Sunday, 26 February 2017

Workload: Everyone agrees it has to be cut, so take action to make it happen!

"All school leaders should promote a culture of wellbeing in their schools, which will include taking greater account of teacher workload. This could include implementing the recommendations of the workload challenge or ‘capping’ the number of hours teachers work outside of teaching time".  
(House of Commons Education Committee, February 2017)

"Don’t spend time on marking that doesn’t have a commensurate impact on pupil progress. Simple message: stop it!"
(DfE Poster on Reducing Teacher Workload, February 2017)

"All of those taking part in the survey were asked to state to what extent, if at all, they consider teacher workload to be a serious problem in their school. 93% stated it was a problem" 
(DfE Teacher Workload Survey 2016, released February 2017)

There can be no further delay in cutting teacher workload

February 2017 has seen a flurry of new evidence about the realities of teacher workload and the damage that it is causing to both staff well-being and education as a whole. They remove any remaining excuses from any Ministers or school managers that might still want to ignore the problem. There can be no further delay in cutting teacher workload.

Of course, teachers won't have needed to read any of these new reports to know the extent of the problem. Many may also be understandably suspicious, based on bitter experience, that these reports will just gather dust and everything will remain as before. That must not be allowed to happen.

The people that can make sure that action is taken to cut workload are teachers themselves - through taking collective action with the backing of the NUT and other teaching unions.

DfE Teacher Workload Survey

The DfE have just released the results of the 2016 workload survey, a detailed analysis of the responses of a weighted sample of over 3000 teachers to questions about their views and working hours in March 2016.

It confirms, amongst other findings, that on average, classroom teachers report working 54.4 hours a week. Those averages were slightly higher for primary teachers compared to secondary colleagues, although secondary school senior leaders reported some of the longest working hours of all.

Roughly a third of those hours - 17 hours on average - were spent working at weekends, evenings or other out-of-school hours. Most teachers complained that the time being spent on marking and planning or preparing lessons was too much:

Not surprisingly, the vast majority (93%) of respondents also reported that workload is a serious problem, and over half described it as a VERY serious problem:

Comparisons between different workload surveys can be statistically difficult because of the different methods used but the hours reported are certainly greater than those that were reported for English secondary teachers in a TALIS report for the OECD looking at international data from 2013.

As the DfE Report makes clear "total recorded teaching hours in the reference week for all secondary classroom teachers and middle leaders in this survey was 53.5 hours per week. This is markedly higher than the 45.9 hours per week recorded in TALIS in 2013 (OECD, 2014). Whilst there remain differences in the survey audience, administration and design, the size of this difference between broadly comparative questions suggests some increase in workload has been seen between 2013 and 2016". 

In other words, despite all the promises, workload is getting worse. It's time to act on the promises and cut workload! 

DfE Poster on Reducing Teacher Workload

In an effort to show that they are listening to the complaints of teachers, the DfE have just released a poster and pamphlet on teacher workload summarising the advice of Ofsted and the findings of their three Workload Review Groups. All the teacher unions are supporting the poster too.

They certainly provide a useful - and officially backed - summary of some of the findings that the NUT has already been trying to publicise. Teachers and their school union reps certainly need to be using this as an opportunity to make sure that teacher workload is on the agenda of their staff meetings and Governors' meetings - and that firm recommendations are put in place on how workload is going to be reduced in their school.

Some of the points worth highlighting in the poster include:

  • "Don't spend time on marking that doesn’t have a commensurate impact on pupil progress. Simple message: stop it!"
  • "Don't give marking a disproportionate value in relation to other types of feedback. There is no theoretical underpinning to support ‘deep marking’"
  • "Be aware of workload issues: consider not just how long it will take, but whether that time could be better spent on other tasks".
It's worth going back to the original Teacher Workload Review Group Reports for some even more strongly worded conclusions, including:
  • On Data: "Summative data should not normally be collected more than three times a year per pupil"
  • On Marking: "Teachers forced to mark work late at night and at weekends are unlikely to operate effectively in the classroom" 
  • On Planning: "Burnt-out teachers are not best for pupils" and "Detailed daily or weekly plans should not be a routine expectation"
A video from NUT GS Kevin Courtney urging teachers to make use of the new poster can be donwnloaded here. 

House of Commons Education Committee Report

Perhaps the most supportive recommendations of all have come in a Report recently produced by the cross-party House of Commons Education Committee into the 'Recruitment and Retention of Teachers'.

