This guidance was created in collaboration with Kevin Howie, Spirit Education.
The Teachers’ Standards
The DfE Teachers’ Standards 2013 document clearly defines what teachers must do within their workload and splits it into eight areas.
A teacher must:
- Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils.
- Promote good progress and outcomes from pupils.
- Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge.
- Plan and teach well-structured lessons.
- Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils.
- Make accurate and productive use of assessment.
- Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment.
- Fulfil wider professional responsibilities.
These areas then have clear expectations assigned to each one.
Within the Teachers’ Standards there are also standards for personal and professional conduct: “A teacher is expected to demonstrate consistently high standards of personal and professional conduct.”
The difficulty in terms of overall workload is in how different teachers and school leaders interpret these standards within their own schools and their own professional standards. There are also resourcing issues (use of support staff as well as technology and general equipment) to consider in the equation.
It cannot be denied that the heavy workload of teachers (and other school staff) is a huge problem in teaching. In a Guardian survey of more than 4,000 teachers in 2016, 82 percent described their workload as “unmanageable”, with more than three-quarters reportedly working between 49 and 65 hours a week.
A further 73 percent said that workload was having a serious impact on their physical health and 75 percent on their mental health. Almost half of respondents said they planned to leave the profession within the next five years.
Through the definition of what is expected of teachers, and through the clear expectations about different school grading in the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook, the DfE tries to be clear that workloads should be reduced.
The DfE teacher workload reports (March 2016) made recommendations for schools, school leaders and Ofsted, as well as to the government.
- Calls for schools to challenge emerging fads that can cause excessive marking practices and not to reward ‘gold-plating’, which involves excessive data collection.
- Recommendations for school leaders to evaluate the impact of school marking practices on teachers’ time, to prevent unreasonable demands on staff and to make sure they help drive pupil progress.
- Actions for Ofsted, including continuing to ensure that no particular marking methods are being singled out for praise, with clear training for inspectors and monitoring of the reports.
- Better sharing of effective teaching to inform planning – underpinned by CPD.
- The DfE and other agencies to work with the sector to allow sufficient planning time when making changes.
- Regular reviews of planning demands placed on teachers led by school leaders.
Good practice recommendations
In Nottingham, an Education Improvement Board (EIB) has spent time developing a Fair Workload Charter for schools to try to ease the workload. The charter includes:
- Spending no more than two hours on top of directed time each day for teachers, and no more than three hours for those with leadership responsibilities.
- High-quality schemes of work provided to teachers e.g. 5-minute lesson plans.
- Clear policies about what pupil work should (and should not) be marked.
- Annual reviews of workload policies and their effectiveness.
It is worth reading the short publication Ofsted inspections – clarification for schools produced by Ofsted, as many of the thoughts and ideas expressed in the teaching profession and through the media can be mistruths, and these false impressions can generate an awful lot of additional pressure and workloads on staff.
To reduce workload, cut out practices that are deemed unnecessary by this document, for instance, schools are not required to provide individual lesson plans to inspectors.
What can leaders do?
Leaders can help to reduce teacher workload through effective and clearly communicated rationales and processes for feedback and planning. There must also be a clear expectation for the roles of staff in terms of subject leadership. By having a clear, yearly timetable for monitoring and appraisals, teachers should be able to manage their time most effectively without unexpected requests for work.
It is essential that leaders set a good example for effective use of time and offer staff wellbeing advice or time to work with colleagues. Having a rolling cycle of staff meeting time can help. One week could be for whole staff training, the next week team meetings, one week whole staff monitoring, and one week subject leader led.
This works most efficiently when schools run a ‘Briefing Meeting’ as well, so that general information can be shared; however, if a school has clear communication systems, then this is not essential. Many staff meetings can be spent discussing an issue that is not relevant to the whole staff and could be dealt with in a team meeting or in a different setting.
Efficiency – work/home life balance
Staff, particularly teaching staff, must find ways to ensure that they work productively in the most efficient way possible – this is especially applicable to time management.
It is too easy to arrive early, go home late and work in the evening and at weekends. Staff must find ways to balance their home life as well as possible.
Some school leaders actively encourage their staff to have at least one early finish a week (before 4pm), and at least one day when they arrive after 8am. At first, this is very difficult because there is always something to do, but in the schools where this is done teaching staff soon adapt their schedules and still fit everything in.
DfE (2016) ‘Reducing teachers’ workload’, <https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-teachers-workload/reducing-teachers-workload> [Accessed: 11 January 2017]
DfE (2013) ‘Teachers’ Standards’, p. 10-14
Emma Kell (2016) ‘Workload is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low morale in teaching’, <https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/apr/24/workload-low-morale-teaching> [Accessed: 11 January 2017]
Ofsted (2016) ‘Ofsted inspections – clarification for schools’, <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/463242/Ofsted_inspections_clarification_for_schools.pdf> [Accessed: 11 January 2017]
Teach Nottingham (2016) ‘Fair Workload Charter’, <http://www.nottinghamschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/53683_EIB-FAIR-WORKLOAD-CHARTER-2PP_6.pdf> [Accessed: 11 January 2017]