targets relating to the test scores of pupils in its appraisal system. Previously, teachers received three lesson observations per academic year. Evidence collected by NEU reps found preparation for observation caused increased workload and anxiety for staff, while trust bosses said the administrative burden the system placed on senior leaders was counterproductive. The new system allows teachers to opt into extra observations to get feedback on their practice.
Surveys by NEU reps found that the new policy has had a significant impact in reducing teacher workload, improving the work/life balance of staff and has benefited pupils.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The NEU believes performance-related pay in education has failed. This view is shared by a growing number of academy trusts.
“The move to live marking and away from lesson observations and PRP has massively reduced stress and workload for our members. At the same time, the Trust is happy because pupils are learning well and making good progress.
“Rather than sitting at home marking books, teachers are able to give instant feedback and respond to what students have done in class. NEU members feel very strongly that the change has improved their workload and their teaching, as well as the learning of pupils.
“The message to other trusts is clear: putting in place measures which improve teacher workload and wellbeing will also improve students’ education.”
Rob Tarn, chief executive of Northern Education Trust, said: “The trust’s work in removing the requirement to mark students’ books outside of lessons has been extremely well received by students, staff and trade unions.
“The formal process of lesson observation, numeric targets and the link to pay progression causes staff undue workload and anxiety, but there is little impact in terms of student performance. We believe the new policy achieves the best outcomes for students and supports teachers. Now staff seem to feel valued and have a better work life balance. At the same time, children are getting a much-improved quality of education and much enhanced life chances. We have four of the 20 most improved secondary schools in England for the proportion of students passing maths and English.
“I would encourage school leaders to look at what actually has an impact on children’s progress and if there’s something that doesn’t, do away with it.”