The Report is a damning indictment of the failure of every Tory Education Secretary to do what they were, supposedly, elected to do and plan for adequate teacher supply. 

Some of its key findings are:
  • The Government has missed recruitment targets for the last five years, and in 2016/17 the number of graduates starting initial teacher training fell.
  • Rising pupil numbers and changes to school accountability, including the Government’s focus on subjects within the EBacc, will exacerbate existing problems, increasing demand for teachers in subjects experiencing shortages.
  • Government intervention currently focuses almost entirely on improving recruitment of teachers ... Introducing initiatives to help improve teachers’ job satisfaction may well be a much more cost effective way of improving teacher supply in the long term.
  • The Government must do more to encourage schools to implement the recommendations of the workload challenge. Ofsted must do more to dispel any misunderstandings of its requirements and promote good practice by monitoring workload in its school inspections. 
An inspection that monitored teacher workload might well help in schools where the management culture is one that claims that excessive hours are an 'essential requirement for a good school'. However, perhaps the key recommendation is the following:
  •  All school leaders should promote a culture of wellbeing in their schools, which will include taking greater account of teacher workload. This could include implementing the recommendations of the workload challenge or ‘capping’ the number of hours teachers work outside of teaching time.
Firstly, yes, teacher workload is indeed about promoting wellbeing and work-life balance. These are legal responsibilities that too many school managements seem to forget. But, secondly, this House of Commons backed recommendation recognises what the most far-sighted employers - like those in Nottingham who gave evidence to the Committee - are recognising. Teacher workload won't be decisively lowered unless clear limits are placed on the hours teachers are expected to work outside school hours.

As I have explained in more detail in a separate post, the Workload Charter negotiated between employers and unions in Nottingham states that “the workload requirements of all policies should be reasonably deliverable within an additional maximum two hour period". This works out at roughly an 8am to 5pm working day. That's still a hard working day in a school environment but, especially if it comes with a solid guarantee of no weekend work, this would be a huge gain for teachers - and would also stop the exhaustion and burnout which has been blighting education for too long.

But funding cuts threaten to make things worse

Unfortunately, while some parts of Government seem to be belatedly recognising that action has to be taken on workload, Tory austerity policies threaten to make the workload problem even greater in cash-starved schools. 

With the National Audit Office confirming that school budgets are going to be £3billion down in real terms by 2020 then, unless the Government reverses its education spending cuts, most schools will be forced to cut teaching and support staff posts. That will only make workload - and education - worse as class sizes rise and non-contact time for marking and planning lessons in the school day is squeezed even further.

A small example of that has already been shown in the cuts proposals being made at Forest Hill School in Lewisham, where Governors are struggling to slash a budget deficit. The proposals include an increase in timetable loadings for a classroom teacher from 77% to 88%, meaning that teachers would only have 3 'free periods' a week to mark, plan and prepare for all of their classes. Instead of making workload better as all the latest reports are recommending, schools faced with cuts may feel forced into making workload worse.

Small wonder that the NUT group at the school has just won a formal ballot to take strike action to oppose both redundancies and the workload increases threatened from this restructuring.

Take action to make sure policy becomes practice

Forest Hill is just one school where NUT members are recognising that collective action is the best guarantee that employers will put all of these well-written workload recommendations into actual concrete practice.
Just recently, NUT members in the London Region including at schools in Croydon, Lewisham and Waltham Forest have all recently achieved workload gains through pursuing collective action through the NUT. 

Nationally, the NUT is encouraging school groups to use the recommendations of the various reports above, together with the examples of successful negotiations, like those in Nottingham, to open up negotiations on workload with their management. That could be at a school level and/or at an employer-wide level, perhaps through the Local Authority or Academy-chain leadership.

A determined approach to negotiations, backed up by all the latest evidence and national recommendations should bring results. After all, any sensible management should take heed of the many urgent reasons that union reps can present for addressing teacher workload. However, too many will also be feeling the pressure of the ongoing accountability regime and could too easily continue to drive their teachers into working excessive hours, supposedly to improve performance. 

As the House of Commons Report has spelt out, that kind of short-sighted thinking is leading to long-term disaster in terms of teacher supply. More immediately, it is ruining the lives of thousands of teachers and their families, and damaging education for the children they teach as well. 

Teachers' working conditions are children's learning conditions. If it needs action to improve them, then that action needs to be taken!

Monday, 16 January 2017

£550 million cuts to London schools can't be 'managed', they must be fought

£3 billion School Cuts even worse than unions predicted 

Following the publication of the Government’s final proposals for its long-awaited National Funding Formula (NFF), organisations representing school staff, teachers and leaders - ATL, GMB, NAHT, NUT, UNISON and Unite - have updated the website to reflect the funding losses facing each school in England.  
The Government had accused funding campaigners of scaremongering, but the updated figures are even worse than we previously predicted.  98% of schools face a real terms reduction in funding for every pupil. 

Unlike the illustrative figures published alongside the DfE’s December 2016 school funding consultation, the website estimates are expressed in real terms per pupil, using the 2015/16 funding as the baseline. The calculations were made using the following evidence:
  • That the national funding formula due to be introduced in April 2018 will be the one that was proposed by the Secretary of State on Wednesday 14 December 2016. 
  • That inflation for schools will amount to 8.7% over the lifetime of this Parliament. This figure is taken from “Financial sustainability of schools”, as published by the National Audit Office. 
  • That the Government will cut the Education Services Grant (ESG) by 75%, as George Osborne announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement.
A bleak picture nationally, but especially in London
 Nine out of the ten worse-hit constituencies are in London. Every school in Justine Greening MP’s constituency of Putney will experience real terms cuts, with an average loss of £655 for every pupil.

Overall, London schools face losses of over £550 million. Southwark alone faces a 15% budget cut.

Don't underestimate the impact of these cuts
London Councils have issued an initial briefing paper on “The Future of School Funding” alerting Local Authorities to the impact of the National Funding Formula consultation on London Schools. London Councils point out: 

“With 70 per cent of London schools set to receive less money, by as much as 3 per cent, from 2018/19, there will be considerable concern amongst school leaders about how this can be managed and the possible impact on school standards. While some may argue this is a relatively small amount and schools should be able to absorb this easily, it is unlikely they will be able to do so in addition to the wider budgetary pressures highlighted recently by the National Audit Office”. 

London Councils are correct to warn about the impact but the 11 January 2017 House of Commons Report on “School Funding in England. Current system and proposals for 'fairer school funding' " makes clear that even the 3% ‘floor’ is not any kind of permanent protection from ongoing cuts:

Losses will be limited to a maximum of 1.5% per pupil in each of 2018-19 and 2019-20. This means that at some schools –the biggest ‘winners’ and ‘losers’- transitional protection will apply for some years. The full impact of the new funding formula will not be felt at these schools until this transition period is over”. 

London Councils correctly say that “The NAO’s report into the financial sustainability of schools found that schools in England face a £3 billion funding shortfall by 2020” and that “The NAO estimates that over 60% of secondary academies had a budgetary overspend in 2014/15. Therefore, even a school that will have an uplift as a result of the introduction of the NFF is likely to have an overall budgetary deficit in this financial climate”. 

The NAO report confirms that many maintained schools are also already in this vulnerable position. 59% of maintained secondary schools spent more than their income in 2014-15. 15% were already actually in deficit with the average deficit as high as £326,000.

In the six-union press release of 16 January 2017, Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, says:  “School budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point. The government's £3 billion real terms cut to education funding must be reversed or we will see education and care suffer. Already heads are being forced to cut staff, cut the curriculum and cut specialist support. A new funding formula is the right thing to do, but it cannot be truly fair unless there is enough money to go round in the first place.” 

London Councils report that: “the DfE has also committed to allocating an additional £200m in 2018-19 and 2019-20 (a total of £400m over a two year period) on top of the current value of the schools block. This money has been found to provide protections for schools facing reductions”.

However, the latest House of Commons Report points out that “The Coalition Government provided an additional £390 million in funding in 2015-16 to what it described as the least fairly funded local authorities”. So top-up funding of an additional £200m a year will have a very small effect, especially in comparison to a £3billion real terms shortfall. 

London Councils state that “Deprivation and English as an additional language (EAL) receive a relatively higher weighting than under previous methodologies, benefitting London overall”.

This echoes the DfE’s Executive Summary (para 60) stating that “London, along with other inner city areas, faces high levels of deprivation and pupils with EAL. Under our formula, schools in inner London will attract 30% more funding per pupil than the national average. This is because funding will be matched to need, and so London schools will continue to receive significant funding to help them support their pupils with additional needs”.

However, as the April 2016 ‘Long-Run Trends in School Spending in England’ report by the IFS explains “Local authorities in London have for a long time received higher levels of spending per pupil than the rest of England, with inner London receiving the highest levels. Spending per pupil in inner London is 40% higher than outside London, reflecting higher levels of social deprivation and costs in London (e.g. higher teacher salaries). However, this differential was higher in the early 1980s, at around 60%”. 

So the new factors represent a further cut in the relative funding for Inner London schools.

Invest don't cut

The DfE modelling underestimates the real effect of their cuts on schools across the country - and especially in London and other areas of higher disadvantage. The six-union backed ‘school cuts’ figures best illustrate the bleak picture facing schools. 
Cuts of this scale cannot just be 'managed' by employers and school leaders. We have seen how, for example with 'social care', such an approach leads to disaster for those needing support. Our children deserve better. That's why everyone who values education must campaign together to reverse these cuts.
If necessary, schools and Local Authorities should use their powers to set licensed deficits to protect education while fighting to demand genuinely 'fair funding' that is sufficient to meet every child's needs.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

London Weighting - Fair Funding also means Fair Pay

Teacher shortages are harming education
Schools are struggling under a crisis of low morale and high teacher turnover. That's before the proposed school funding cuts add to the pressures on staff and schools alike.

NUT leaflet from 2001
These pressures are most clearly evident in London. DfE figures from the School Workforce Census confirm that London schools already have some of the highest rates of 'teacher wastage' and temporarily filled posts. Yet it will be London schools that will be worst affected by the proposed 'fair funding' cuts, further threatening jobs, morale and pay progression. Of course, those attacks also threaten children's education.

Workload is the biggest factor - but pay is also an issue
The single biggest factor that teachers identify when they are surveyed about why they might leave teaching is, of course, workload. As just the latest confirmation of this, in the latest 2017 survey of young NUT members in London, 84% gave 'volume of workload' and wanting 'a better work/life balance' as their main reason for considering leaving the profession.

This heartfelt response is typical: "I love teaching children. It is the best part of my day, but who runs a marathon then goes to the gym and does another 6/7/8 hour workout? By the end of the school day I want/need to relax and recharge my batteries. Instead, I feel waves of anxiety as I plough through the never-ending mountain of paperwork".

However, London's young teachers also identify pay and the high cost of housing as additional reasons why they might quit their post - to leave London at least, if not the profession overall. In the previous 2016 survey of young teachers in London, 60% said that they could not see themselves still teaching in London in five years’ time. Significantly, nearly two-thirds of responses specifically pointed to the cost of living in London as the reason that they would be leaving. As one teacher put it, “Teaching, yes; in London, no. I just can’t afford to live here”.

In the latest survey, London's young teachers linked together concerns about pay, lack of pay progression and workload. As one respondent explains: "We cannot keep working like this; something has to give, and I fear it will be teacher health and well. Plus, even if we were to hit our targets, our headteacher is pretty much guaranteed to do anything she can to block us moving up the pay scale anyway". Another replied “The pay does not reflect the actual hours and all the extra time we spend working on weekends and holidays. I will not feasibly be able to move out of my parents' house, on my current pay, in my current area, before the age of 30 - if I am lucky! ".

London Weighting to match London's living costs
If London schools are to recruit and retain the teachers our children and communities need, then action has to be taken - on workload, on pay progression, on housing costs. However, there's another issue where action is needed - making sure that pay levels in London sufficiently match the higher costs of living in the capital. Or, as it used to be described, teachers' salaries should include sufficient 'London Weighting'.

Higher pay for London workers, reflecting the higher cost of living, has been a long-standing feature in the UK economy. It was formalised into a recommended London Weighting, particularly by the Pay Board Advisory Report in 1974. Recent research by Donald Hirsch for the Trust for London and Loughborough University explains how, from 1974 to 1982, the Pay Board calculated a flat rate cost compensation for Inner and Outer London. Hirsch points out that, in practice, the Pay Board calculation was only the starting-point for bargaining, with the private sector generally being able to afford to pay more than the public.

Under the Tories, and with Norman Tebbit as Employment Secretary, the Pay Board index was discontinued.  The situation was further complicated in schools because some, but not all 'Outer' London boroughs, were designated as being eligible for 'Inner London' allowances. 

Strike action won gains for London's teachers
In the 1990's, with teachers shortages growing, NUT Divisions organised for action on London Allowances, culminating in two days of strike action taken by the NUT across London in 2002.

The action definitely had an effect. The 2003 Review Body report recommended significant increases for Inner London teachers in particular, especially those on the Upper Pay Scale. The difference between UPS2 in Inner London and elsewhere was agreed as being as high as £5,943 - close to the £6,000 Allowance that the NUT had been demanding.

NUT leaflet from 2002
However, the victory didn't come without strings attached. The increased pay was delivered through the introduction of a separate salary scale for Inner London teachers. This was  later extended to separate Outer London and Fringe scales as well. The idea of a distinct 'London Weighting' payment was lost. Instead, your effective 'London Allowance' depended on your point on the applicable salary scale.

That remains true today, although of course now, even the idea of fixed salary scales is being attacked by the Tories. Nevertheless, most schools are still adopting scales where an effective 'London Weighting' can be identified. Taking the recommended joint union scales, the effective 'London Weighting' for teachers paid on the Inner and Outer London scales, compared to a teacher in England and Wales is as follows:

Effective 'London Allowances' based on joint union scales, 2017

It's worth highlighting that, as pay progression becomes harder to achieve, particularly to and along the Upper Pay Scale, the proportion of teachers being awarded these higher Inner London UPS 'allowances' is decreasing.

What are the additional costs of living in London?
Are the higher salaries paid to London's teachers - and other London workers - sufficient to compensate for the additional cost of living in the capital? Without an authoritative 'Pay Board' calculation, that question has been difficult to answer. However, Donald Hirsch's research has set out to provide an answer. 

Hirsch shows that levels of London allowances paid by a range of employers have failed to rise significantly over the last three decades. The average is between £3,000 and £4,000, matching those for teachers on Outer London scales. This is despite large increases in the cost of living in London, notably in transport costs and, above all, housing.

Data from Hirsch's Report

Hirsch concludes, through detailed calculations of additional costs and weightings to take account of the range of housing Londoners live in, by setting out a "minimum London Weighting" required to compensate low-income households for additional London costs. (Hirsch defines 'low-income' as earning less that £40K - which includes London teachers paid on the main scale).

Hirsch's calculations produce an average "minimum London Weighting" required of £7,700 for Inner London and £6,200 for Outer London. Apart from those older teachers on the Inner London Upper Pay Scale, most teachers receive far less additional pay than required to meet the added cost of living. No wonder many are looking to leave London.

NUT 2016 Conference Policy on Greater London Pay
Last year's NUT Annual Conference passed a motion that set down policy for London Pay, including:
i. It is time that teachers working in London receive a pay award that reflects the real costs of living in the third most expensive city in the world;
ii. The Inner and Outer London Teachers’ Pay Scales no longer reflect the reality of the housing and other expenses in London: it is both out of date and unfair;
iv. There should be a single “Greater London Pay Scale” that covers the whole of London that should be no lower than the current inner London Allowance

Recognising the particular pressures of housing costs, it also stated:
v. It is also time for action to address the cost of housing in London, which is an even greater barrier to staying in London than the rest of the cost of living; and
vi. A long term solution to the problem of ever-increasing housing costs, which is affecting teachers in many other areas as well as London, can only be delivered through an increase in the supply of affordable housing.

Additionally, the motion concluded that the NUT Executive should "Investigate what would be the best and fairest system of paying the “Greater London Pay Scale”, including the consideration of a “flat rate” payment that would apply the same additional payment to all teachers who work in London regardless of where they are on the National Pay scale".

Hirsch's research adds support and evidence to back up this policy.  

Fair Pay in London requires genuine Fair Funding 
Despite these facts, the funding threat to London's schools means many Heads and employers will be trying to cut pay, particularly through blocking pay progression, rather than increase it. However, that will only compound the recruitment and retention difficulties.  

That's why the NUT has been calling for needs based funding for all authorities in England and Wales, and, as part of that campaign, we must add the demand for the funding needed to pay staff London ‘allowances’ that genuinely compensate for the additional cost of living in the capital

As the joint union evidence to the Review Body last year stated, "All of us are concerned that the school funding settlements proposed by Government for the remainder of this Parliament will place insurmountable pressure on schools in terms of their ability to maintain current spending, let alone afford matters such as pay increases or other forecast increases in costs. We all believe that there needs to be an overall funding increase for schools, not just smaller real terms cuts for some schools and larger real terms cuts for others via the redistribution mechanism of a national funding formula. We believe that any pay increase must also be fully funded by Government ".